Are Female Teachers a Problem?

A provocative question, to be sure. As we all know, females heavily dominate the teaching profession in the elementary grades (over 80% of elementary teachers). Perhaps it is precisely because elementary teachers are mostly female that elementary grades are dominated by the sort of pedagogy and classroom assignments that girls tend to prefer but that boys might not.

After all, we live in a world where males and females have different tastes on average, regardless of how this came about or how desirable it might be. Imagine if the situation were reversed. Imagine that 80+ percent of elementary teachers were male, and that they were constantly assigning girls to design football plays or battle plans for assignments putatively related to math or social studies. Would no one raise the complaint that men were being insensitive by assigning so many projects that most girls didn’t actually enjoy or identify with, and that were barely related to any legitimate academic objective in the first place?

Note: I’m not saying that female teachers are inherently more inclined to waste time than male teachers would be. Indeed, the example above assumes that if male teachers were in charge, they might find time-wasting activities of their own. I am suggesting, however, that if there were greater gender balance among teachers, both genders might keep each other in check.

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One Response to Are Female Teachers a Problem?

  1. C T says:

    I love your website!

    I accept that as a group, women do tend more towards arts and crafts, but my mom and I (a woman) both abhorred all these time-wasting kinds of assignments. I don’t think that you can blame the fact that 80% of elementary school teachers are women for the inefficient assignments out there. I think the problem instead is a pervasive dislike of academic rigor in K-8 education and education schools. (That’s not surprising when you look at the test scores of those who tend to go into elementary education. People generally like things more if they excel at them. See p. 23 of http://www.ets.org/Media/Education_Topics/pdf/TQ_full_report.pdf.) If we focus on setting and meeting rigorous academic objectives, some children will perform better than others, differentiated instruction will be revealed as the pipe dream it is, and there will be limited time for constructing swords or memorizing stupid raps (I think that pronoun rap killed some of my brain cells). (While I’m dreaming, I would also divide the school day into “academics time” (sequential and direct instruction in math, reading, and writing), “other subjects” (more of a unit study/inquiry approach to history, science, and the arts), and “recess” (lots of that, with free access to the school library during recess), and I would group children by ability rather than age for the academics time.)

    I also think that, on average, women tend to be better teachers for younger children. Call it a talent for nurturing, better social skills to be patient with and interpret mysterious young children, a preference for teaching social skills rather than focusing on abstract facts, more enjoyment of eye-catching glitter and colorful posters, less interest in coaching football, less interest in specializing in one field of knowledge, or what you will. But it doesn’t behoove us to try to force a 50/50 ratio of male/female teachers at any level of education.

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