Friday, July 25, 2008

Literature Review - Need for a Male Presence

In Need of a Rare Breed?

There is a growing body of literature which asserts that there is a need for more males within primary education. As previously noted, men make up fewer then 20% of the primary teachers in North America. Additionally within this literature is the ideology that boys are struggling due to a lack of male role models (Sokal, Katz & Cheszewski, 2007). Struggling is due to the thinking that education is a feminine activity. The authors asserted that this is embedded in the minds of children at an early age as mothers are traditionally the ones that are encouraging academic behaviours. It is thus suggested that gender identity is formed and encouraged through “same-sex role models” (Sokal et al., 2007, p. 652).

Same gendered role models help children make predictions about gender roles. According to Sokal et al. (2007), “children learn the cultural stereotypes associated with both sexes, but they learn about their own sex more quickly and elaborately” (p. 652). Thus, the information students gather from their teachers will consequently result in the creation of their opinions of how they ought to be.

The attitudes toward reading that have been negatively formulated through viewing reading as feminine will consequently result in a lack of desire to read. However, according to Sokal et al. (2007), boys who were taught by a male teacher had a less negative opinion of reading compared to that of a boy who was taught by a female. Additionally, boys who worked with a male instructor “developed a less feminized view of reading and had better perceptions of their social feedback about their reading skills” (Sokal et al., 2007, p. 656). This is then an example of why a male instructor is vital for the development of boys within academia.

This self-perception of reading and reading ability is the only factor that the research of Sokal et al. (2007) found to be relevant. That is, the reading achievement levels of students taught by a male or a female do not differ significantly. The research supported the idea that the feminine characteristic of coddling plays a role in a student’s achievement. Furthermore, “the research suggests that female teachers provide more verbal and non-verbal praise to students than do male teachers” (Sokal et al., 2007, p. 656). Thus leading to primary education being less about learning, and more about making students feel good about them.

The authors then concluded that the strategic hiring of male teachers would not positively affect student outcomes, specifically that of boys (Sokal et al., 2007). In fact, the assertion is that this strategy may negatively affect student outcomes.

Agreeing with this conclusion, Ailwood (2003) debated why the concentration of recruiting males into education and improving the outcomes of male students does not take into account the outcomes of female students. Further research needs to be put in place to discover what exactly the issue is with the underachievement of boys. For example, the author believes that socio-economic, political, and cultural issues are equally as important. Furthermore, Australian indigenous boys and girls, for example, are at an academic disadvantage. Thus, academic policies should be created while asking “which girls, which boys” (Ailwood, 2003, p. 22)? Ailwood wants a policy to be made “where girls and boys are understood to be equally, but differently disadvantaged by the education system” (p. 21). That is to say, while there may be a boy problem, there may also be a problem relating to girls.

Politically, Ailwood (2003) questioned how the problem with male achievement is affecting children long term. That is, females in Australia are make 83 cents to every dollar a male earns. This difference is similar to the assertion that “unequal division of influence and reward in the education establishment” (Sanders, 1997, paragraph 8). Furthermore, Ailwood asserted that “success in education does not necessarily translate into career success for women” (p. 23). Additionally, girls, Ailwood wrote, “remain less likely to follow economically successful post-secondary pathways, a disadvantage which is compounded by the growing need for women to be economically self-sufficient” (p. 24). These are all examples of how females are underprivileged and why the focus to improve the education of boys should focus on improving education for everyone, not simply boys.

Masculine privilege, Ailwood (2003) wrote, limits the concern for females within education. That is, with a change in primary education to enhance the achievement of boys, females may be left behind. Furthermore, Australian policy encourages girls to go into non-traditional female career paths and to take courses in maths and sciences. This, however, is further reinforcing the fact that language arts and humanities courses are feminine and thus, less valuable.

Through asserting that feminine subjects are less valuable, the education departments are creating a segregation of gender. Addi-Raccah (2002) wrote, that “school structures serve as a mechanism for gender segregation and for the reproduction of gender power relations in the society at large” (p. 244). This segregation debates the ideology that men are not interested in becoming teachers; rather, they are socially encouraged to find a different career. Furthermore, if a male does pursue a career within education, he is more likely to advance through the ranks into administration. Additionally, men are likely to teach in better schools, either in terms of economics or location.

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