Sunday, February 07, 2016

Should Teachers Make Men Out Of Boys?

China tries some more social engineering--because, you know, that one-child policy has worked so well for them:
Lin Wei, 27, one of a handful of male sixth-grade teachers at a primary school here, has made a habit of telling stories about warlords who threw witches into rivers and soldiers who outsmarted Japanese troops. “Men have special duties,” he said. “They have to be brave, protect women and take responsibility for wrongdoing.”

Worried that a shortage of male teachers has produced a generation of timid, self-centered and effeminate boys, Chinese educators are working to reinforce traditional gender roles and values in the classroom.

In Zhengzhou, a city on the Yellow River, schools have asked boys to sign pledges to act like “real men.” In Shanghai, principals are trying boys-only classes with courses like martial arts, computer repair and physics. In Hangzhou, in eastern China, educators have started a summer camp called West Point Boys, complete with taekwondo classes and the motto, “We bring out the men in boys.”

Education officials across China are aggressively recruiting male teachers, as the Chinese news media warns of a need to “salvage masculinity in schools.” The call for more male-oriented education has prompted a broader debate about gender equality and social identity at a time when the country’s leaders are seeking to make the labor market more meritocratic.

It also reflects a general anxiety about boys in Chinese society. While boys outnumber girls as a result of the longstanding one-child policy and a cultural preference for sons, they consistently lag in academic performance. Some parents worry about their sons’ prospects in an uncertain economy, so they are putting their hopes in male role models who they believe impart lessons on assertiveness, courage and sacrifice.

The view that there is an overabundance of female teachers that has had a negative effect on boys has, perhaps predictably, led to a backlash. Parents have accused schools of propagating rigid concepts of masculinity and gender norms, and female educators have denounced efforts to attract more male teachers with lavish perks as sexist.
On the other hand, the Society of Women Engineers sent some pamphlets to our school and asked us to hand them out. I refused, as their organization is sexist and exclusionary.  I half-jokingly remarked that perhaps I wouldn't have as much antipathy towards such organizations if there were similar organizations that tried to recruit boys and men into nursing or elementary teaching.  Reading the article above, though, I realize that I would have a problem with such organizations.  Can only men teach boys?  If "feminization" is the problem, shouldn't women teachers be taught how to be better teachers for boys?

So many problems when we start imposing our own views on others.


Ellen K said...

When my son was in fourth grade, he nearly failed language arts. It was not that he could not read, because he tested in the G/T range, but instead it was because the teacher insisted on girl friendly fantasy stories that featured female heroes to the exclusion of males. So while my son refused to read these stories, he was reading "To Build a Fire" by Jack London and "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. We have increasingly shaped public education to accommodate girls over boys to the point where just being a normal male child is seen as a deficit. I think every single administrator should read " A Fine Young Man" by Michael Gurian. I am shocked by the type of infractions reported on my grandson. It's not fighting or using bad language, it's nitpicky things like being on the wrong color of a dot in the gym or playing tag. We already have a female heavy teaching population, perhaps the needs to be special advocacy programs to hire more men in our public schools.

momof4 said...

My 1950s ES teachers were 6 female (4 old maids; the terms was still in use)/2 male and my DH had all nuns. All of our teachers appreciated boys and understood that boys and girls are different and that there was nothing wrong with such differences. Classroom practices included practices that both sexes liked - and reading choices included both "boys' books" (which I loved) and "girls' books" (not as much).

Since the 60-70s, ed schools seem to have promoted the idea that boys are just defective girls and their natural tendencies need to be repressed and altered. My kids had some teachers - always young ones - who were very open about the fact that they didn't like boys.

I don't think that large numbers of guys are ever going to want to teach ES, so teach women to appreciate male/female differences and to use teaching methods that support both.