A friend recently told me how thrilled she is that 7 out of the 20 teachers at her son’s primary school are male. The reason for her excitement is that she wants her son to have male role models.
In one way that’s fair enough: there are not many male teachers in Australian schools. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2011 women account for 70 per cent of all full time teaching staff in Australia. The underrepresentation of male teachers is particularly acute in primary schools, where men account for only 19.3 per cent of full time teachers.
Despite all the excellent female teachers in our schools, having a man in front of a class conjures up visions of a life-changing teacher who will inspire kids to climb onto their desks and say ‘O’ Captain, My Captain’ a la Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.
But in reality, these male teachers might be decent blokes who turn up, run through the set exercises prescribed in the curriculum and head home. Or they may be terrible teachers, with questionable values who don’t seem to even like kids.
My friend knows next to nothing about most of these male teachers — other than the fact that they’re men. And that’s the point: aren’t we setting the bar a little too low for male role models if all they have to do to qualify is to pee standing up?