There’s been a great discussion over at a weblog by Dr. Helen.
Below is my comment in response to the discussions:
What a great discussion!
First, I want to thank Dr. Helen for starting this discussion.
I work with a national non-profit called MenTeach.
You can see our website about men teaching at MenTeach.org.
People were asking about data about the percentage of men rather than anecdotal information. I’ve written and researched this topic since the 1980s.
As for history, men were the majority of teachers until the 1800 when more women started to outnumber the men. The numbers increased right after World War II when men returned from war and had the GI Bill to pay for their education.
But back in colonial days, young men, some studying to be clergy, were hired by local citizen school boards to teach children. According to public records, from 1635 to 1750 almost all of the teachers on town payrolls were men. It wasn’t until 1750 that the number of men teachers decreased to 85%, with the remaining 15% being women primarily teaching in summer programs (Tyack & Hansot, 1992) and what we would call family child care today.
Over the next century, the male majority of teachers began to decrease. During the 1800s the percentage of men teachers in some states dropped to less than 25%. For example, by 1834 in Massachusetts, 54 % of the teachers were men, and by 1860 this figure dropped to 22 % (Joncich Clifford, 1991).
There are several explanations for the decline in the number of men teachers. One of the reasons appears to be that men could earn higher wages in other occupations and women could replace the men teachers for lower wages thereby making it cheaper for town school trustees.
Demographic changes appear to be another reason why women began to enter teaching in greater numbers than men. Women were experiencing decreasing birthrates and a rising age of their first marriages. These changes in the mid-1800s provided middle class women a greater opportunity to attend school and with increased education middle class and women from wealthy family wanted to work outside the home (Joncich Clifford, 1991).
Teaching was one of the few socially acceptable careers for middle class women because teaching could be considered an extension of women’s domestic role.
MenTeach did a large national study in 2002 and found three intertwined reasons why don’t teach or stay in the field:
1. Stereotypes – people believe teaching is women’s work and that men are not nurturing or caring enough;
2. Fear of Accusation of Abuse – people believe that men are going to harm children;
3. Low Status and Low Pay – people do not value teaching nor are we as a society willing to pay the people who teach our children sufficient to attract and retain men (and many women).
This is a very interesting topic and brings out many different opinions.
I would end with, let’s decide what is best for our children. Don’t we want our classrooms to reflect what the world is – half men and half women and diverse.
Joncich Clifford, G. (1991). Daughters into Teachers: Educational and Demographic Influences on the Transformation of Teaching into ‘Women’s Work’ in America. In A. Prentice & Theobald, M. (Eds.). Women who Taught: Perspectives on the History of Women and Teaching. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Youcha, G. (1995). Minding the Children: Child Care in America from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Scribner Press.
Tyack, D. B. & Hansot, E. (1992). Learning Together: A History of Coeducation in American Public Schools. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.