Why Aren’t Men Teaching Kids?

British men just aren’t teaching. From the BBC:

One in four primary schools in England still has no male registered teacher, statistics show.

General Teaching Council for England figures show a slight improvement on last year, with 27.2% schools with no male teachers, down from 27.8%.

There are just 48 male teachers in state nurseries.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said more male teachers were needed but they were put off by worries that teacher-pupil contact was a “legal minefield”.

In total, women make up three-quarters of registered teachers—which includes all state school teachers and also teachers in the independent sector who choose to register with the GTCE.

Only 12% of primary school teachers are male, compared with 38% of secondary school teachers—with the proportions virtually unchanged since last year.

However, the proportion of men entering the profession has risen slightly, with men making up 25.6% of newly qualified teachers, up from 24% last year.

Teaching, especially pre-teen children, has always been a predominantly female field, so I’m not sure how surprising this is. The numbers are pretty much the same in the U.S. Whatever the reasons are, that’s just how it’s always been. Processes in England and the U.S. are in place to bring more men into teaching, and if that’s a viable path for an educated man, then why not? As long as you’re a quality teacher, your gender shouldn’t matter

The interesting bit comes from GTCE chief executive Alan Meyrick: “One of the principal concerns that men considering teaching feel is the worry that they will fall foul of rules which make normal contact between adults and children a legal minefield.”

In the Edutopia story (linked above), the lack of male teachers in the U.S. is mostly attributed to the lack of pay at lower levels of education, but the parents-will-think-I’m-a-pedohile problem is also mentioned. Again, we should want the best teachers—male or female—teaching. If some overblown biases and preconceptions are keeping that from happening, that kind of sucks.

What do you think? Should male teachers be worried about the “legal minefield?” How does this change? Let us know in the comments.

—Photo woodleywonderworks/Flickr

About Ryan O'Hanlon

Ryan O'Hanlon is the managing editor of the Good Men Project. He used to play soccer and go to college. He's still trying to get over it. You can follow him on Twitter @rwohan.


  1. Bec if yr pupils are going through puberty, inaddition to what you said I can think of another reason why they mostly go to the female teachers. Especially if you teach at a boarding school (a school where the pupils live during for the week or term).

    • It is true that according to US Dept. of Justice 96% of reported sex offenders are male (Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement, 7/00, NCJ 182990, U.S. Department of Justice). This does not mean, of course, that all males are child sex offenders. However, it does explain that particular stigma attached to the fear some have talked about regarding men being around children. But the idea that “feminists have succeeded wildly in portraying men as a danger to children” is completely unfounded, as the DOJ is not even slightly likely to be run by feminists, lol…

      In California, there has been a strong initiative to recruit teachers in general – male or female notwithstanding – even in the failing economy. Many people, both male and female, have chosen to complete advanced degrees in education rather than pursue Ph.D’s in fields like physics or math, etc. A male roommate of mine from a few years back did just that. His reasons were time and income potential. He told me, several times, that what he could make faster as a teacher in California outweighed the wait for both income and a Ph.D. in physics. The problem is that he had no particular interest in educating kids prior to his assessment of earning potential when he made the decision to change his path from professional physicist to professional educator. Sadly, though he was talented in both physics and math, he was also challenged in English. For example, he was home grading tests one evening, frustrated, and talked to me about something his students were having trouble understanding. I glanced at one of the tests in front of him and saw that he had written the wrong form of “to” in his comment to the student.

      So, while my former roommate was a male teacher of a stereotypically male dominated subject, he was also not really qualified to teach in the senses that he didn’t have a basic grasp of proper grammar, and he never really had a passion for teaching in the first place. I mean, this guy had actually contributed work to some research project going on in one of the polar ice caps – I forget which one – by the time he was 17, so he was actually quite gifted in his original field of choice.

