Where are the guys?

All photos for this story by
ThreeSixty staff.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Last month, ThreeSixty Journalism invited 10 young men from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Eden Prairie to spend an hour exploring why Minnesota guys lag behind girls in high school graduation and college attendance rates.

ThreeSixty Journalism writers Edwin Flowers and David Gustafson led the discussion, which focused in part on gender differences highlighted in the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey.

We thank Deacon Warner and the student crew at IFP Media Arts, which hosted the discussion and will produce a video summary. And thanks to the roundtable participants, who shared their insights and experiences so generously.

Where are the guys? from IFP Minnesota on Vimeo.

What do you think is one reason that girls are more successful in schools than guys?

AKEEL: We guys just focus on some wrong things. For example, I spend more time on sports than hitting the books.

CJ: I think that girls are more motivated in being successful and doing major careers as a lawyer or doctor. Guys are trying to get a second chance by going to a two-year college or making up grades.

BRIAN: I think a lot of the difference is culture and how boys and girls are raised differently. Boys are expected to be out or doing something more independent, whereas girls are expected to be more obedient and closer to their parents.

JESSE: Girls talk about school. Guys don’t talk about school. They have other things on their mind.

ROBIN: I believe it has a lot to do with who your role model is at home. It seems to me that mothers tend to push girls more whereas a father is trying to get the next NFL player outta their son.

EDWIN: I think guys just have a high level of distractibility. You got the girls. You got the sports, got the streets. You think about the money. A lot of times, you weigh this and you’re like, “Well, if I do this then I don’t need school.”

Meet the guys


Edwin Flowers
Junior at Twin Cities Academy

David Gustafson
Senior at Eden Prairie HS


Akeel King
17, junior at Johnson HS
Activities: Football
Career Plans: Unknown

Cesar (CJ) Hernandez
17, junior at Johnson HS
Activities: Football and exercising
Career Plans: Become an entrepreneur and run his own business.

Brian Young
18, senior at Eden Prairie HS
Activities: Loves to play the guitar and enjoys filmmaking.
Career Plans: Be an engineer.

Jesse Garcia
19, senior at South HS
Activities: Just school.
Hobbies: Drawing and playing video games
Career Plans: Be an illustrator but will be happy with any art-related job.

Robin Pillmann
18, senior at Central HS
Activities: Meditation, Airsoft, Krav Maga
Hobbies: Meditate, spar, or play video games
Career Plans: I wish to be a police officer

Nhia Vang
17, junior at Twin Cities Academy
Activities: Basketball
Career plans: Lawyer

Earl Wilson
18, senior at Como Park HS
Activities: Martial arts and Ultimate Frisbee
Hobbies: Reading and finding four-leaf clovers (when the snow melts and yes, they are real)
Career Plans: Forestry. “Through it I may get to join the Peace Corps, helping with agricultural projects throughout the world.”

An Phan
19, senior at Gordon Parks HS
Activities: Playing tennis, reading, writing, and singing.
Career Plans: Biomedical engineer

Billy Young
15, sophomore at Eden Prairie HS
Activities: Football, basketball, hanging out with friends
Career Plans: Mechanical engineer

DAVID: It also depends on your family situation. The poorer the economic situation at home, the family has to find a way to make money and they’re generally gonna look towards the son to go find that job during high school.

NHIA: The girls have to be more obedient toward their parents. There are more rules on them, more expectations on them. The guys get a lot more freedom so along the way, they mess up a little bit.

Click to go back to bookmarks.

In the survey, only 20 percent of 12th grade males say that they want to go grad school after college whereas 40 percent of 12th grade females said that they wanted to do that. Why do you think that is?

JESSE: I’ve noticed that traditionally women are able to multitask – taking care of children, farming, making pottery. Men, most of the time, have been focusing on two objectives: war and leadership; and that can easily translate to school and academics. When you’re trying to teach men, it maybe easier to teach them in a different style than women.

CJ: I think a lot of men don’t need such a high degree. Take me, for example. I’m going to be an entrepreneur, run my own business and you don’t need that many years of college.

