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The Lack Of Male Role Models In The Classroom, In The Home And The Gender Education Gap

Updated on August 28, 2015
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Part 1 Of A 3 Part Series On Fatherlessness By ManWomanMyth

Men Are Automatically Regarded By Society With Unwarranted Suspicion Around Children

We know that male role models are important for the development of young boys. Research has shown the many ways in which young boys benefit from having strong male role models in their lives (as well as daughters). Yet many households are now fatherless and most classrooms are run by female teachers. Of course I believe that female teachers should participate in education, but so should men. A father is important for boys because they provide the crucial frame of reference young boys need in their lives to develop into healthy and productive young men. They are a masculine guiding influence that helps keep them on the right path and not deviate into a life of crime or misadventure. Indeed 71% of male high school dropouts come from fatherless households, as do 70% of males in juvenile detention in the US. The basic fact is that fathers help boys in education because they provide the praise and encouragement for boys to identify education as a pursuit worthy of being part of their masculinity. Fathers also act as an important source of boundary reinforcement for young boys as Dr. Warren Farrell found in his research.

The presence of male teachers in the classroom provides a direct male educational role model for young boys. It demonstrates to young boys and girls that education can be a masculine pursuit, as well as a feminine pursuit. By having both female and male role models in education, boys and girls see education as open to both genders. Having most teachers as female (particularly at the primary level), sends a subtle, yet powerful message that education is feminine. There is a deeper reason though for why male teachers are important for education. They intimately understand boys and what they are going through. They can relate to them, teach them and guide them in ways the female teachers cannot. Again it comes down to socialisation and at least partly biology. We relate better to members of our own sex because we are socialised to the same roles, norms and behaviours. Having male teachers not only helps boys directly, but also assists female teachers in understanding boys and their inner world.

With this in mind we need to seriously address the rise in fatherlessness and the lack of male teachers. Both of these issues are key causes behind the gender education gap, why the academic performance of boys is declining and why many boys are struggling at school. We need to go on a public relations campaign to encourage male participation in teaching and we need to make some changes to the profession so that it is more attractive to men. The first thing we need to do, is remove the social stigma surrounding men and children. There is a social undercurrent or cultural myth, that men who are around children are potential abusers or deviants. This is despite the fact that many of the perpetrators of child abuse are actually women and the reality that most men are not abusive or deviant. The stigma against men being around children, not only drives male teachers out of the profession, but also deters many men from entering the teaching profession in the first place.

Men are aware of the reality that a single false allegation from a disgruntled student carries the real prospect of not only ending their teaching careers, but also landing them in jail. Men understand they will automatically be presumed guilty by a court and by their peers, because of the way in which we have demonised masculinity. Even if the charges are dropped, men understand that the social stigma of the false allegation will follow them for the rest of their lives and that people will constantly question them. Is it any wonder men are hesitant to pursue teaching as a profession, especially primary school teaching which is overwhelmingly female? We need to change our collective attitude and treatment of men being around children from a legal standpoint and a cultural standpoint. Laws, administrative and legal procedures may need review. We will also need to publicly promote a positive image of male teachers in media and politics.

Another major reason why many men do not consider teaching as a career path, is because they are still expected to earn the higher income and be the breadwinner of the family. Even with all of the social changes that have occurred under feminism this remains the case. The reality is that many teaching positions are part-time, offer few career advancement opportunities and pay considerably less than professions men generally work in. Consequently teaching is at odds with what men look for in an occupation and the expectations society places on them. To change that, we need to offer more full-time positions, a meaningful career advancement pathway and a salary that is competitive with other male professions. Provided we retain enough flexibility and opportunities for part-time work in teaching for parents (whilst still providing enough full-time positions to attract male applicants), I cannot see how any of these changes would negatively impact women. In fact, women would stand to benefit from the higher pay and better career advancement opportunities.

With regard to fatherlessness, we will also need to change our culture and our legal systems. This is going to be a slow process and a real challenge. There needs to be meaningful political, educational and media action taken to recognise the importance of fathers to families and society. We need to change our collective attitude that fatherhood is a non-essential optional extra in families. It is just as essential as motherhood and the two genders offer a unique contribution to children that must be recognised. Research demonstrates the importance of fathers for young boys and also for young girls. With regard to our legal system, it is a national and international disgrace that family law often discriminates against men and excludes them from the family. Many divorced fathers either do not have access to their sons and daughters or that access is very limited. It is not uncommon either for the mother to fail to cooperate with visits and joint custody arrangements. This is wrong, has become too common and has to be stopped. Our family law needs changed to remove the discriminatory practices and bias against men. Men are just as important to raising their children as their mothers. The scientific and moral reasons supporting this statement are unchallenged and profound.

Click here to move to the next article regarding the causal factors of the gender education gap.

Click here to move to the previous article regarding the causal factors of the gender education gap.

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