      The argument that men still pressure themselves to be breadwinners is correct according to current studies in sociology and social psychology. The reality of the situation is that most families (at least in the States) require two incomes to function comfortably on a financial scale. But a greater reality is that our teachers are the foundation of all structured learning, and when we sell them short, we sell entire societies short in the long run. Raising the income is only a part of the answer. Raising the standards – and I don’t mean with more difficult testing for the students, I mean with more in depth screening and training for prospective teachers – is also a part of that answer. According to statistics printed in an article in the New York Times business section, it appears that the US is kind of in the middle of the pack as far as the female to male ratio of teachers overall is concerned. And though we’re also in the middle of the pack overall for teaching incomes, we’re also spending more hours teaching each week, making each dollar earned worth much less (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/09/teacher-pay-around-the-world/). Even so, those stats point to the possibly that the answer to the question of why there aren’t more male teachers in the world isn’t tied solely to income.

      In my family, counting only those still living, there are four university professors and three school teachers of various age groups. The rest are either in science or computers. Of the four professors, 2 are male. Of the school teachers, 2 are female. Of the scientists, one is male and one is female; and of the computer folks, one is female and one is male.

      That looks pretty even, and if you were look into what they teach, you’d get a male and a female professor of mathematics, a male and a female professor of opera, a female high school physics & chemistry teacher, a female Greek and Latin teacher, a male computer science and mathematics teacher, a female chemist, a male nuclear oncologist, a male computer programmer specializing in biomedical statistics programming, and a female technical designer specializing in computer generated architectural drawings and design.

      Whew! Still looks pretty even.

      So is it culture? Income? Stigma?

      I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

      • PS – I will say about the above family breakdown of professions and biological sex, that the males far out earn the femalesl.

      • I work at a high school. While I strongly believe that men should be teachers and are certainly as good as women at it, I have heard at least 2 male teachers comment about how hot the female students are and how aroused they are around them. It horrified me. I wouldn’t want me children having either of these men for a teacher.

        • Henry Vandenburgh says:

          Sometimes blowing off steam is a way to deal with the countertransference involved in teaching. I’d be willing to bet that you have female colleagues who have commented on “buffed Jojo” or one of the football team members.

          I teach college, and never seriously considered K-12 because of the lower salaries and the excessive control-oriented programming that occurs at that level.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          A bit creepy, but to be honest I’ve heard female teachers say the same. I’ve also heard of female students sexually harassing male teachers they find attractive.

          There is no such thing as the ideal gender for teaching. Most men you meet today aren’t any more of a risk to children than you are.

  2. I work in a rarified situation, as a teacher: working in an all boys’ catholic school, I am part of a staff body that is comprised of about 75-80% male teachers. It is a great place to work and by and large my colleagues are awesome people who I get along with very well. But when it comes to mentorship – as in, students making conscious choices about teachers they seek advice from, or offer assistance to – the boys are overwhelmingly coming to the female teachers in the school. I suspect it’s because we’re the ones who proportionally put more time into co-curricular activities like athletics or debating. It’s no reflection on the male teacher’s abilities to offer the same guidance and mentorship – these are competent, mature and generous people – but in our particular circumstances, the boys seem to flourish with female teachers, and come their last day of school, we’re the ones to receive letters and cards of thanks.

    I question the idea that boys only thrive with male role models. Seeing other men working in the caring industries is a huge plus for them, and it has a lot to do with why so many of our students go into education or nursing (one of the boys I mentor is planning on midwifery when he leaves school), but intrinsically I think that the gender of the teacher matters less than the fact that a kid actually has an adult – any adult – interested in them succeeding.

  3. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    The threat of being jailed for “counselor induced” reports of molestation is quite real. There was a notorious case in MA and one in CA. These incidents were induced by counselors (when “group abuse” was all the rage) getting kids to say that they were molested. Porsecutors and “advocates” loved this. False memory syndrome. Most of the early childhood workers got out after a time. Few men probably work in early childhood anymore.

  4. Finally, let me clarify. The men who went into teaching in the last 20yrs are not idiots. Only the most uber-committed to their vocation would still want to teach in the current environment. And they are them

  5. To add further context, from memory only between 5 to 10% of people in the uk earn over £40k($64k) a yr

  6. And as i said hugo teachers in the uk which this article is based on, are usually top rate tax payers

  7. Early Childhood Education is a profession that many men associate with women — it’s not a reasonable fear of the law that holds many guys back, it’s a combination of abysmal pay and the fear of being labeled gay or feminine for going into a “woman’s job.”

