Most of us know we are in a war of sorts in the education arena. Our foes are bureaucracy, non-teaching experts, clueless politicians, and the media painting very ugly pictures of what they want the public to believe what teachers do, how much they get paid, and why it’s too much money. I happen to think there is another foe, however, that most would not consider. Our foe is misogyny, and it has become quite prevalent in the teaching profession.
Take a quick journey with me. In days of yore (mid-19th century), teachers got their training by attending teacher colleges, or taking additional classes after their formal education. There were some social distinctions, that have morphed throughout the decades, but still exist. Most of this overview is taken from Tyack’s (1974) The One Best System, which I referenced when writing my dissertation.
Communities were very vocal about the type of teacher they wanted in terms of skill and gender, and what type of content that should be taught, even though many did not really understand what content knowledge was. Tell me this has changed, and I’ll tell you your head is in the sand. Men quickly “advanced” from teaching to administrative positions. Why? They were the breadwinners (or least considered to be), and had to have the additional income to support their families.
Women could rarely advance in that manner, because to “rule” over men was not socially acceptable. Also, they could teach until the cows came home, unless, of course, the cows got married. You resigned your post immediately, and another young, unmarried woman would take your place. Why? A women’s place might have been in the classroom, but a wife’s place was in the home, where her husband provided for her.
Part of the reason I assert, for all of this blaming teachers for the ills of society is quite simple.
- Women are nurturers and usually caregivers.
- Women are generally responsible for instilling values and morals into children.
- If there is a problem with a child not performing up to par, ultimately, it is perceived to be the woman’s fault.
While my data is old, it is not that old. As of 2005, 85% of our teaching force were white, middle-class females. These are females that generally live in areas of low diversity, thus restricting their ability to positively interact with other socioeconomic groups. These same women are expected to transcend all of this, based purely on content knowledge acquired during their undergraduate college years.
It really is a set up; a set up of monumental proportions. On the one hand, white skin privilege was the rationale behind multiple continent slavery, Jim Crow in the south, and the impetus for the Civil Rights movement. It is like two alpha males fighting over the head position.
On the other hand, since the perception that white women are still being taken care of by their husbands, it’s okay to “get rid of the ineffective teachers”, and usher in a new crop. I again refer to the “Coleman Report”, which made the point that the educational attainment of the mother is the greatest predictor of a child’s academic success. Let’s help, encourage, and assist our mothers, instead of berating them.
Blaming teachers for young people’s inadequacies is tantamount to blaming victims of crimes. It is morally reprehensible, and it has to stop. We are suffering high numbers of collateral damage in this profession, and there is a way to greatly reduce those numbers. Stay tuned.