Recruiting men to teach: Pennsylvania needs a plan

May 04, 2004

At a time when many schoolchildren are coming from single-parent homes headed by women, it's more important than ever that students have some teachers who are men.

Research shows that male teachers can function as role models for students who otherwise might not interact with adult men in their everyday family lives.

Despite that, the number of men in the classroom is dropping, according to a study done by the National Education Association.

As reported by the Scranton, Pa. Tribune, of 3 million teachers working in the U.S., only 21 percent are men. Pennyslvania fares a little bit better, with 32 percent of the state's teacher force being male during the 2003-03 school year.


The Tribune reported that in the last four years, the percentage of male teachers in the state has dropped by 1 percent. And more than two-thirds of those enrolled in college-level education programs are female.

One explanation is that because enrollment was down in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there weren't many openings and so men opted for other careers.

The other problem is that the profession is that, like nursing, teaching is still thought of by many as a women's profession. That hasn't always been true. Last year the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Allan F. Cook, a University of Illinois education professor, who said that men dominated teaching until the 19th century.

When wars took men out of the classroom, women filled in, Cook said. And when the men returned from battle, they didn't go back to teaching.

There are a number of programs designed to recruit men into the teaching profession, including one run by the NEA and others by education colleges around the nation.

A spokesperson for Pennsylvania's Education Department told the Scranton paper that there was no plan to recruit men in the state, because teaching is an "equal opportunity profession."

On first hearing, that sounds good, but imagine if the same spokesperson were talking about a shortage of minority teachers. To maintain diversity, sometimes it's necessary to encourage people who wouldn't do so otherwise to enter a profession. Just as children are helped by having teachers of other races, they also benefit from having some teachers who are men.

Shrugging off this issue won't do. It's time for state education officials to get to work on getting more men to teach.

On hospital, time for action

As this is being written, Hagerstown city officials had not decided whether Monday night's meeting with Washington County Hospital officials would be open or closed.

But whether or not the session is open - and last week city officials said they'd leave it to the hospital to decide - there are issues that still need to be addressed.

That's true even though The Herald-Mail supports the hospital's proposed move, because we feel that having such a facility close to the Robinwood Medical Center makes good sense.

But back in 1991, Robinwood area residents were promised that there would be no ambulances sounding sirens on the way to Robinwood and no helicopters flying overhead.

City utility officials have also said that there will have to be extensive amounts of new pipe laid for water and sewer and a water tower built to maintain proper pressure.

And then there are the intersections of Robinwood Drive and Edgewood Drive with U.S. 40, both inadequate for the amount of traffic they carry now. Before hospital visitors, patients and emergency vehicles begin to pass through those access points, some upgrades will be needed.

These are issues that would require some tough negotiation and collaboration even if the city were not contesting the hospital's application. And as hospital officials have said repeatedly, they will be more difficult to resolve if the city delays the process until interest rates go up.

If that happens, the lenders will get more cash, making less funding available for the project. We urge city leaders to focus on the most important concerns and negotiate the "small potatoes" later. Once interest rates begin to increase, everyone's options will be limited, including patients and insurers who will ultimately pay the bills.

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