Friday, February 29, 2008

Number of Male Public School Teachers Reaches 40-Year Low

Via Dr. Helen, "Percentage of Male Teachers Hits 40-Year Low":

An MSN article notes that male teachers continue to take a nosedive...:

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.

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 to worrying about being called a pervert, men also face discrimination in the interview process, according to the article:

For men thinking of heading into education, Nelson offered hard-won advice: Be persistent. Get practical experience first. Look for resources to help you get through school, and, when applying for a job, make sure you have thick skin. "People will ask you inappropriate questions," he said, recalling a recent e-mail he received from an aspiring male teacher who was asked during a job interview, "Why would any healthy male want to work with kids?"

In such situations, Nelson suggests stressing the positive aspects of having a man in the classroom. "When kids see [a man] in front of them on a daily basis, it helps to contradict negative stereotypes," Nelson said.
So men are told to get a thick skin, get used to handling "inappropriate questions," and learn to contradict negative sterotypes. In other words, if men are discriminated against, it is up to them to deal with the fall-out and to change negative steroptypes and to expect no help from other people. So men are guilty unless proven otherwise.
I've hesitated from posting on this issue, frankly, for some of the very issues raised in the post - it just feels strange even discussing the topic, and I'm a professor!

I have small kids - my youngest is in kindergarten - so I can understand the fears at the parental level. My oldest boy didn't have a male teacher until 5th grade, and, actually, I appreciate the change in teaching style (more of the "old-school" emphasis common among some older men).

But sure, just the thought of men around kids, especially young chidren, raises many sensitive fears for parents. It's a "masculophobia" of male teachers, it seems, which has discriminatory effects.