AKEEL: One reason why sisters are able to achieve more and pursue more is how we’ve mistreated them over the years . From an African-American perspective, we treat our women very disrespectfully so they wanna be more independent.

Click to go back to bookmarks.

For all you guys who have female siblings, do you guys see a drive toward education in your sisters?

CJ: I don’t think it applies to everyone, ‘cause my sister wants to go for a two-year degree and I want to finish a four-year degree. I think it’s just the motivation in the person.

EARL: My sister, she doesn’t want to go to college. Our mom got her four-year degree in mathematics and it’s one of those situations where the degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. So my sister has other options like attend bartending school.

BRIAN: Guys look at the short-term picture to get the money fast whereas girls look to the future to try to get a better job for their family in the long run.

EDWIN: I’m a first-generation American. My mother and all my other siblings are from Liberia and my mom, she doesn’t have more than a high school education. The push when I was younger was, “You have to go to college. I don’t want you to be like me. I don’t want you to have to struggle.” At times I would be overwhelmed. I would be like “Man, why are you pushing me so much?”

BRIAN: I feel like women feel like they have to prove to society that they deserve to have the same rights everybody else has.

ROBIN: Statistically, women are paid less than men for the same job, at the same skill level. There’s still a lot of things that need to be hammered out in our society, for women’s rights.

NHIA: I’m also a first-generation American. My mom and dad are very religious and they’re still living in the times when women are expected to serve men. We’ll go to a family meeting where the men are going to eat first, then the women. They have higher status for the guys.

JESSE: I think that women’s and men’s behavior in a group contributes to the way they succeed academically. Women organize and they make things happen, I swear. Men are always thinking what’s in the moment, what do they want and how is the group going to do something fun.

AKEEL: What about men in high positions of power? For example, in the government or in the military,

JESSE: I feel like guys in positions of power don’t want to give up their power. They don’t wanna help out a female who is equal to them because then they lose their spot. They want no rival so they’ll stay at the top.

AN: For the male, there’s more focus on who’s top dog, and we tend to fight over it. Even in sports like football, you wanna be the quarterback and in tennis, you wanna be the first single.

Click to go back to bookmarks.

One survey question was, “In the last 12 months, has anyone threatened you?” Eighteen percent of 12th grade boys said that they had been threatened but only 9 percent of the girls. Why are guys more threatened at school?

ROBIN: It’s a hormonal, territorial thing. The female brain is completely different from the male brain. Women have a tendency to use both parts of their brain instead of one or the other – reducing polarization. Because women have to take care of their children and protect the upcoming generation. Throughout evolution, men have had to deal with the attackers, defend their clan, go out and hunt. Time has passed, but it hasn’t been long enough on the evolutionary clock for us to actually change that way of thinking. So men are going to be more open to violence, make more threats and perceive more things as threats.

CJ: Men are more aggressive. Females like to talk the situation out. Males have more anger in them so when something happens, they might get mad and get into a fight or make a threat.

EARL: At my school, most of the fights are between women. They have more drama than men. My female friends hold on to things. If they don’t talk it out, they’re gonna fight.

JESSE: When guys fight, they fight and a month later, they’re friends again. When girls hate another girl, it’s like death.

ROBIN: I got into one fight in high school in the 9th grade. A senior came up to me and flat out shoved me into a locker. I showed him how to fight, but ever since then, we’ve been like best of friends. I think that when a guy fights a guy, it creates some sort of a bond. I seriously respect this guy. When women get into a fight they tend to hold on to this grudge. It’s more psychological than physical. They can say something in the nicest tone like “Oh, those pants are nice!” and to us, we’re like “Yeah, those pants are nice.” To the other girl it could mean “Wait, a minute, there’s a hidden message here.” We’re not subtle in our dealings. If I were to fight someone here, I would straight up slug em.

Click to go back to bookmarks.

Click here to see part 2 of the discussion.

Correction: The original version of this story misspelled Deacon Warner’s last name.