    • Not in the uk, as you should know hugo.
      Teaching was always a ‘man’s job’ like beimng a medical doctor

      When i was growing up in the 80s, the cultural stereotype of a teacher was still a man in a gown and mortar with a 1940s ‘had a jolly good war manner’ eg the teacher in the bash street kids of the comic ‘the beano’

    • The Bad Man says:

      Why is it that the most sexist views are often expressed by the featured authors of this site?

  8. All I have to say is that my son had male teachers for the last two years he was in elementary school. I am so thankful! Those men were the best teachers he had since starting school.
    I wish there were more male teachers out there.

    • I wish there too. And I think it would really help if people weren’t so quick to dismiss any reason that can’t be blamed on men themselves.

  9. And now for the facts…
    Teachers do not live in poverty. It isn’t stupendous pay (as I look at my paycheck), but it is adequate. One thing to look at is how many men involved in teaching end up moving into administration – where the paychecks ARE stupendous.

    Median annual wages of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $47,100 to $51,180 in May 2008; the lowest 10 percent earned $30,970 to $34,280; the top 10 percent earned $75,190 to $80,970.

    According to the American Federation of Teachers, beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $33,227 in the 2005-2006 school year.

  10. Being poor sucks, and very few people would choose it voluntarily. Maybe women are more willing to pursue a low paying career for the love of it because they assume a husband will support them. In fact, I recall a survey a few years ago that found most teachers in the county where I live (in the SF bay area) had household incomes well above the mean — because they were almost all married to men who made decent incomes. Of course that’s not true in every case, but that’s what the stats showed, at least here locally.

    Even though society is becoming more accepting of different male-female roles, most men do not aspire to a future of economic struggle and dependence on a spouse. Most women do not look forward to supporting a husband who isn’t earning much. Everyone wants an easier life and that takes money. I think that’s the bottom line. Also, child care is simply very low status and many people perceive teachers as being one step above babysitters. So I think the negative attitudes towards teachers as well as poor pay are way keep men out. If teachers started earning $100k+ a year, men would trample the women in a rush to sign up.

    • In Canada, teacher are paid well. And some make up to $ 90,000, depending on their education and experience. Yet, the problem of women dominating teaching still exists.

      • Maybe, then, there just aren’t a lot of men who want to spend all their time dealing with kids. I’m a woman, and it doesn’t appeal to me at all.

    • So I think the negative attitudes towards teachers as well as poor pay are way keep men out. If teachers started earning $100k+ a year, men would trample the women in a rush to sign up.
      Meaning that another way for men to continue fulfilling their socialized role of the external provider? Yeah it probably would happen. But most people somehow spin such a shift as a positive for men and negative for women.

      • It’s not just a socialized role to be a provider. How many men want to be economically dependent on a woman? Not many, I suspect, given the loss of freedom and status.

        • Yet there are a lot of men that do just that, become dependent on women. And those men seem to have no problem with it. Society on the other hand writes these men off as degenerates and and other “what kind of man are you?” insults despite women doing the same thing.

          A lot of it really does tie back to the socialization of men as the external provider.

  11. Is this a rhetorical article? The reason is because of feminism. Feminists have succeeded wildly in portraying men as a danger to children. Most men know this and realize it is far too risky, as a man, to be a teacher of young children. You’re only one false accusation away from a ruined life. Why take the risk?

    Did you ever wonder why there is no affirmative action program to attract men to the teaching profession? Surely, with men making up on only 25 % of newly qualified teachers, in England, and with similar numbers in the US, this is a clear case of systemic discrimination against men due to their sex. These new processes, if they even exist, are a PR move. Nothing significant will change.

    • “Feminists have succeeded wildly in portraying men as a danger to children.”

      Teflon, are you kidding me? Something like 96% of child molesters really truly are heterosexual males – and most of them are also Caucasian.

      Yes, as Danny has pointed out, there is definitely an earning problem as well, and I also agree that males are still expected to be the breadwinners on a socio-cultural level. Though that idea is changing on a social level, it has not changed (for the most part) on a psychological level for most men.

      The hugging thing mentioned above – hugging as punishment – I’m equally appalled by that. It does teach to associate affection with doing things you’re not supposed to do. That’s a bad message.

