Studs in the Schoolhouse Studs in the Schoolhouse
Education

Studs in the Schoolhouse

by Liz Dwyer

April 17, 2010

Attention single men: Want to up your dating game? Actually, want to get a date, period?  Three words: Become a teacher.

Hotties will have your number on speed dial once word gets out that you’re taking action against educational inequality. You’ll get so much play, before you know it, those investment-banking friends who mocked you for going into education will be out at the club saying they’re teachers, too. You'll catch them lying about teaching first graders to read just to get the digits.

OK, although a man with a grade book is sexy for sure, becoming an overnight Casanova may not be the noblest reason for a guy to get into teaching. Here’s a better reason: As of the 2000 Census, women are nearly three fourths of all K-12 educators, and according to the National Education Association, 90 percent of elementary school teachers are female. If education is truly the social justice issue of our generation—if it’s so important—where are the men? Not that women haven’t done a decent job educating America, but without more gender-balance in the classroom, we risk yet another generation with the same sexist beliefs about teaching that have plagued education for the past 150 years.

Men who enter education are more likely to end up as administrators and superintendents than classroom teachers, reinforcing the sexist attitude that women nurture and men manage. The truth is it probably takes more skill and intellect to teach a bunch of kindergarteners than it does to sit in meetings.

In case you think the gender gap is a generational thing, it even exists in Gen-X and Millennial-heavy organizations like Teach For America. In 2010, TFA received 46,000 applications for 4,350 spots. Twelve percent of seniors from Ivy League schools applied, and the average TFA teacher’s GPA is a 3.6. Sounds impressive enough, but given that roughly 68 percent of TFA teachers are women, even a well-qualified crowd like TFA, which has helped bring prestige back to the profession, is still impacted by sexism.

Some men shy away from the comparatively low pay of teaching.  “I can’t support a family on that salary,” they scoff. Our culture sees teaching as a domestic career for moms, rather than as a socially acceptable, “masculine” career. “No real man would want to be a teacher,” we tell our sons implicitly.  “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” You've heard that one, right? Nonsense.
 
Al Cadena, a Los Angeles ad executive, taught Spanish at a suburban high school for two years right after undergrad. Every day he'd hear from his students, “What are you doing here? You’re too smart for this. Get out of here.” Friends and family were equally skeptical. “Can’t you do better than being a teacher?” they'd ask. Ultimately, Cadena left the classroom for higher pay—another casualty of the “too smart to be a teacher” attitude men face.

Consider this: Most school districts won't hire anyone with an undergraduate GPA below a 2.5. George W. Bush’s undergraduate GPA at Yale was a 2.35, so the 43rd President of the United States wouldn’t have qualified to teach in either of the nation’s largest (and most troubled) school districts, New York and Los Angeles. I don’t expect the 2010 census to reflect a huge influx of male teachers, but let's try for 2020. That way, my two sons, ages six and nine, won’t feel like career losers if they decide to become lifelong teachers.  And, since no mom wants to think of her sons getting tons of play, with an even gender split, male teachers will become the norm—meaning my boys won’t seem like such hot prospects, will get no digits, and will remain celibate forever.  So guys, c’mon, become teachers. Take advantage of this opportunity to get dates, do a mom a favor, and make a difference in the lives of children.

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Studs in the Schoolhouse