To the Editor:
In reading your article “Despite a Downturn, Few Men Attracted to Teaching Field” (May 9, 2012), I was left with the impression that the gender imbalance in teaching was a function of choice, that teachers’ low salaries and status anxiety turned men away. While the historic imbalance of men, particularly men of color, in the teaching profession is an ongoing challenge, the article’s conclusions do an injustice to the myriad social factors influencing career decisions among young men.
If we want to address this imbalance, we need to accept that the problem is one of structural inequity rather than individual behavior. For instance, we know that in summer and after-school programs, there are thousands of black and Hispanic men who are hired as counselors, instructors, and tutors every year. Low salaries and long days define these positions, and yet they are filled annually. But as the data show, few of these men become teachers.
At Breakthrough Collaborative, we recruit and train hundreds of college and high school students as summer teachers in more than 25 cities across the country. Though the application process is rigorous and highly selective, thousands of exceedingly motivated budding educators apply each year. Over the past four years, 35 percent of our teacher population has been composed of men, and 56 percent of those were men of color.
What does this mean? It means that these young men are out there, and that they are choosing to teach their younger peers. We should be celebrating them—not bemoaning their decisions. We need to create more opportunities to help them translate these formative experiences into teaching as a profession. They need more support, greater resources, and better training.
The challenge is in creating programs to reach out to talented men who are interested in, or already are, teaching. The problem is not with scarcity.
National Executive Director
San Francisco, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2012 edition of Education Week as Gender Imbalance in Teaching Can Be Fixed