The German government is making a big push to hire more male teachers, particularly for pre-school children. Is that a good thing, or a mixture of good and not-so-good? Read about it here (Der Spiegel, 9/7/12).
Male child care workers are probably the most highly sought-after professional group in Germany. Local authorities and private kindergarten operators are scrambling to attract the exotic teachers, staging special events at colleges, setting up information stands at job fairs and inventing all manner of grandiloquent catchphrases. A campaign in Stuttgart is called “Strong guys for strong kids,” while day care operators in Hamburg are recruiting male staff under the slogan “Variety, man!”…This being Germany, the move toward greater male involvement in early childhood education comes against a larger backdrop of affirmative action for women in many areas of employment. Whether or not there has ever been any history of discrimination in a particular field, women are often preferred over men due solely to their sex.
The long-term aim [for male day-care employment] is 20 percent, though that is still far from being achieved. Recent statistics suggest men make up just 3.5 percent of the staff at day care centers. Without volunteers and temporary assistants, the figure is even lower, at 2.9 percent. Although the proportion of men is around 10 percent in Flensburg, Kiel, Hamburg and Frankfurt, in some rural areas the only male employee in the building might be the custodian (see graphic).
…The German government has committed to increasing the proportion of male educators, with the Ministry of Family Affairs and the European Social Fund spending a combined €13 million on the “More Men in Early Childhood Education and Care” program. The funding will go toward conferences, information tours and mentoring.
While other men are worried that positive discrimination for women is squeezing male job-seekers out, having a Y chromosome almost guarantees a career in child care.So the government’s promotion of males in childcare is all of a piece with its promotion of women in other fields. Still, if the move is successful, it’ll mean that children are exposed to a male care-giving presence early in their lives. At a time of destructively high levels of single-mother childbearing, high divorce rates and family courts’ general unwillingness to enforce fathers’ visitation rights thereafter, one of the greatest social problems western societies face is fatherless children. In the industrialized western countries, it’s entirely possible for a child to go from birth to age 18 or so with no adult male to look to as a father figure, role model, mentor, etc. The results have been devastating as The U.S.’s enormous population of incarcerated men and last year’s London riots (among many other phenomena) show.
Whereas many industries are struggling to ensure that women fill at least 30 or 40 percent of jobs, the child care sector would be happy with far fewer men than this.
And having men care for children in day-care will tend to get German society used to the concept that men aren’t per se dangerous to children, contrary to the admonitions of anti-father forces everywhere. It’s essentially an invariable rule that the prospect of any improvement in fathers’ rights, regardless of how slight, is met with cries of “child abuse” by fathers’ rights opponents. They prefer to ignore the fact that, year after year, mothers do twice the child abuse and neglect that fathers do, according to the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services. So, the more men Germany has doing daycare, the more those men will prove themselves to be no more dangerous to children than their female counterparts, and the more likely it’ll be that men with small children won’t be viewed with alarm. In Canada, for example, some 13% of male primary school teachers report having been the subject of a false allegation of improper touching of a student. Obviously, that sort of thing needs to change.
The downside of Germany’s push for more male daycare workers is that it looks suspiciously like the government-funded channeling of men into low-wage jobs. Daycare work in Germany pays better than it does in the U.S., but it’s still close to bottom-of-the-heap work. That’s the main reason why males are so hard to recruit.
…Male educators may be as highly sought-after as top-level managers, but they are often paid far less than their drivers. Staff at the employment campaign headquarters say that many men lose interest the moment they hear what their salary would be. Full-time child care workers initially earn less than some corporate consultants charge by the day. Public-sector child care workers start off at about €2,200 gross per month, while private day care centers often pay even less.It’s one of the consequences of buying into the rhetoric that the gap in earnings between men and women in some way represents discrimination against women instead of women’s choices about how much to work and in what fields. The simple fact is that daycare and teaching, particularly at the primary school level, is dominated by women because women tend to choose those jobs more than do men. They also tend to choose jobs involving children more than do men. All that means child care work and teaching jobs are overwhelmingly held by women. Throwing taxpayers’ money at programs to change the freely-made choices of men and women seems likely to fail. If all those female teachers had wanted to be lawyers or doctors, they would have chosen those career paths. And if earning more money weren’t as important to men as it is, the ranks of teachers, daycare workers, nurses, etc. would contain more men than they do.
I’m all for men being respected as nurturing, caring and the good influence on children they generally are. But that should happen because it’s true and because children need fathers in their lives, not because some jerry-rigged expenditure of public funds tries to force them into jobs few of them want.
Thanks to Doug for the heads-up.