Monday, December 30, 2013

Why Is the Teaching Profession the Target of Reform?

Could it be that the teaching profession is under attack, in part, because it is a largely female profession?

Over the past few weeks, several things have coalesced in my mind to make me ask why teachers are the target of education reform.

First at my office Christmas party for staff of the Education Department at Rider University, it was pointed out to me, as gifts were exchanged, that I was the only male at the party. Then Frank Rich wrote a column in the New York Times called “Waiting for Wonder Woman” about the absence of major action roles in Hollywood with the woman as the central hero. Finally, I watched the DVD of the movie “The Hunger Games” and on reflection I had to note that in this advanced game of “Survivor” the women (young girls) were given no quarter for being female. Would it take a dystopian universe to bring about true equality for women?

Women dominate the teaching profession. Women are still fighting for equality and even in the movies only seem to achieve it in a dystopian fantasy. Could it be that the teaching profession is under attack, in part, because it is a largely female profession?

There are, I am sure, many reasons for the targeting of teachers. My former professor of history, George Turner,  would advise that the wise historian should look for the “multiplicity of inter-causation”, whenever trying to determine why something happens. Some of the other reasons for targeting the profession lie in corporate union bashing; genuine, if misguided, concern for poor and minorities; and greed. After all, the public coffers are the last great frontier for the corporate plunderers. But look at these numbers for professions in the United States.

Women in the legal profession                            33.3%
Women medical doctors and surgeons               34.3%
Women in the teaching profession                      76%

Is it a coincidence that the one profession singled out for a draconian reform movement is the one that is dominated by women?

When education reformers spew about getting rid of “bad teachers”, nearly 8 of the 10 people they are targeting are women. Would that rhetoric be targeted at a profession where nearly 8 in 10 were male? There are plenty of “bad doctors” and “bad lawyers” out there. Where is the outrage? Indeed, where are the value added metrics to evaluate the medical or legal profession? Where are the Medicos for America or the Legal Flaks for America?

Teaching has long been a profession of low esteem in this country. There are many reasons for this. Low pay is one. The perception that “anybody can do it” is another. Perhaps the most important reason, though, is that it has been historically the one profession where women have found the doors open.

The big money education reform movement that seeks to improve education through a “market model” of competition, reward, and punishment is in many ways trying to impose a male vision of what leads to success in business on the social enterprise of schooling. To get what they want, reformers apparently feel they must discredit those on the front lines working very hard to provide the instruction and nurturance that children need. If the profession were more male, would they dare to do so?

Statistics for women in the professions were found through these sources: