Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


More teaching stuff, because it's been a while

As usual, the newspaper makes me angry. Why oh why do I read it?

Actually, the story in yesterday's Arizona Republic about the lack of male teachers and principals. This just makes me sad. The story is about how almost 90% of elementary school teachers are women, while 60% of the principals are. The principal thing doesn't bother me that much - it's not even 60%, more like 58.something% - but the teacher thing does. It's not surprising, but it is kind of sad. The paper looks at three separate factors that might be keeping men out of grade schools:

1. The nurturing factor - men don't deal well with nurturing little snot-nosed punks.
2. The pay factor - teachers get paid poorly, and men can find better money elsewhere.
3. The fear factor - men are afraid that they will be accused of inappropriate behavior.

The first one, I think, is a bit of a joke. Yes, the stereotype has been that men aren't comfortable with nurturing children, but I think that has changed in the past twenty or thirty years or so. Whether you think that's a good thing or not is your own personal opinion, but it seems like men have become much better at the sort of parenting that women do ever since women started going to work en masse, which occurred in the 1960s and '70s. Sure, there are plenty of troglodytic men out there who still think they should choose a mate by clonking some babe over the head and dragging her home, but they wouldn't go into teaching in the first place. So I don't buy the nurturing factor.

The second one is pretty valid, I think. Part of it, as the article points out, is that men are often stuck in the idea of being the "breadwinner" in the family, and teaching doesn't give them that opportunity. Why it matters who the breadwinner is has puzzled me for a long time, but it comes back to a stereotypical idea about who goes to work and who raises the kids. Women raise the kids, damn it, and men go to work! I, obviously, think this is silly, and would be perfectly happy to never have a job again - I love raising the kids, even though they drive me buggy occasionally. When it came down to decide who would stay home with Mia, however, the pay was a factor. I was making $30,000 a year at my teaching job, while Krys was making almost double that as a mortgage underwriter. We couldn't live on just my salary, so I got to quit. We are able to survive on Krys' salary, but if we had credit card debt, we would both have to work. Teachers can make good money in some parts of the country - my mom whines about the teachers in her area, who go on strike to raise their salaries to $75,000 a year, but the area where she lives is a lot more expensive. Sure, that's a chunk of money, but for the most part, teachers don't make a lot of money. But it's not a lot of money for women, either. The pay is linked to the stereotype that men need to make a lot of money to be successful. It's not horrible, but it's not enough for "real men."

I also read a letter by someone who criticized Matt Leinart's new contract. The letter simply said (and I'm paraphrasing), "$35,000 for a teacher, $8.5 million for a quarterback." The priorities are screwed up. But that's a stupid comparison, because Bill Bidwill, the owner of the Cardinals, is a private businessman - he can give Matt Leinart whatever the hell he wants. If the people support the NFL and give them gobs and gobs of money, then the players will get a lot. A better comparison would be with Congressmen, who give themselves raises while keeping the minimum wage low and, of course, teachers' salaries. Teachers' salaries come, ultimately, from taxes, and the public shouldn't whine about how poorly they get paid unless they themselves want to give them a raise. Which isn't happening.

The third factor - fear - is "overblown" and "more perception than reality," according to a couple of the male teachers in the story. Maybe. I have spoken about this before, but I don't think you can discount it. I didn't consciously think about it while I was teaching, but it was always in the back of my mind, and I know it wasn't for the women. It's something that adds anxiety to the job, and nobody needs anxiety! Sure, it's probably "overblown," but it's something that all male teachers have to be careful about, and that little bit of stress, added to all the other stress that you have as a teacher, is just another brick or so that you don't need. It might not drive male teachers away, but I would bet a lot of people who consider it think it's far worse than it is, and stay away. Two examples that I don't think I have mentioned before: once at a "yard sale" our school had on a weekend, I sat in a chair between two of my female students. We were on separate chairs and nobody was touching each other. We were just talking. At some point I got up and my boss actually told me I probably shouldn't sit there. We were in public, my wife was five feet away, and I wasn't allowed to sit there. It's just the perception, not anything that actually happened. Another example: at my other school, a rumor went around that one of the girls was pregnant. She was a very good student but had been skipping some days, which never happened. I actually mentioned it to a female teacher, who brought it up to the student, because there is no way I would even consider bringing it up to the girl, even if it was just out of concern. The female teacher actually got in a bit of trouble for it, but I would have been canned, I'm sure.

I wish there were more male teachers, and I'm not really sure how to recruit more of them. Teaching is a great job, and it's important for a lot of kids to have positive male role models. As with every teaching job, more money would help, even just a little. The biggest problem, I think, is the continuing stigma against men as teachers. Even though some of my best teachers were men, even twenty years ago, I think that a lot of people still think of teachers, especially elementary school teachers, as women. It's kind of strange that we still can't get beyond some stereotypes. Until society moves forward (like that's going to happen!), I have a feeling there will be a serious gender gap in teaching. And that's a shame.

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Blogger Thomas said...

Long time, no comment, Greg.

22/8/06 5:30 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Over here, you mean, Thomas? Where have you been? You've been too busy bashing Kevin Federline and wondering who in Iraq is reading your blog. I get it. I told myself I wouldn't cry!

22/8/06 8:40 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I was walking through an Albany suburb with a friend (male), pre-Lydia, and we'd see kids in their yards, some of whom wanted to talk with us. And we did. But in the back of both our minds was this: "Somebody's gonna think, 'What are those men, those strangers, doing with our kids?' " And that was really sad.

23/8/06 3:01 AM  
Blogger Chance said...

I would have refused to move, personally. I won't for one second buy into this bullshit culture of fear that actively and knowingly victimizes men for being men. I fight it all the time; I fight it just by being a preschool teacher.

24/8/06 6:26 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Well, Chance, I was already up, and I can't remember exactly what I did. I was helping out with the sale, so I wasn't sitting down a lot, so I probably just got back to work. We were all just taking a break at that point. But you're right - it's a ridiculous thing to think that in public, outdoors, with hundreds of people around, that anyone would have a problem with the situation. People are idiots sometimes.

24/8/06 11:06 AM  
Blogger T. said...

I do think the lack of men teaching does have some correlation as to why boys fare so badly in school lately.

26/8/06 9:22 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I agree, T. I forgot to get into this, but I wonder how much the men are bored with the subject matter just like the boys are. That's a whole bigger issue, though!

26/8/06 10:18 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Fred Reed had an article about that exact subject which I linked to on my blog. I'll have to search for it though to send your way. Be interesting to see what you think of it.

26/8/06 12:35 PM  

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