Pontifications along a road less travelled, blog that, darling.



Somebody pointed out this photograph to me with the comment that somebody had kicked off a row over the university offering a qualification in Mansplaining.

I just shrugged. I mean if they want to get upset about something to do with universities, perhaps they’d get upset about the fact that working class white males are such a rare beast in universities. Apparently young women who were on free school meals are 51% more likely to go into higher education than comparable young men.

Another mate looked at the photograph and commented that he assumed it was the common room in his daughter’s primary school on ‘dress down Friday.’ The man is the janitor. (26% of teachers in England are men – accounting for 38% of secondary and 15% of primary school teachers.)
Also next time they give out the A level or GCSE results, just check the photos in the local paper. After looking at the photos of successful candidates in our local paper I was left to conclude that boys no longer did A levels. Certainly they rarely seemed to get their photos in the paper over it.

But never mind. Perhaps I should point out there are times when the State decides that there aren’t enough men entering a certain occupation. If the State decides it’s important enough, it just conscripts them, hands them a rifle and a uniform and leaves them to get on with it. Perhaps in the interests of fairness we ought to merely conscript into some trades and professions to get the gender balance correct. At the age of 16 you’d get assigned, based on a quick physical examination, to the trade and profession the computer has assigned you, taking no account whatsoever of anything so gender based as your interests or aptitude.

Do you get the impression I’m not taking this whole debate entirely seriously?


But anyway the Southern Universities Network did a survey of what we might call young working class males and asked them why they didn’t go to university. Some of the things they discovered were ;-


  • Males from low HE (Higher Education) participation areas appear less motivated by financial rewards than their peers from areas with higher HE progression rates, and more motivated by finding a career that suits their interests and skills.


  • Males from low HE participation areas were less convinced in terms of their interest in HE at the pre -16 stage of education.


  • They were also less likely to say that they would enjoy being a university student and that university is necessary for the career they have in mind. They were much less likely to view HE as affordable and post -16 learners were concerned about their ability to get in and fit in. Overall, HE is perceived as a risky strategy.


  • Alternatives to HE, including progression to apprenticeships, were frequently viewed as a ‘better’ option by vocational learners, although this may well reflect the increased understanding they had about this route compared to HE.


And the Southern Universities Network response, to find ways to encourage more of them to go to university. After all that was the whole purpose of the exercise. If people stop going to university some of the people working in Universities might have to get a job.


Actually it strikes me that these lads had their heads well screwed on. I know too many people with degrees who are asking the age old question. “Do you want fries with that?”

But then I’m wary of being accused of mansplaining if I go on for too long.

But anyway, if you think somebody is mansplaining to you, then you can get upset about it and make a fuss.

Or you could do what men have been doing for millennia in similar circumstances when a lady is talking to them. Just get on with thinking about whatever it was you were thinking about, and say ‘yes dear’ at appropriate intervals.

(In reality the ladies I know have long ago mastered their coping strategies for both ‘mansplaining’ and inattentive husbands. I shall say no more more.)


There again, if you want things explained properly, ask the dog

As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”

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16 thoughts on “Pontifications along a road less travelled, blog that, darling.

  1. xantilor July 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm Reply

    All the women in that photo look as if they are thinking, “He’s got to stop talking sooner or later…”

    Re politically correct photos, for me LinkedIn’s Top Voices 2017 took the biscuit. Of the chosen 12, 8 were male, 4 female, 10 white, 2 black. In the photo accompanying the email they sent out, 4 people were shown: 3 were female, 2 were black. Not exactly an accurate sample…

    • jwebster2 July 2, 2018 at 1:48 pm Reply

      there are few ‘reporters’ and an awful lot of ‘players’ in the game 🙂

  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 2, 2018 at 1:34 pm Reply

    And if I never see another pretty young woman in a lab coat in all the ads in Chemical and Engineering News, it will be soon enough. They exaggerate the proportion of women in engineering, and are sexist, all at the same time. No one creating an ad wants to be the first to minimize the participation of women, so they ALL have a woman, it seems. Someone needs to maintain the balance – like the editors?

    • jwebster2 July 2, 2018 at 1:49 pm Reply

      Yes, I know one lady, a little older than me, who reckons she got her first job because they desperately needed a woman to put on the recruitment brochures!

      • David Hadley July 2, 2018 at 2:24 pm

        Reminds me of this from Tim Newman’s blog:

        ‘I once worked for a large multinational engineering firm who had on their books a rather photogenic female Russian safety engineer. Sure enough, she featured prominently in several of the quarterly magazines (or whatever they call those propaganda rags that get hoyed in the bin by anyone who does something useful). Now she wasn’t a terrible engineer, but she didn’t deserve so many puff-pieces in short succession. Speaking to friends and colleagues who’ve worked on sites and in yards around the world, whenever there’s a photo session going on the women and ethnic minorities are placed in prominent positions and white men told to stand to the side, preferably behind a large object.’


      • jwebster2 July 2, 2018 at 4:33 pm

        Sounds about right. I know a lady who suspects she was hired to make the numbers up, they hadn’t got a female so they thought they better hire one and she just happened to have her application in at the time

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 3, 2018 at 3:02 am

        Sad when that’s the ONLY woman they hire.

      • jwebster2 July 3, 2018 at 6:09 am

        She was the only woman on her degree course. It wasn’t a subject women did. And no women had applied for the job. Somebody giving the course knew the company and suggested to her she gave them a call to see if they were hiring.

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 3, 2018 at 3:43 pm

        Which shows the educational system is hide-bound and old, and is not encouraging women to try the tough professions, or actively discouraging them.

        It’s not much better in physics (though a bit better in engineering and chemistry) than it was when I went to grad school – in the 1970s, when I was the only woman in my cohort, and there were only two others in the whole U. Wisconsin-Madison fusion program.

      • jwebster2 July 3, 2018 at 4:01 pm

        The example I gave was early 1970s
        But I wonder if it’s women doing the choosing. 76% of people graduating with a veterinary degree are women (and it’s a tough scientific degree)
        Similarly more than half of those going into medical schools to become doctors are women. Indeed in the UK there has been a little concern about the gender gap at university. Remember that given males form a slightly larger proportion of the population you’d expect to find slightly more male than female students in a given subject https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/05/gender-gap-uk-degree-subjects-doubles-eight-years-ucas-study

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 4, 2018 at 12:06 am

        As in Russia, once women colonize a career, the prestige and pay drop – except for the men at the top.

      • jwebster2 July 4, 2018 at 4:19 am

        I don’t just think it’s Russia.
        I also wonder if the cause and effect is the other way about, there are issues in this in the UK with teaching with is now seen as a female profession so boys are put off entering

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 4, 2018 at 4:47 am

        The men teach the higher levels more.

        I never had a woman professor in grad school – there weren’t any.

        None of them seemed to know how to deal with a woman in their classes, either. Some literally wouldn’t look at me. Makes you feel really wanted.

        I stayed because I told myself that if I wasn’t suited, they’d kick me out – I wasn’t going to give them the pleasure of having me quit with no effort on their part.

        I guess I never got so bad I had to be dismissed, but I was sure lost a lot of the time.

      • jwebster2 July 4, 2018 at 5:00 am

        I think my daughter had one male lecturer
        The world has changed with the passing years
        Apparently one of the bigger problems she mentioned for pretty women students was gay women lecturers. The more it changes the more it remains the same

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt July 4, 2018 at 3:36 pm

        To have the possibility of a gay woman teacher, you first have to have at least ONE woman teacher.

      • jwebster2 July 4, 2018 at 9:26 pm

        Yes, my daughter had virtually nothing but women

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