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Is Teaching "Women's Work?" Why Schools Say They Need A Few Good Men

male teachers in classroomMy son will be switching schools next year, and as we went for the Grade 1 information night, we stopped and looked at the pictures of the staff at the school entrance. Of the nearly 2 dozen teachers at the school, only 4 were male.

I remember my wife and I pointing to one of the pictures, and shuddering. He looked a little creepy. We even hoped aloud that our son wouldn’t have him as a teacher.

That’s the bias, isn’t it? We’ve been fed such a diet of “men and kids are bad” in the news media, that teaching, by default, has become a woman’s domain.

Well, schools could use a few good men, and one district is right up front about the need for more men in the classroom..

The Toronto School Board, the largest in Canada, has boldly declared “hiring should favour male, minority teachers.”

“The first round of TDSB interviews will be granted to teachers candidates that meet one or more of the following criteria in addition to being an outstanding teacher: Male, racial minority, French, Music, Aboriginal,” the memo obtained by The Globe and Mail reads.

It’s a different kind of affirmative action that has white women upset. With more than half of the board’s employees female, the decision has been made to actively balance the scales in the classroom.

The balance is even more out of line when you look at the elementary level. For grades K-7, more than 77% of the teachers are female. In high school, the number drops to 59% female. When you compare visible minorities, nearly 3/4 of the students are visible minorities, while less than 1/4 of teachers represent different cultures.

77% of teachers in elementary schools are female. 59% of teachers in high schools are female. Some boys will never have a male in their classroom their entire scholastic career.

Some point to poorer marks by boys and minorities as a factor of not having role models in the classroom. In the UK, it has been noted that some students go their entire educational career without a male teacher. At the very least, it’s more than likely they will not have male influence until they reach high school.

The University of Western Ontario published a paper called Male Teachers and the “Boy Problem.” The paper concluded:

A more sophisticated media debate regarding male role models is clearly needed. This is not to argue that male teachers should be discouraged from embracing elementary school teaching, or that they may not be a positive influence in helping boys to develop a “healthy masculinity”; rather, we argue that assumptions regarding “healthy masculinity” cannot be made on the basis of biological essentialism or sex differences.

A recent opinion piece in the NYT discovered that boys are pointedly falling behind girls in grades.

A few decades ago, when we realized that girls languished behind boys in math and science, we mounted a concerted effort to give them more support, with significant success. Shouldn’t we do the same for boys?

We have paraded so far down the “teaching is women’s work” road, that it may be difficult to attract men to the profession. Still, boards like the one in Toronto will try. And you have to wonder, despite the fact our boys needing a few good men to look up to, will the modern man want to be looked at with a sly eye when he declares that he wants to be an elementary school teacher? It’s a bias that exists (I have it), and one that needs to be changed – quickly.

What do you think? When we factor in the perpetuation of single moms raising boys in our society, are we about to have generations of men who never had regular male interactions through their lives? Does it matter?

Image via iStockPhoto

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