Carol: Is the “Male Mystique” Really Why Men Don’t Teach Preschool?
Over the weekend, Stephanie Coontz penned another long article in The New York Times, this time to assure us that there was really no “decline of men” worth worrying about — because women haven’t really come all that far. I found the article pretty long and tendentious, with much of the usual women-as-victims schtick that pretty much turns me off.
But there was one point at the end that piqued my interest, when Coontz began to deplore the existence of a “masculine mystique” that ultimately “encourages men to neglect their own self-improvement on the assumption that sooner or later their ‘manliness’ will be rewarded.” Frankly, in a culture dominated by women like Coontz, I don’t ever see manliness particularly rewarded. Rather, it is routinely disparaged. Elite culture celebrates “metro men” like the President, while pretty well overlooking the kind of guys who go off to be soldiers, policemen, firemen. (As Peggy Noonan pointed out, at least the horror of 9/11 elicited some new respect for the traditionally “manly” virtues.)
But back to Coontz. Supposedly, the “masculine mystique”
leads to bullying and ostracism of boys who engage in “girlie” activities like studying hard and behaving well in school. One result is that men account for only 2 percent of kindergarten and preschool teachers, 3 percent of dental assistants and 9 percent of registered nurses.
I’ve heard of studying and behaving at school being denigrated in a racial context, but not in a gender one. And don’t we routinely hear about how low-paying teaching is — and couldn’t that explain some of the male reluctance to do it?
Even after all that, the (inadvertently) funniest part of Coontz’s piece was her implicit assertion that, but for social pressures, more men would teach preschool. Are you kiddddinggg? Has anyone else seen the look of sheer dismay on many (not all, people, but many) men’s faces or witness their helpless recoil when confronted with little children in meltdown or with dirty diapers or mucus-smeared faces? What world is Coontz living in?
Hey, I like children — and I adore my children — but I was just at school reading to their preschool class today. All of them are wonderful, wonderful, bright, dear little people and I like each one of them . . . but when I finished, I told their teachers, “If I were in charge here every day, I’d have a flask of hard liquor hidden in my desk.”
Is there anyone else out there who might suspect that lots of men aren’t teaching kindergarten and preschool because, well, there aren’t an overwhelming number of men just dying to spend every morning with the three-to-six year old set?