Sometimes the elephant in the room is so huge that no one else can squeeze in, and the conversation has to take place elsewhere. So it is, I can't help feeling, with the problem of Britain's underachieving boys. There's an awful lot of whispering and head-scratching going on out here in the corridor, while that great fat elephant lolls on the sofa playing World of Warcraft.
A new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) lays out the demoralising facts. Boys are falling behind academically from primary school onwards, and appear to be giving up on higher education altogether. This year, 94,000 fewer men than women have applied for a university place. If current trends continue, girls born in 2016 will be 75 per cent more likely than their male peers to go to university.
The fact that so many girls are now ensconced in the ivory tower, after centuries of peering dolefully through the windows, is unmitigated good news. But it doesn't do to gloat. The whole point of feminism is to achieve equality between the sexes. Whenever the scales tilt drastically, we need to consider why. And here the HEPI report is coy. "There is no obvious or simple single reason for the differential performance of men and women," it insists, before going on to make a series of expensive-sounding suggestions for improving university outreach.
Yet its own research points to one very obvious reason: boys don't put in enough graft. They do an hour a week less homework than girls, are much less likely to read for pleasure (by 51 per cent to 70 per cent), and are nearly 10 times more likely to play online computer games every day (by 19.6 per cent to 2.2 per cent).
Why should this be? Not, I would venture, because boys are innately lazier than girls, but simply because we demand less of them. Social attitudes towards boys have become more dismissive – not least among parents – now that girls are covering themselves in glory.