The University of Michigan’s education school has released statistics breaking down the percentages of women and ethnic minorities enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate-level programs, and as Roger Clegg of National Review’s Phi Beta Cons points out, there’s one group that seems to be conspicuously missing: white males. Actually, males in general seem to be mostly missing from the student bodies at Michigan’s ed school and elsewhere. A Washington Post article published in May lamented the near-absence of black male teachers in Washington-area schools—a sad fact because the presence of strong, smart African-American role models among teachers may be the best hope that schools have of reversing the endemically high dropout rates among black male students.
The Michigan statistics are as follows: Among the ed school’s 510 students enrolled in graduate-level programs (usually aimed at producing faculty for high schools and middle schools), 68 percent are female and 22 percent minority. The 257 students enrolled in undergraduate programs at Michigan (typically aimed at producing elementary-school teachers) are 73 percent female and 16 percent minority. Michigan doesn’t say whether there is overlap between the women and minority-group populations, but it’s almost a sure bet that the overwhelming number of minority students in education programs at Michigan are women. According to the Washington Post story, only 2 percent of America’s 4.8 million teachers are black men.
The Michigan statistics bear themselves out in figures released by other education programs. The University of Illinois-Chicago doesn’t include a gender breakdown of its enrollment but notes that only 40.4 percent of its ed-school students are non-Latino whites. A photo on Boston University’s education-school website shows a handful of men sharing a classroom with a sea of women. Men simply aren’t going into K-12 teaching, it would seem. A 2008 survey by the National Education Association (NEA) revealed that just 24.4 of the nation’s teachers are male.
There are many possible reasons why men would rather not sign up for education courses. For black and other minority men there are probably too many better-paying career opportunities elsewhere. It’s natural that if you belong to the first generation in your family to graduate from high school and enter college in the first place, you probably want to enter a profession that will enable you to pay off your student loans relatively quickly.
Furthermore, many ed schools seem to have an Anybody But White Males policy in place when it comes to awarding the scholarships, fellowships, and grants that ease the financial burden on education concentrators. Take Stanford’s School of Education. The American Association of University Women awards grants ranging from $18,000 to students enrolled in master’s programs in education at Stanford to $20,000 to students enrolled in doctoral programs. Only women are eligible for these generous stipends. Other Stanford fellowships earmark minorities, but only certain favored minorities: “African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American, Pacific Islander,” according to the terms of one fellowship. It’s ironic that men constitute a distinct minority in education programs but never qualify for “minority’ financial aid.
The most troubling reason for young men’s lack of interest in learning how to be K-12 teachers, however, may lie in the content of many ed-school’s curricula, often: loaded with political correctness, lame psychobabble and useless Marxist and feminist theory, all at the expense of subject-matter content and practical instruction on teaching difficult concepts or maintaining order in a classroom. General bias against men, especially white men, seems to be the rule. When the NEA released its 2008 survey detailing the paucity of men in K-12 classrooms, several commenters on psychologist Helen Smith’s “Dr. Helen” blog expressed disillusion and bitterness with an ed-school pedagogy that made them feel unwelcome. Here are a couple of the comments:
I’m a 28 year old male, just beginning a Masters program in Childhood Education, and I assure you, the bias against male teachers begins well before one actually begins teaching. One of the first courses I’ve been required to take is a Diversity class, and so far, it has been a virtual non-stop tirade against everything that men have ever done in this country. We have basically touched on nothing that would relate to teaching, instead, we focus on how men (particularly white, European men), have apparently been responsible for everything that is wrong in the world. If this is what I, and those like me, have to look forward too, it’s no wonder there’s such a stunning lack of diversity among teachers.
I can add to the anecdotal evidence that the problem starts before male teachers get into the classroom. I was fortunate to have a couple of male teachers in high school who related how they both transferred colleges to avoid an education department head who felt that male teachers weren’t acceptable. There were a few years where the department has zero male education majors.
I later had a friend who would’ve made a great teacher get run out of the same program. I took their Freshman year intro course and realized I wasn’t welcome, so I pursued my math and computer degrees first, then did my education classes in a different program.
Around the same time conservative education blogger “Darren” posted a newsletter message he had received from the dean of the education college at California State University-Sacramento. It read as follows:
There are four main goals that we have and will continue to focus on in the College, which are expressed in the acronym TEACH:
Equity and Social Justice
Human Differences and Diversity
Darren asked wittily: “Which four are the main goals?”
In short, it’s hard to see why red-blooded men of decent intelligence would be attracted to programs that are not only devoid of useful pedagogy but are run by administrators who can’t count. The fact that few men, whether white or minority, want to pursue programs in K-12 education at universities is unfortunate in a society that desperately needs male role models and male leadership in its classrooms in order to combat boys’ persistent lagging behind girls in high school graduation rates and college enrollment. Ed schools need to think hard about their female-favoring curricula and financial-aid policies that are turning off male students in droves