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February 26, 2020 7:00pm
While the NSW Department of Education’s aim to promote more women may seem noble, it presents a clear problem for the many children needing positive male role models, writes Louise Roberts.
The problem with gender quotas for leadership positions is that while they sound good in theory, in practice they tend to reward in-group members who share inflated egos and sense of “purpose”.
Take our schools: One of the biggest issues undermining our system is a dearth of male teachers, not a lack of women in high paid, high powered roles.
But that matters not to a NSW Department of Education strategy, the goal of which is to increase within five years the number of women in leadership roles, such as principals.
Already 53 per cent of these jobs are done by women – so says the department themselves – so why focus resources on gaining an extra seven per cent?
And where’s the proof it will lift our dismal and frankly embarrassing NAPLAN and PISA results?
The effects of this sort of gender crusading seep into our secondary schools, evident by our report today that one in three Year 10 students are ignorant of why we have day and night. I kid you not. It is of course due to the earth rotating on its axis but there were a lot of blank faces when the question was asked.
Meanwhile, the number of men entering the teaching profession is on the decline. A national study made the sobering prediction that schools are set to run out of male principals in the next 20 years and the male teacher as a species will be extinct in the next 40 years.
Again, it is a case of ideology trumping the basics of education. We don’t send our kids to school to be indoctrinated.
The education department strategy is ignoring the real gender diversity crisis here: the lack of a beneficial male influence and role models in classrooms.
And so the eternal contradiction of modern feminism and their beloved gender quotas is this. It’s not really about equality at all – it’s about putting the patriarchy back in their place. It’s a move by educated upper-middle class women for educated upper-middle class women. And correcting so-called toxic masculinity is at the heart of this issue.
Vaughan Cruickshank, from the School of Education at the University of Tasmania, has researched the challenges faced by male teachers. Looking at primary school teachers as a whole, he found that 18 per cent of them were men but that included sports masters and principals.
“So the actual percentage in the classroom would probably be about 15 per cent”, Cruickshank says.
So what is worse for our young people and their understanding of gender equality? Is it that the senior executive hierarchy of the NSW Department of Education is out of balance, gender wise, or is it pupils completing their primary education without a Sir at the front of the class teaching them the basics of reading, writing, mathematics, geography, history, science, sport and so on.
Meanwhile our pals at the NSW Teachers Federation vehemently oppose any plan to tackle the urgent shortage of male teachers. It argues that recognising men as a minority in the profession would be offensive to gay, disabled and Aboriginal people.
Added to this the dangerous agenda that there must be something wrong with men who want to work with kids.
Kevin McGrath is the researcher who identified two years ago the 20 year deadline in male principals as part of the country’s first longitudinal study of teacher numbers. But in December he said: “It’s frustrating and disappointing and people who hold decision-making power don’t seem to care.”
What we as parents care about is a curriculum clogged with social justice awareness at the expense of rote learning and useful skills.
What we as parents care about it that in a global economy, the one in which our kids will compete, our education system is not giving our kids the skills they need.
Most recent international scores showed NSW student performance dropping by the equivalent of a whole school year when compared to overseas students. The Australian Association for Research in Education blog in November last year said that “there are compelling arguments for increasing the representation of male teachers in our schools.
“And we believe it is becoming increasingly important to understand the ‘need’ for men in the education of children.”
“Male teachers are needed in schools for psychological, social, organisational, and societal reasons.
“First, male and female teachers contribute to children’s gender knowledge.
“The presence of male teachers may be particularly important for some children – allowing them to observe men who are nonviolent and whose interactions with women are positive.”
I have a friend whose son has long wanted to do a Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) because he wants to make a difference with students. He went to an all-boys school and had a range of male teachers, very fortunate he knows. But even he is questioning his career choice. Will he be viewed with suspicion? Will he get tangled up in the ropes of political correctness strangling our classrooms?
And isn’t that the greatest gender crime of all? Capable young men not chasing the corporate dollar, but wanting to make a difference in educating our children.