Once upon a time in a land not so far away, people lived within certain gender restrictions when it came to career options. Management positions were once dominated by males while professions like nursing were seen as just for women. Over the last half century, the hope and the goal seems to be that there would be no boundaries based on gender. Fairly often we see reports on the advances women have made in traditionally male-dominated fields while men have advanced in previously female-dominated professions. There may be some wishful thinking that a new equitable balance is near where each profession contains a representative percentage of each gender and within which anyone—female or male—who desires and obtains the skills needed for a profession will be able to pursue their career choice. No more glass ceilings, and no more good ol’ girls/boys clubs to contend with.
Unfortunately, progress is marred in some areas, and education is one example. At some levels, male educators are nearly extinct with male professors perhaps becoming the next endangered species.
Education Week’s Sarah D. Sparks recently posted the concern that fewer men are signing up to teach at the K12 level and the gender gap is already more of an abyss (8 May, 2012). Citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 Current Population Survey, Sparks shared the following:
• Only 18.3% of elementary and middle school teachers are male; this is down from 19.1% in 2007.
• Only 2.3% of preschool and kindergarten teachers are male; this is down from 2.7% in 2007.
• 42% of high school teachers are male, which is a better balance; however, this is also down from 43.1% in 2007.
• 28% of the 5,100 Teach for America recruits in 2011 were male, indicating that even special programs to recruit male teachers aren’t succeeding in closing the gender gap.
The increasingly bleak picture for male teachers at the K12 level is one very real cause for concern. Given that boys have few male role models that might encourage them to become teachers and that existing male faculty are feeling various pressures as the spotlight appears to be on them to be more than just an educator, numbers will most likely continue to decrease.
There are, however, other detrimental forces at work.
Sparks offers some rather disturbing reasons many believe education does not attract male teachers, and all of them betray continued gender-bias against men, against women, or paradoxically, against both (8 May, 2012). She mentioned the following:
• There is a general perception that teaching is not a noble profession, and this is exacerbated by a sexist belief that men should not be working with children (American Educational Research Association, qtd. in Sparks, S., 8 May, 2012).
• Men are still seen as the breadwinners and women as the homemakers; therefore, males tend not to flock to low paying teaching jobs while females are relegated to lower-paying jobs. [Note the gender-bias in both directions here.]
• Dialog on recruiting male teachers has gone silent while nationally the preference seems to be discussing “other things, like the common core, state tests, high stakes, and all this stuff,” (Johnson, S., qtd. in Sparks, S., 8 May, 2012).
• Male students are not encouraged to work with children in the same way girls are encouraged to enter STEM fields. In fact, they are discouraged from doing so. Jeffrey M. Daitsman, a preschool teacher and early-education researcher at the Center for Practitioner Research at National-Louis University in Chicago stated that: “Male primary and preschool teachers are often accused of being gay, pedophiles, or simply ‘not masculine’ for wanting to work with young children” (qtd. in Sparks, S., 8 May, 2012).
• Male teachers are perceived as being the disciplinarians; therefore, they tend to be given the more difficult students and they are more frequently threatened by students and parents though females were more frequently attacked than males since 1993 (Indicators of School Crime and Safety, Sparks, S., 8 May, 2012).
• Debating whether or not there is or should be a difference between the teaching style or role of male vs. female teachers can provide encouragement or discouragement for both genders. For example, parents may demand a male teacher act as a disciplinarian or mentor for a student rather than being concerned about learning objectives.
• The tendency toward showing only females as nurturers of children and men wearing suits sends a message that working with kids is women’s work and earning money is a male’s role.
Clearly, education at the K12 level is not conducive to encouraging men to become teachers nor young boys and girls to break free of past gender stereotypes for both men and women. Recent concerns expressed about issues such as the feminization of curriculum at all levels (c.f. “Is a Feminized Curriculum Driving Male Students to Drop Out?” 2 March, 2012) may also be exacerbating the message that educating is “women’s work” and that education is not a field for men.
Another concrete area of concern is the increasing gender gap in degree completion at the postsecondary level. Although scholars have been concerned about this downward trend of male enrollment and completion for over a decade, little has been done to address it. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, at age 22, nearly twice as many females as males have completed a bachelor’s degree (6.8% vs. 12.7%) and a year later, there is little improvement (14.3% vs. 23.4%) (9 February, 2012). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 60.4% of master’s and 52.3% of doctoral degrees were awarded to females (2011). This gender gap is a global concern, too.
The decline of male role models at the K12 level, lack of encouragement of male students to pursue education or a career in academia, and the lack of attention the issue and its potential causes tends to receive may all contribute to men not earning the degrees and credentials they would need to teach.
One more disturbing trend that does not appear to get much attention is the pruning of males from postsecondary education. For example, recently Chancellor Michael Wartell of Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne was forced into retirement because of a policy that all senior administrators in the I.U.- P.U. system must step down during the year they reach 65-years-old. This video and the ones that accompany it reveal that this policy was enacted in spite of Wartell’s excellent contributions to the university and local community as well as protests from most constituents.
When the June 19, 2012, announcement of Wartell’s replacement was made, the community asked the obvious question about the choice of 64-year-old Dr. Vicky L. Carwein: Will she just work one year before the policy is enacted? The answer was no because of an exception clause in the retirement program that may allow Carwein to remain chancellor for another eight years until the age of 72.
Although I have not seen any studies on this issue yet, I am aware of two other colleges where a male chancellor was forced out and the hiring committees were told to choose a female replacement. When I worked in administration at a community college in Indiana, three of us who happen to be male were told we could not apply for an administrative position we were each well qualified for. Instead the position was “granted” to a female who had no full-time work experience in education and who did not hold appropriate academic credentials for the position.
Currently, most sources agree that about 62% of college professors are male and 38% are female. While this reflects several additional facets of gender-bias (e.g., that it’s okay for males to work with adults, that women should be nurturing children at the K12 level instead of adults, etc.), the concern is that given the drought of male teachers at the K12 level, the lessening of the number of advanced degrees awarded to male students, the contributing factors that give the overall perception that education is only for women, there will most likely be a rapid decline in male professors in the coming years. In fact, it seems likely that male professors will soon become like their K12 counterparts, an endangered species.
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