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A. From Northeastern University the National Information Network presents issue and inquiry. For the women teachers tends to think in general about the little boy being noisy and disruptive and writing more sloppy and being slower at learning how to read and performing the task and being obedient and having short attention span he can't sit still I can't do this you can't do that it's mainly because the woman can only think the way a woman thing. This week on issue an inquiry Dr. Melvin Howards of Northeastern University chairman of the rating Department director of the Center for reading improvement director Center for Educational Development discussing the elementary years female domination in the classroom. Here is your host Joseph R. Bader.
The nation's schools particularly at the elementary level have been described as a feminine institution populated predominantly by women teachers who reward feminine behavior conformity politeness good study habits and punish masculine behavior aggressiveness raucous play creative thinking mellow hours is this true. Is this an adequate description. Yeah of course it's an oversimplification but the fact of the matter is as you look at the evidence that has been accumulated over the last 40 to 50 years there have been something like nine hundred fifty different studies which have concern themselves with the similarities and differences between boys and girls you see our schools are very very backward and it is just slowly becoming conscious to them that boys and girls are really different. How would you define those differences male. Well the very significant differences in terms of what a boy is like how he thinks how he feels how he behaves. The fact that we do have somewhere in the vicinity of six to eight boys for every girl in this country who suffers from reading problems irrespective of intelligence or social and economic
background is something that's worth looking at. It is also significant to notice in our society that the juvenile delinquency rate is roughly six or eight boys for every girl. And you start looking over those figures and you look at the studies to find out what kind of things little boys do how they grow physically socially verbal intellectually and you begin to realize that we have been aware for almost 50 years that boys and girls do indeed grow differently for example physical growth. Generally speaking the little girl grows faster matures earlier than the boy. And this of course has nothing to do with the boy. He doesn't particularly want to mature slower. He has no control over it. The average girl will reach puberty or adolescence at about 11 and a half and the boy doesn't reach it on the average and tell about 13 control over small and large muscles. It's different for boys and girls it's not better or worse it's just different little boys. By the time they've entered school at five or six have virtually little control over their small muscles which
control focusing of the eyes for very specific purposes like reading or writing or using crayons. Let's get the boys and girls and to school how do they show their differences once they're in the classroom. Oh well lots of ways to physical development which has been different for boys and girls with the girls having a little bit of an edge that is to say they develop control over their small muscles earlier so their writing is going to be neater because there is social differences and you know that this relates to what the culture expects of boys and girls in our culture is rather peculiar. The little girls are expected to be neat and orderly and take on the motherly role although this seems to be changing a little bit. And the boy is you know people say things like well boys will be boys but they don't really like that. They don't really want the boys to be boys which is to say a dirty sloppy raucous active he can sit for five minutes and he wants a wander about his desk is an absolute sty. His writing is sloppy he smears things he's late. They don't really want that. Well you mentioned that the girl matures more quickly than the boy you know is the problem
that we've sent the boys to school too early or that their teachers are females once they get into school or is there another factor. Probably all of those things are true the fact of the matter is that 85 percent of the teachers in our schools are female at the elementary level it sometimes goes as high as 95 percent. Now I've got nothing against women but the fact of the matter seems to be that the little boy is judged as if he were a girl. It would almost appear in some situations that the female teacher wants the boy to do the girl things and he can't he's not interested in the same kind of materials he liked adventure mystery excitement the girl was much happier with social type things related to family. And you know you can't force those things and so they tend to judge the boy exactly the way they charge the girl. And it just isn't fair. But why is this belief held that teachers should be women particularly in the early years. Why is this belief held in the United States. Because we're a very backward country. Seriously the reason is that they figure that mama has much more to do with the child than the preschool years. And no matter what we
say this is still basically a matriarchy where mom pretty much controls the roost and so they figure that the child in order to make a comfortable transition from home life in the preschool years to a school situation which is much more formal might be more comfortable as a motherly type person. Which is you know we have no evidence that it's true. You say we're a backward country is it done any differently in other countries or in the European countries for example. Well it's pretty similar pretty similar I think perhaps in places like Germany there may have been more males earlier in the game but I don't have enough specific data to be sure that you know the balance is as awkward as it is here. We should know better. The fact the matter the boys get punished for being boys they get judged by the same standards as girls do even though physically socially intellectually they don't develop in the same way. That's just plain absurd. How are men going to change the whole approach if they teach young boys are they going to demand from the girls the same thing that women were demanding from the boys that the girls act more masculine like could have been there only been a few experiments there's
one experiment for example that was running up in Arlington Massachusetts where they attempted to bring in young males on a kind of. Part time basis in the first second and third grade to see whether their appearance and an activity in the classroom might help the boys and although they have no data published they have this vague feeling that it's made a little bit of difference to the boys in terms of their behavior. There's an experiment like that going on in Greeley Colorado where they have actually hired full time males for elementary teachers. And yet in that case they had to segregate they had to put all the boys in a separate room for the first two or three hours of the school day with a male teacher. Now Aren't we back where we started. This country is moving away from this specialized school for all men or all women and coed is the thing. Now where do we go from here I don't think either one of those is the right solution I think maybe having certain kinds of males in the lower levels could be useful just having any all male figure is not the answer. I think what has to be done probably is to loosen up the way we organize in group and track kids even at that early stage to permit some of the more opportunity over a longer period of time to develop their
skills. We have to be aware that the boys do develop differently most of them. But if you would agree that the student whether male or female does need contact with a variety both sexes male and yes absolutely can be no permanent segregation even at a lower yours is the question. If boys don't see a man in the classroom they're going to grow up to be a group of female dominated pantywaist or is the question better stated if boys don't see men in the classrooms they'll see education and learning as women's work. As a woman's kind of role and that's not be a successful one. I have little respect for learning. It's possible that a lot of things could happen because as they go through schools you notice that the males begin to dominate more and more in junior high. There are more male teachers and they were in elementary and high school it's predominantly male and universities it's predominantly male. So the fact is they'll get their chance. It's not just you know that there are a lot of females there the thing is that the women look at the boys in a different way. That's not to say that male teachers would look at them any more intelligent I think we all want to become more sensitive little boys are extremely sensitive little creatures.