      On Affirmative Action for teachers for the purpose of promoting male enrollment in it as a career…really…? (This would be another response to Teflon.) Because, if you’re equating affirmative action solely with the recruitment of females into the profession, then I suppose it’s not doing any good in education anyway, now, is it? I have the feeling you’ve lost the plot on the intent of affirmative action in general.

      On the International Year for Men idea….well, sounds good and looks good on paper – but then, so does Communism. In practice, we have “Man of the Year;” we have the Nobel Peace Prize – not exclusive, but may as well be; we have history in general, which has usually left out women with some very few and very extraordinary exceptions. But hey – bet you didn’t know the Pythagorean Theorem was actuallly discovered by Mrs. Pythagoras…I know that because of my female trigonometry teacher from my senior year in high school. Thank God.


      Come on…..


      • Peter Houlihan says:

        *Reported* child molesters, theres a difference.

        I agree, also female psychology: if women expect to be (externally) provided for, someone has to step up to the plate.

        That hugging thing is just bizarre, and rather wrong on all kinds of levels. No disagreement here.

        I’m not convinced affirmative action is ever the answer when differences in the workplace are mostly attributable to societal values (or lack thereof) rather than workplace discrimination. This is the case with both male and female dominance of different sectors of the labour market. It would be much more effective to attack the discriminatory laws and bylaws preventing men from working in education.

        You’re comparing an effort to highlight human rights issues to communism? Really? I’m pretty sure this is covered by some branch of Godwin’s law. As for the assertion that men’s issues are somehow covered by the nobel prize ceremony or some other academic achievement award, thats patently obsurd. While the achievements of individual men are often recognised by such ceremonies (as are those of women) men in general are frequently villified as the root of all evil as compared to loving compassionate women who can do no wrong. An international year of men would do much to correct this.

    • Indeed Teflon

      Teachers are paid ok, quite reasonable over here, although the starting pay for a police officer is slightly higher.

      average the experienced English and Welsh teacher earns £30kto40k(approx $45k to 64k a yr). higher rate tax starts at £30k a yr. department heads earn around £40to50k a yr(app 64to75k a yr)

      Why would men go into a profession, where because of the feminist frenzy whipped up in the late 80s over paedophilia – which incidentally is why in increasing places parents cant even photo/cinegraph their own damn children in the bath or at school plays or at parks. Any old halfbaked accusation by a child, lingers like the smell of an unwashed tramp to the male teacher. Never fully expunged, always in the ether – lingering

      Feminists have demonised men as amongst other things a danger to children.
      So it is amazing to watch feminists scratch their arses trying to work out why so few men enter the teaching profession in its current state.

      They must think men are idiots.

      The reason is no surprise to me.

      • i forgot to add the average salary is about £25k here. so the average teacher is an above average to well above average earner

  12. Phill Mason says:

    For a couple of decades I have been saying that we need an International Year for Men. Since the first IY of Women, in 1975, there have been Years for Disabled, Migrants, Elderly, etc, etc, the list goes on; but not for Men. Not officially under the auspices, etc.
    There shall probably not be one in my Lifetime; but for Goodness Sake, let us at least have the positive power of an International Year for Boys, then…

  13. And if it is really the case that men are fearful of legal action, why aren’t medicine, dentistry, the police or any number of other professions that put themselves in constant risk of litigation dominated by women.
    Because unlike teachers those jobs you just named off come with money, status, and/or power. Which can be used to defend oneself against such charges more effectively (and can even be used to defend oneself even when they are guilty).

    I had a great math teacher in high school, the best: he left for a well paid job in computing like so many others.
    Do you think that teacher may have left because he was under the expectation to bring home the proverbvial bacon? Or have decided that you know that the only reason men don’t get into teaching is because they think its beneath them?

    Women stay put because their expections for themselves and from others are lower anyway, and they’re brought up in a system where they’re encouraged to view themselves as martyrs, so they largely put up with the bullshit. Guys don’t.
    You think we don’t? Please don’t waste our time trying to covince us that women are the only people that make big sacrifices in order to provide for the family.

    And why the harsh name calling?

  14. As you say there is nothing new about this. And if it is really the case that men are fearful of legal action, why aren’t medicine, dentistry, the police or any number of other professions that put themselves in constant risk of litigation dominated by women. No, stop beating about the bush, it’s the money stupid. Teachers are underpaid in a thankless profession. And society views them just as much as custodians as educators and that’s the sad truth: it’s just an extension of childcare – and what guy wants to do childcare, what a wussy job, boy you may as well be a nurse eh?

