Monday, October 20, 2008

Number of male teachers continues to drop because of societal stereotypes and other pressures


ABC “Good Morning America” offered a story this morning (Oct. 20) by Annie Pleshette-Murphy, “Number of Male Teachers Shrinking Fast: Parent Bias, Fear of Abuse Allegations, and Low Pay Cited as Reasons for So Few Male Teachers”. The link is here.

I recall that in high school in the 1950s and early 60s, about a third of teachers were male. Among the best teachers I had was a young male 10th grade English teacher, and a middle aged World War II veteran (who as quite a political progressive and pushed the buttons on race in the classroom, causing controversy at the time) US history teacher, to whom I owe a lot my perspective on today’s activism. The story pointed out that in high school, boys often benefit from male teachers in humanities areas as well as math and science.

The story showed an African American male elementary school teacher hugging his students. In some cases, teaching, particularly in lower grades, involves a certain kind of intimacy that many men would not feel comfortable allowing. This may be more difficult for men who have not had satisfactory experience in young adulthood with their own relationships with other adults, or who have not had experience as parents or with responsibility for younger siblings or for childcare in some situation.

As I noted, short term substitute teachers can find themselves in situations where unwanted intimacy is expected, as with special education. I tried to manage this eventually by doing only high school. But even here there was a trap. The Arlington Career Center had a class in “child care” and it was impossible to know before an assignment that one could not wind up there.

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