Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Teaching's 2%: part 1

Think back through all of the teachers that you’ve had in your life.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that you had one main teacher for every year of schooling from kindergarten to 12th grade; that’s 13 different people.  How many of them were women? How many were white? If you are like most American school children, those numbers would be 10 and 11 respectively. 

In undergrad, I was friends with a handful of future teachers, and one night one of them invited me to a movie screening that the Black Students Association was hosting about systemic racism in public education.  I had a casual understanding of most of the information that the movie presented, but one statistic jumped out at me, and I haven’t been able to shake it in the years since.  Only 2% of America’s teachers are black men. 

Seventy-five percent of America’s teachers are women, and 83% are white.  Along with nursing, teaching is one of the only professions to be dominated by women.  When women first broke into the work force, these fields were basically their only options for work.  As such, it came to be seen as women’s work.  This seems like a victory for feminism, but is it?

In the last few weeks of class, we’ve been focusing on some of the outlier effects of a patriarchal society.  The Mask You Live In documentary reminded me of that other documentary I saw back in undergrad.  Specifically the teacher, Ashanti Branch, talking about being there for his students and helping them learn a different type of masculinity than the one presented in popular culture. 

Black boys are in the center of a tension between that view of masculinity that the film explained to us and the way that students are expected to act by their white educators.  Black students are 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterpartsBoys are more likely than girls to be suspended in low performing schools.  Putting black men in teaching roles would likely help to close these gaps.  These men offer understanding and grace to students who remind them of what their own schooling was like.  There is evidence that children do better academically when they have ateacher who is their same race.  

While I still believe all children should be taught how to learn from people who are not like them, I don’t think that value should disproportionately affect minority students.  And if there’s a chance to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, shouldn’t we give it all we’ve got? (


Flamingo said...
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Flamingo said...

What an interesting topic!
I just realized recently that all of the classes I am taking in KH are taught by female professors. This is a rather big difference with my classes in Switzerland, that are mostly taught by male professors. I would say that most of my teachers were female until the end of primary school. But since high school, the tendency is reversed and I have had more male professors than female, especially in law school. There seems to be a pattern everywhere in the world of women being less represented in Academia ( ; and
As per race, a vast majority of my teachers were white. But the black population is really low in Switzerland (less than 1% of the total population in 2009, according to the Federal Statistics Office). However, in my state, nearly one-third of the population is foreign. I think that this diversity is definitely not reflected in the education system. It is a frustrating fact when we consider the impact of a professor's ethnicity on the students, as you explained in your post. Finding ways to prevent undue preferences for white male job applicants would probably be key to solving the issue.

Furthermore, female professors systematically get lower student ratings. This NPR article on the topic is fascinating : A study quoted in the article found that in the US "The same instructor, with all the same comments, all the same interactions with the class, received higher ratings if he was called Paul than if she was called Paula".

Louise Trainor said...

I love your choice of topic here Josie, its one which has not yet been addressed but nonetheless deserves our attention. As there is little-to no diversity in my home country, Ireland, I recall only ever having one classmate of a different ethnicity during my years in school.
I attended a strict, Catholic, all-girls school from the ages of 3-18. All teachers in the school, at least during my fifteen years, were Caucasian. I encountered my first male teacher at the age of thirteen and he was only a substitute for my female teacher who was on maternity leave.
During my time at school, there were a total of three male teachers in the faculty. What's most shocking is that one of these male teachers demanded that the wooden door in his classroom be fitted with a glass pane so that on-lookers could have a clear view of the inside! This was presumably to eliminate any allegations from surfacing at the students' end.
I am unsure whether or not my school was unique in this regard. My older brother attended a Catholic, all-boys school and I remember him having multiple female teachers.
This post brought to my attention that King Hall is actually my first experience at receiving an education lead equally by men and women. This semester I have two male and two female professors. The Dean of the law school is a man and the Dean of international legal studies (whom I confer with) is a woman. It may be a menial observation here in diverse California but it is a strong progression for a student from little old Ireland!

Julie Maguire said...


What a unique and very informative post. It is fascinating to me to learn of these statistics. I often view the United States as a place of diversity and, having watched many movies (Sister Act comes to mind) with teachers of racial diversity, i was of the impression that such an issue would not exist here.

I, like Louise, attended a Catholic Girl's school and at no point during my 14 years in attendance there was I taught by a male. However, given that the faculty at my friends' Catholic Boy's school was heavily male populated, I assumed that the lack of diversity was unique to my school.

I am intrigued as to why men are not as inclined to choose teaching as a career, however, a small part of me wants to congratulate women for advancing to such a degree in this field. There are very few times that, career-wise, we come out on top so I am somewhat inclined to congratulate those that have conquered this area of the professional world and claimed it as a space where women are celebrated.

The New York Times explains some of the reasons men may not wish to teach - < >