March 01, 2008

Dearth of male teachers!

Via an e-mail by Soccer Dad comes word of this Dr. Helen article: Percentage of Male Teachers Hits 40-Year Low.

According to statistics recently released by the National Education Association (NEA), men made up just 24.4 percent of the total number of teachers in 2006. In fact, the number of male public school teachers in the U.S. has hit a record 40-year low. Arkansas, at 17.5 percent, and Mississippi, with 17.7 percent, have the lowest percentage of male teachers, while Kansas, at 33.3 percent, and Oregon, with 31.4 percent, boast the largest percentage of men leading the classroom.....

Why the downward trend in male teaching? According to Bryan Nelson, founder of MenTeach, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recruiting male teachers, research suggests three key reasons for the shortage of male teachers: low status and pay, the perception that teaching is "women's work," and the fear of accusation of child abuse.

Many men once in the profession say they quit because of worries that innocuous contact with students could be misconstrued, reports the NEA.

In addition, the article says that men "face discrimination in the interview process." Wow.

I must admit, as a male teacher in the profession for going on 18 years now, that that "worry [of] innocuous contact with a student" turning into a complaint or outright accusation is indeed a concern. (This, by the way, is one good reason to be a member of the teachers union, whatever your politics.) Many school administrations now tell teachers not to touch students for any reason. It's sad, really, but given our [ridiculously] litigious society, a necessity. Over my years, at times I've had female students come up to me wanting to give me a hug, but I've backed away and said (tactfully, of course) "No no no -- just a handshake, please!"

The problem is worse, it seems, at the elementary school level. Some of the comments at Dr. Helen's post:

You know, I hadn't realized it until I read this column, but, growing up in the '60s, I didn't have a male teacher until junior high.
I told a co-worker of my plans to teach and maybe teach at an elementary school and the first thing she said was, "There is no way I would let my two girls be in a class with a male teacher."
And this sort of thing creates a vicious cycle where boys become convinced a young age that education is for girls. This will make the already scary male / female college population mix even worse.

And this is probably the saddest:

I spent a year and a half teaching computers to elementary school kids in Beverly Hills. i was the only male in a teaching staff of 30. Since I have that "Dad Voice." i was often called into other teacher's classes to bring order to chaos. it was a lot of fun working with the kids but near the end of the year, i was accused of "inappropriately touching" one of the little girls. i had to face the father who decided that he was going to kick my butt. i had to take the rest of the day off while it was investigated. i literally spent the weekend throwing up.

fortunately for me, the administrator knew the young girl and she had a history of making unfounded charges. the child was forced to admit to her parent that she had lied in an effort to get out of doing her work. the father never apologized for his threats. The best part is that the child was forced to apologize and admit her lie in front of her entire class and her classmates treated her with the distain she deserved.

i would advise any man to avoid teaching children. the rewards are amazing but this sort of thing happens much too often. all the good feelings i had toward the experience of teaching were blown aside during that attack. and i won't forget that the father never apologized for this threats and for raising a liar.

There's also a plethora of [negative] comments about education departments at colleges as well as education majors. And many of these ring true -- nutty courses that have little-to-nothing to do with curriculum, subject matter or class management, but everything to do with "diversity," self-esteem, gender/racial/sexual "identity," and other "progressive" pedagogical claptrap. I've written about these before (numerous times), and unfortunately most of these types of ... "courses" are prevalent in the "major" of education (which usually caters to those seeking to teach at the elementary level ... usually).

I'm not certain if these types of ... "fluff" courses may turn off prospective male teachers; I can only offer my personal assessment, and that is that they certainly turned me off, the few (fortunately) I had to take in my graduate program. Maybe the innate female "nurturing" sense attracts them to these courses (or, at least makes the courses more "palatable" to them) as well as teaching elementary age kids in the first place. This sure would seem logical enough to me. (Oh no! The feminists will come after me now!) Still, kids need to see male figures in positions of authority, especially in lower-income/high-risk schools where single parent homes are the norm and not the exception.

It is amazing (well, not really) that the MSM hasn't picked up on this story. A Google News search turns up a single article -- a local news affiliate in Indiana. (A standard Google search did yield a Newsweek article on the topic.) I'd bet good money that if this story was on the shrinking percentage of women, minorities or homosexuals in education, we'd be reading about it all over.

Posted by Hube at March 1, 2008 11:02 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Very sad that there is a decline in male teachers. Whole heartedly agree that if it was a decline in female teachers or homosexuals teaching there would be more more of an outcry. Let us not forget that there are a percentage of female teachers who abuse students and in the court systems they are dealt with more leniently. The balance stinks, more male teachers, less stigma!

Posted by: nunyaa at March 4, 2008 08:30 PM

I will tell you that those insipid fluff courses in Ed school turned off plenty of women as well as men. I finally started sitting in the back and reading a book while listening with half an ear for a chance to make a safety comment. And since I was an English major, I had plenty of books to read.

And I have kids hug me all the time without me seeking this. I give them one firm pat on the shoulder and then extricate myself.

Posted by: Ms. Cornelius at March 5, 2008 01:05 PM

As a male teacher, I definitely can see this happen. Unfortunately, people don't understand the need for male teachers, especially as it concerns the boys in our school. In my school, I'm the mentor for so many of those young boys, but I know I can't do it alone. If there were more males in the system, imagine the spike we'd see in males graduating from high school and thus college. It's getting uglier, really. Come to think of it, my most influential teachers were my junior high school ones, and they were all male. The elementary ones, by contrast, were female.

Good post.

Posted by: jose at March 5, 2008 08:23 PM

You know, the other day I was thinking about how few men there are at my step children's elementary school. The only one I've ever seen is the PE teacher, who looks to be close to retirement age, but he does have a great rapport with the kids! I had two strong male teacher when I was in elementary school. Both were rough-around the-edges, John Wayne-type cowboys. Boy, would I like to see more personality types like that in elementary schools! In any case, they were both great teachers, and their influences were quite positive on my education and perspective on life.

Posted by: HappyChyck at March 8, 2008 07:12 PM