Monday, November 19, 2012

There's Only One Reason That Matters

There have been many reasons touted as to why we need more males in the early childhood education profession. Now while most of them have some validity, there is still a part of me that reasons that women can fulfill those roles too. Let's look at some of the more common ones, shall we?
"Men are needed to be role models for boys."
While it is true that many men would be positive role models, they would be so for all children, regardless of their gender. Likewise, there's absolutely no reason why women cannot also be positive role models for boys. No they can't be a masculine presence, but a positive role is beneficial end of story. Are boys in single mother or lesbian parent families disadvantaged in this area? I don't believe so. Unless their family is painting a landscape of men as evil or to be avoided then I'm sure the loving relationships would provide all that is needed.
"Boys and men are more likely to engage in rough and tumble play."
Yes, rough and tumble play provides wonderful opportunities for children of both genders to develop skills related to interpersonal and intrapersonal boundaries and understanding limits, gross motor development, and exploring real role play in a safe environment. Yet I would argue that women are just as able to participate in this as men. I have often seen females lift children upside down and wrestle with them on the ground. Granted it's not for all women, but not all men would be willing to engage in such play either. Some men, rightly or wrongly, fear that putting themselves in such positions might open themselves up for suspicion.
"Men are better disciplinarians."

This one really gets me. I think people who use this think of discipline only in the form of punishment. That is clearly not the case and even if it were I have no understanding why women are not as capable to enforce said punishment. back to discipline though. I believe people are under the assumption that children listen to men more readily because of their louder and lower toned voices. There may be some truth in that, but I don't have access to relevant research to categorically one way or the other. For me personally, it's more about the way you talk with children. Maintaining their dignity and respecting them throughout any interaction. Children are smart and can read us better than we give them credit for. If we are not respecting them why should they listen?
"More men will raise the profile/status of early childhood education."
Whether or not that is the case, is that really a good reason to employ anyone unless you're in advertising? This in itself is fuelled by another misconception in my opinion. That one reason men don't consider childcare as a career option is because of the low status/pay. Raising the pay for early childhood professionals is an important issue, but should not be linked to attracting more men into the field. They are separate issues and I doubt too many men would be 'lured' by better wages. Few men who would consider early years education as a career option are only holding out for a little more money. I also believe that encouraging more males into ECE won't necessarily raise its status in society.

In my humble opinion, the only reason why more men should be encouraged to enter this profession that matters is that children deserve it. All children. Gender should never be a factor when employing anyone in any position in any industry. However, when children are part of a society that consists roughly of the same number of men and women, yet their prior-to-school learning environments only have a 2-3% male representation then there is some serious imbalance happening in their lives. How can children develop a respect for men and women being able to do anything; building a house, cooking a meal, driving a truck, changing a nappy/diaper if they have limited or no opportunities to see these in action?

By all means get more guys working with young children, but do it for the right reasons and not just to prop up the numbers.
 
 
 

8 comments:

  1. Hear, hear. My husband is a director and my son is studying his cert 3, I have also had one other man on staff and a male junior. My belief is that staff not only need to reflect the cultural environment of the community, but the gender balance also.

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    1. Thank you and that's a good point you raise. people would never argue (at least successfully) that we need to employ more Aboriginals, Arabs, Chinese or any other ethnicity just to boost their numbers, so why have so many people for so long been doing exactly that with the male debate?

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  2. Oh, hear hear, Greg. Well said. The whole EC gender debate is bodgy. Equality is not about jumping up and down on soapboxes saying 'I can do this better than you'! Equality is about treating people as individuals regardless of their gender.

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    1. I must say Candy, that when I first began studying I got dragged into the call for more men no matter what. But I've come to realise that while more males would be wonderful, the more important issue is ensuring those educators we do have are of the highest quality. Too often I've seen individuals, both male and female, who would serve the children much better if they found a different career path.

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  3. I was fortunate to attend the launch of London Network of Men in Childcare, yesterday.

    Please read the blog and link to the research by the London Early Years Foundation.

    http://juneosullivan.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/could-more-men-in-childcare-have-a-real-and-lasting-effect-on-the-inherent-prejudices-of-society-or-only-as-long-as-the-media-take-an-interest/

    Twitter: LauraChildcare

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    1. Thanks for the link Laura. What an interesting read. If only I had known about this before I wrote my post I could have referenced it. Never mind, you have shared it now and I will be sure to give it a special mention in a future post and on our facebook page.

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  4. You beat me to it Greg ...and so eloquently too! I am in the process of writing a similar blog and so agree with you that having males in EC adds another positive dimension for ALL children. The important fact is that we need GOOD Educators, both male and female, who understand and can respond to children's needs, both boys and girls. In an ideal world society should be reflected in our Educators but until that happens the good Educators we do have should understand that children have different learning styles, motivational buttons as well as different cultural and possibly gender needs. Educators who constantly research, attend PD, reflect etc will be able to repond to all children's needs. Thanks for another great post.

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