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April 28, 2013 at 6:23 am #7358Ron HolmesMember
As an early childhood professional of 30 years experience in a range of direct and indirect EC roles, I am obviously interested in the issue of males in early childhood settings, and I am broadly in favor of having more men in EC and the early years of primary school. I love the stories you provide of men who are doing great things in EC and primary schools, often in difficult and/or disapproving environments. However, I am always disappointed to find that any articles purporting to have ‘evidence’, ‘research’ and ‘experts say’ are anything but, at least from a rigorous, academic research perspective.
In 2012 I completed a Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies and several of my assignments allowed me to thoroughly research the international academic record for scholarly articles regarding men in EC and primary schools, from a number of slightly different perspectives. In doing this, I found virtually no studies that were able to qualify OR quantify any definable benefit to children, even when those studies specifically set out to find a benefit. From memory there was literally one study that interviewed and studied a very small number of children with a male kindergarten teacher, and the author posited a very slight change in some of the children’s gendered attitudes – though she also found HIGHLY gendered attitudes in some children, arguably BECAUSE the teacher was male (ie the ‘exception that proves the rule’ theory).
The children’s gendered attitudes may also have been influenced by the fact that the teacher was quite stereotypically masculine in many ways, and he once brought his car into the kindergarten and investigated the mechanics with the children. The other issue I gleaned from my readings was that very few if any of the male EC/primary students/professionals studied/profiled had a ‘highly evolved’ sense of the significance of their place in the field. That is, very few men had given much consideration to how they would be perceived by society, families, colleagues and children, their place as a male in a female-dominated workplace and profession, and their ‘gendered selves’. Furthermore, very few had any aspirations to make any specific gender-related changes to the profession or saw themselves as anything more than a person who (often loved to) worked with children. Some even expressed views and attitudes that were as stereotypically gendered as the general public. Perhaps because of this, the few studies that specifically investigated the perception/self-perception of men in EC/primary were generally very cautious in assigning any possible benefit for children, families, the profession and society, and indeed approached it as a question rather than an assumed good.
If there was no hard, longitudinal evidence that children, families, the EC profession and society were positively affected by men in EC, and the men themselves on the whole had no interest or specific goal to aim to ‘change the world’ through their work in EC, then how could it be assumed that men in EC/primary is a manifestly good thing? Which brings me to my frustration with MenTeach and your regular newsletter. As I said above, I am a supporter of (more) men in EC/primary, but the claim you are founded on – that it is a self-evident truth that men in EC is a great, positive, attitude-changing thing for children, families, society and the EC profession – is simply not supported by evidence. I wish it was! I have searched high and low for evidence that having a male EC teacher changes children’s lives, but it does not exist.
In fact, there is some evidence that the presence of males in EC actually cements childrens’ gendered attitudes and beliefs, partly because very few EC workplaces and professionals spend any time considering the consequences of men and women in EC environments, and adjust their work practices accordingly. I believe that your goals would be greatly enhanced by working towards producing hard evidence of the longitudinal benefits of men in EC, and encouraging others to do the same.
I welcome criticism of my opinion, and I accept it is quite possible that I have missed scholarly work that presents quantifiable and qualifiable evidence.
June 5, 2013 at 8:27 am #7475
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