Bryan G. Nelson

MenTeach gets interviewed by media on a regular basis. One of the biggest challenges is when all of the interview doesn’t get included. For example, in ExchangeEveryDay, June 7, 2012, we see a headline: Male Teachers Declining. Here’s the article:

“The economic downturn seems to have worsened an already vast gap between the numbers of men and women teachers, particularly in the early grades,” writes Sarah Sparks in Education Week (May 9, 2012).

According to the “U.S. Bureau of Census Labor Statistics 2011 Current Population Survey,” men make up only 18.3 percent of elementary- and middle-school teachers and 2.3 percent of preschool and kindergarten instructors – “a dip from the 2007 prerecession proportions of 19.1 percent in grades 1 to 8 and 2.7 percent in preschool and kindergarten.”  Bryan Nelson, of the World Forum Men in Early Childhood Education Working Group, believes this differs from previous economic declines when more men entered K-12 teaching.

According to Sparks, “Researchers argue that though girls are incre asingly encouraged throughout school to enter male-dominated fields such as engineering and mathematics, boys are given less incentive or opportunity to explore working with young children.”  Robert Capouozzo, an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, points out that “many of the young men he teaches have never held an infant, while the female preservice teachers have been baby-sitting and tutoring children for years.”

And here’s our correction or clarification:

As my graduate statistics teacher said on the first day of class:

Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say. ~William W. Watt

In my interview with Ms. Sparks in the Education Week, only part of what I said was included. Here is more of what I said to her:

Although nationally the percentage of men in education was down from 2007, the percentages of men has in fact, INCREASED for men in child care to 5.5%, teacher assistants 7.8%, and although Elementary & Middle School teachers is lower than 2007 at 18.3%, in 2009 it was 18.1%, 2010 it was 18.2%. So the trend is actually INCREASING not decreasing.

The percentages of men teaching has actually been even lower. In 1920 the percentages were as low as 14.1% and when the Great Depression hit in 1929, the percentages went up to 22.2%. Another significant period when the percentages went up in the United States was from the 1940s until the 1970s. That can be attributed to several factors but the most important was the end of World War 2 and men being awarded the GI Bill (a scholarship program to attend college for veterans). The percentages went from a low of 15.3% to 33.4%.

Interestingly, we have two key events going on right now, what I’d call “The Perfect Opportunity” for men in education. One is the Great Recession, a poor economy where men are seeking jobs in any industry and are trying to get hired as teachers. And two is the men returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan looking for work with a new GI Bill to pay for their education.

So, let’s not put our faith AND write headlines on what the statistics may be saying without analyzing what they are not saying. For stories about increases all over the world, like what Ron Blatz is doing up in Canada, or Dr. Tim Rohrmann in Germany, or Kenny Spence in Scotland, go to or visit the World Forum’s Working Group on Men in Early Childhood Education.