District drops preference for “non-Christian” teachers

When hiring teachers, “special consideration shall be given to women and/or minority defined as: Native American, Asian American, Latino, African American and those of the non-Christian faith,” reads the teachers’ union contract in Ferndale, Michigan. Earlier in the contract, however, a clause bans discrimination based on religion, notes Michigan Capitol Confidential.
The “non-Christian” language is “antiquated” and will be deleted, said a spokeswoman for Ferndale Public Schools. “The district does not discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion or other related issues,” she said.

Apparently, the language was added in the late ’70s. My guess is that someone noticed an increase in Muslim students and thought it would be nice to hire some Muslim teachers. But are Asian-American teachers underrepresented relative to the number of Asian-American students? I doubt it. And I’m sure there are plenty of female teachers in Ferndale. Why not “special consideration” for men?

It’s not clear that students learn more from a teacher of the same race, ethnicity or religion. But I’d have no problem with a school district that gave special consideration to applicants from the students’ neighborhoods and cultures. Should that kind of discrimination be OK?

Title IX for boys

Stereotyped as troublemakers, boys do worse in school than girls and are less likely to go on to college, writes Glenn Harland Reynolds in Title IX for our boys in USA Today.

Girls are quieter, more orderly, and have better handwriting. The boys get disciplined more, suspended more and are turned off of education earlier.

Female teachers also give boys lower grades, according to research in Britain. . . . More and more, it’s looking like schools are a hostile environment for boys.

Hiring more male elementary teachers would help, writes William Gormley, a professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. “Boys perform better when they have a male teacher, and girls perform better when they have a female teacher,” according to Stanford Professor Thomas Dee.

Yet our K-12 teachers are overwhelmingly female — only 2% of pre-K and kindergarten teachers are male and only 18% of elementary and middle-school teachers are.

. . . If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male and girls were suffering as a result, there would be a national outcry and Title IX-style gender equity legislation would be touted. Why should we do less when boys are the ones suffering?

Many boys — and girls — are growing up without a father in the home.


‘Hands up and step away from the child’

As a second-grade teacher in New York City, Eli Kaplan was told never to hug a child, he writes for the Good Men Project. If a child hugs a male teacher, he’s supposed to put his hands up in the air to avoid touching the student. “Essentially, if a student gave me a hug, I was supposed to act like I was getting arrested.”

Female teachers can hug without fear, but males are presumed guilty of pedophilia till proven innocent, Kaplan writes.

To avoid all complications, I was taught to show no affection at all (other than words of encouragement, and the occasional smile or high-five).

Kaplan ignored the advice and “freely gave out and accepted hugs.”

. . . our society perpetuates the idea that an appropriate male should be cold and stiff (not that kind of stiff) around young, impressionable, and fragile children. To be a man who is too warm, affectionate, or loving, is un-male, strange, and suspicious.

The Jerry Sandusky scandal is going to make it even harder for male teachers to express affection for students without fear they’ll be accused of misconduct.


Boys can learn without male teachers

To help boys succeed, elementary schools are trying to hire more male teachers, writes Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.

That’s not the strategy used by schools that do a good job of educating boys, writes Richard Whitmire, now blogging on Why Boys Fail in Education Week.  In his new book, also Why Boys Fail, he profiles a Delaware elementary school and a KIPP charter school in Washington DC that educate low-income minority boys.

Neither school paid much attention to the gender of the teachers. Rather, they had teaching staffs infused with a sports fanatic-like devotion to ensuring no child was just passed along without learning what needed to be learned.

Reading is being taught at earlier ages. Whitmire thinks teachers are passing boys along with poor reading skills, telling parents the boys will catch up. But some never do.

My travels suggest that rethinking how to teach boys literacy skills in the very early grades would be a far more effective remedy than vacuuming up more male teachers.

Male teachers “can make a character-building difference” in urban schools, he adds.

Whitmire’s book is out next week. While you’re ordering a copy, stock up on my book. (If you want an autographed copy of the hardcover, e-mail me at joanne at joannejacobs dot com.)