    I had a great math teacher in high school, the best: he left for a well paid job in computing like so many others. Women stay put because their expections for themselves and from others are lower anyway, and they’re brought up in a system where they’re encouraged to view themselves as martyrs, so they largely put up with the bullshit. Guys don’t.

    Cameron is a disingenuous twat. He’s using this as an excuse to bring back corporal punishment blaming the riots which resulted from his lack of leadership on bad schooling techniques of wussy women. There was an article in the British press today about “troublesome” students being sent to military schools, something unheard of in Britain. This is obviously a backdoor way of reintroducing the heinously infamous Borstal system (see the movie “Scum” for details.) It’s also about letting US companies (who are apparently behind the military school idea, big surprise) to make further inroads into the increasingly privatized UK school system. No doubt Cameron also has plans to reintroduce Conscription for the plebs at a later date, the crooked reactionary dirtbag.

  15. Black Iris says:

    I wonder if the way education has become more top-down is part of the problem. Teachers are allowed less creativity in developing their own curricula and running their classroom.

  16. I am currently avoiding one possible minefield at my school. I am the only male teacher and when I ask the other teachers how we can discipline the students, since we are very restricted in all the traditional ways, they recommend making them hug you as the punishment. It is seen as cute and adorable when the female teachers do it. I can just imagine the uproar if I did that. I still think it crosses a number of lines when the female teachers do it, but I think I will save that argument till I am more established.

    • Black Iris says:

      Making kids hug the teacher when they are bad is horrible!!! It teaches so many of the wrong things. The kid are going to learn that hugging is unpleasant. They are also learning to give a hug when they don’t feel like it and to do it to avoid punishment/make someone like you. The kids are being set up for sex abuse in the future. It doesn’t make a difference that the teachers are female, this is wrong!

      • Henry Vandenburgh says:

        They shouldn’t be hugged after bad behavior, but hugs are basically good things. It’s actually the no-hug culture that partly creates the abuse, if we only knew it.

    • This is totally backward. The teacher should be giving children hugs as a reward for good behavior, not as a punishment for bad.
      In Canada we have strict hands-off rules, which I think are bullshit. We’re teaching human beings, not robots.

      • The teachers in my kids’ elementary school hug all the kids all the time. I find it remarkable because my teachers never hugged anybody. Of course, they have all been female, although there is one male first grade teacher. I’m not sure if he hugs or not but from what I have heard he’s a blast and the kids love him, hugs or not.

  17. I understand you want to get some conversation going but this is about as obvious as asking why there aren’t more women CEOs.

    In the Edutopia story (linked above), the lack of male teachers in the U.S. is mostly attributed to the lack of pay at lower levels of education,…
    Because in The States the effect of “men are supposed to be the external providers” is still very much in effect. If a man is expected to bring home the proverbial bacon then of course he is going to be left with the choice of doing what he wants for little pay or doing something he is skilled in but doesn’t necessarily want to make a career out of it because it pays the bills more securely. (Not too different from the effect of “women are supposed to be the internal providers” that leaves women having to choose between going out and building a career or staying home and being the internal provider, a task that is just as important as the external provider.)

    …a but the parents-will-think-I’m-a-pedohile problem is also mentioned.
    Of course it is. Its a bit hard to be a teacher when you have stories of men being chased away from parks and/or almost arrested for being at the park with their own children. Yes there are men who do abuse children but that doesn’t justify presuming that male = child molester any more than any other broad generalization.

  18. The Wet One says:

    And that’s on an airplane filled with people in public view with no privacy. Any wonder people don’t want men teaching children and any wonder that men don’t know this? Seriously?

  19. The Wet One says:

    It’s called paranoia about pedophiles (not to say that some degree of concern isn’t proper).

    See here: http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/2006/11/28/children
    and here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1243625/Businessman-Mirko-Fischer-sues-British-Airwars-treating-men-like-perverts.html (note this is UK specific)
    and there’s a story about a dad being asked to move to a different seat from his own children.

    Any wonder that men aren’t teachers to pre pubescent children? Nope? Didn’t think so either…

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