There have been numerous studies that have identified a fear of being seen as a sexual predator as being one of the main reason why men have steered clear of a career of working with young children. See the list of articles listed under our 'Research' section for examples. As Teacher Tom pointed out in a recent blog we all have our own prejudices. It's how we deal with them when we realise they have surfaced that determine who we really are.
Unfortunately, some of these can impact greatly on the lives of others. In the case of men working with young children there are people who have preconceived ideas of how people of certain genders should behave or what they should do. I recently discovered a discussion forum in which the author questioned the appropriateness of a particular male teaching her preschool-aged daughter. Take a look and see what you make of it. Be sure to read the comments too as there are some real eye openers there.
The author stipulates that she has a problem with this particular male and not all, but also goes on to say that she would be less concerned if it regarded her sons. While I can understand her concerns and those in some of the comments, I find it disheartening at the least to discover a mother can have greater protective feelings in regard to certain children because of their gender. If your fear is that a guy might molest your child, shouldn't you take into consideration the fact that sex offenders target boys as much as girls?
What is even more alarming to me is the common thread of those who seemingly espouse that they support having male preschool teachers, but would insist on them having a female assistant - for toileting purposes and, I assume, supervise his interactions to ensure they are appropriate. Maybe I'm reading more into it than there is. Does anyone demand a male to be present when a female assists a boy with toileting, getting dressed, etc? And what if a service was lucky enough to have 2 or more men in their employment and both staff in a room just happened to be male? Would there be a mass exodus as parents withdrew their children? I surely hope not.
In my brief time as an early childhood educator I have been witness and on the receiving end of both positive and negative attitudes. The positives have always outnumbered the negatives by an enormous margin, yet the negative attitudes remain. They remain in broader society, local communities, within cultural groups, and most stunning of all, within the profession itself. A comprehensive move needs to take place to shift the way some of these people look upon males in early childhood education. We are never going to change the minds of everyone, nor should we as they have a right to their opinion. However, if we can enlighten those within the profession and families to the benefits of having males work with young children then we are off to a good start.
As an individual I can do my bit by providing the best example I can that men can be wonderful teachers, nurturers and companions to children as they grow, learn and develop. I would also like to see a greater collaboration between fellow male early educators. The ideal behind this group is magnanimous, but at the moment it is merely a one man show. I believe we need to collaborate with governments as well as secondary and tertiary institutions to encourage more males to consider teaching as a career, especially early childhood and to support those already enrolled to see it through to graduation. There also needs to be an incentive to attract more men. As one of the few industries where men a greatly outnumbered it would not be impertinent to suggest some scholarships.
I'm sorry, I have begun on one subject and begun to rant on another. Perhaps this is a discussion for another time, but have a read of the forum post and tell me what you think. Am I over analysing or is there a systemic prejudice towards men when it come to young children's care?