Monday, September 24, 2007

Men in education

Newsweek has an article in one of their most recent editions about men in education and the drop in men in education over the past forty years. They talk about some of the issues that men face in education. They discuss the fact that especially in early education if a man is teaching it is at times assumed he is a pedophile because why else would he want to work with young children. This creates a real barrier to men geting into the field of education and staying in the field. This is bullshit obviously and I am not even really going to address this. Another issue they bring up is that there is the assumption that the man must be gay if he is too nurturing or caring. In other words if he is good with kids he must be gay. This strikes me as similar to the pedophile issue as we all know that all pedophiles are gay and vice versa, NOT. This issue also can cause parents to remove their children from a man teacher's class because they do not want their child to get teh gay. They may be OK for a bit, but as one male teacher points out in the article, when he showed some nurturing ability like tying a scarf on a child's Halloween costume (WTF?) the parent assumed he was gay and wanted her child to be moved out of his class.

The final issue that they mention is the low pay. I have an issue whenever I hear people complain about the low pay of teachers and cite that as the reason they got out of education. You know going into teaching that the pay is low, this should not be a surprise. This is not a hidden fact and you can look up the salary for the local school district on most school district websites and look up the state averages among other details on the internet pretty easily. So, should you be shocked when your friend who has a business degree is making almost twice what your starting salary is, NO. You should know this going into choosing to become a teacher, so don't use that as your cop out when you can't hang and you bail. I am not arguing that teachers should not be paid more, hell as a teacher I would love to be paid more. I mean what is more important than educating our children and hence we should get paid like we are valued, but we are not and I knew that and I still choose to become a teacher, so please don't use money as an excuse.

The other issue I have with citing money as an issue for men in education is that this is the same issue for women and yet it seems to be singled out for men. One of the people interviewed notes that he is single and is OK with the salary, but he is not sure what he will do when he gets married and has kids. That is blatantly misogynistic. Men are still expected to be the breadwinner and so with the low income of teachers they are not able to support their families. I thought women had entered the workforce and could now help to provide an income for their families. This is no longer the purview of the man to supply the entire income, by suggesting that men cannot stay in education because of the low salaries is ignoring that women struggle with the same issues. I feel obliged to point out that two of my favorite bloggers are in this exact situation, DCup and Mathman. Mathman is a high school math teacher who is married to DCup (what a lucky man) and they have three kids and yet somehow they are able to raise their children and Mathman was not driven out of education. (Side note, my apologies to Mathman and DCup about using you, but I felt as though you were a good example of what I was trying to say.) We do not make the same issues when a women who is a teacher gets married, worrying about how she will help support her family, so we need to stop making the issue for male teachers and just accept that the low income sucks for everyone and it is tough for everyone to raise their families on a teacher's salary, but for some of us it is a choice we are willing to make because it is the right decision for us.


chenchy said...

A good friend of mine made a career change at 37....with the decision to teach middle school/high school. He has really had a terrible time finding an opening. My initial reaction was that I thought he was at a disadvantage because he was a man. But I thought....'don't be so silly'
Maybe my initial reaction was right on the money.

Shouldn't we be embracing decisions like this as a society? Not letting gender roles influence us so much.


FranIAm said...

I know so many men who have made career changes in their 30's and 40's to become teachers... and they all love it.

And how great for the kids. We mostly had women when I was in school in the 60's and 70's.

Go men educators! Expand society, don't contract!

GourmetGoddess said...

The crazy thing is that if more and more men got into teaching K-12, the pay might actually go up for everyone. In general, the less "feminized" work is (the less it is seen as women's work), the higher the pay scale.

In Massachusetts and Illinois, the two states I have spent most of my adult life in, the pay range for teachers is actually quite decent. Not great by any means, but definitely more traditional middle class. Wisconsin - not so much. I don't know about other states. If I decided to go into teaching where I live now, I would make about the same as I do in my current position. All that being said, I also do believe teachers should be paid more in general.

Anonymous said...

I'll let MathMan speak for himself, but I see no problem with you using us as an example. There are days, though, when his teaching position and my not-for-profit management position don't pay enough to keep the family of five afloat. And we definitely can't keep up with our neighbors in terms of material purchases.

But then, who needs all the crap.

BTW, Teaching is a second career for MathMan who made the change in his late 30s.

For kids like our son, The Boy, I think it's important that there are male teachers. Men get boys and how they function. Most women simply cannot.

And I agree with Gourmet. Just like teaching, not-for-profit management is very much a pink collar ghetto. Men come in and bring up the payscale for all of us except that there's no getting around the fact that the males get the better, management jobs and females still end up serving in admin. asst. type roles far more often.

Great post, Boxer!

Mathman6293 said...

I taught one year in Illinois - suburban Chicago where I made $45K my first year - no masters. Yes the money is more there but I did not feel like a made the difference I do at Mathman HS in GA.

Boxer - you beat me to this post. But I'm writing my version with a different spin.