And the school curriculum and its demands and its scheduling do not contradict the fact that these are very very fragile reads. And whether a man is teaching them or a woman teaching him is not the most critical thing. As long as somebody is aware that they're very very sensitive much more sensitive than females at that stage which is why the girls are constantly crying. They're really touchy. And the boys are sensitive and they keep it to themselves which affect their their academic performance all through school. Let me play devil's advocate with you for a moment Mel. I'm not entirely sure that you have demonstrated to our audience why it is such a critical problem to have. Too many females in the early years Uma gave out a statistic of 85 percent of the teachers in the first three or four years the elementary years are female Now why does this have such a critical effect a negative effect on the male student. Well let's first say that it doesn't have to have but it generally has had if you look at what happens to little boys. Here's a little boy and he spent his preschool years mainly in the company of men
under the direction and control of a woman. Now he needs a woman if he needs her mothering at that stage. He gets to be five or six depending on what state people live in and the child goes off to school and another woman comes on the scene. The kid probably has not seen much of his father and it's good to have both influences on a child. So the woman tends to think in general about the little boy being noisy and disruptive and writing more sloppy and being slower at learning how to read and performing the task and being obedient and having short attention span he can't sit still I can't do this you can't do that and it's mainly because the woman can only think the way a woman thinks. She knows what it was like to be a little girl and to go to school and to do the assignments when they were given in the manner prescribed. And it's a little hard for many many women to really see the little boy as a different kind of a person. They just don't see him with different kinds of qualities with different kinds of needs really. Well I wonder if it's any more natural for the female students in a class taught by
a female teacher to be polite be well-behaved be mannerly not be sloppy be very clean and orderly is that any more natural Do women have a gene for cleanliness for neatness or politeness smelly have a cultural gene for it like boys have a cultural gene for not being that way. I mean it's a cultural thing the society expects certain things of people. But part of that society expectation is implemented by the teacher. Absolutely. The teacher is being much more successful with young girls in the classroom than with the young boys. Yes. And you don't want to get your question is very good. Maybe they're not doing the right thing for girls. Maybe that's why we're having so much. Discussion now especially at the college level girls don't want to be kept off in dorms and treated like they have chastity belts on. You know they want to be treated like human beings who are able to make free decisions which were supposed to be the purpose of our educational system and I certainly would not support the idea that what we're doing in education for anybody is particularly good. But I think the little boy suffers extremely in these early years of school precisely because he's being
judged by a set of female values which are not terribly appropriate to his own development at that time. First second third grade. He needs some special kind of attention. He needs activities which is somewhat different his interests in terms of what he likes to read about or hear about are quite different from the girls in the common denominator creativity learning how to think learning how to absorb knowledge and learning how to occasionally be disruptive be disorderly in order to be creative and yet still not have that chaos. Aren't you in a sense saddling the females relegating them off to oblivion with this neat little tidy orderly way of behaving. No I'm not supporting them going that way I'm for creating what I word you would like to see the boys be understood in their sloppiness there is a certain chaotic ways of behavior but also the girls. Oh yeah the reason that about her voice now is because nobody's paid very much attention to them. And the fact of the matter is that the record shows over the last four or five decades that boys systematically suffer. In these early years they are the bulk of those people who have reading problems. They are the ones who drop out much more readily than the girls.
The boys just can adapt to the female version in the schools of what the society wants. All right let's demonstrate that there is a suffering and what the mechanisms are that female teachers may consciously or unconsciously use to get different forms of behavior between the girls and the boys. What about the approval disapproval the discipline approach to girls as opposed to boys when the disciplinary man is a female teacher. Well I think we all know that the girls are much more receptive to it. They have developed for some reason and it's cultural I think more than anything else which is really what you're getting at. Girls know earlier what is expected of them and they tend to respond to the requests that are made of them. They're more likely to be orderly because the way they've been raised and partly because there is that difference between them they have developed verbal skills earlier they are more aware of what's required the boy just tends to kind of flower rather roughly. And he gets pushed around and demands are made on him which he doesn't fully understand yet. Do teachers make demands. Boy students more harshly on a
harsher tone of voice than well your own generally. How do you prove a thing like that but generally it's true they expect the boys to be disorderly and they treat them as if they are disorderly and so they are. Well Howard we should pause at this point in the program to let those who may have just tuned in to our discussion let them know who we're talking to and what we're talking about we're talking with Dr. Melgen Howard's from the reading center here at Northeastern University. We're talking about the effect of female teachers on the intellectual and social development of the young male students particularly in the elementary school years and well in the second half of the program I like to get at the answer to the question of what changes you would make in the public school or the private school in those elementary school years. That's a massive. First of all I would do away with the kind of scheduling which has been so universal for 30 minutes of history the 30 minutes of JAG a few 30 minutes of reading the 30 minutes of this most of the grouping that's done in terms of a child being in the fast reading group or the fast math science group. Most of that
is done on a very very poor basis. In any event so I would change the kind of grouping that would be done so that we would have a different kind of scheduling. Our curriculum would be a more integrated core concept type instead of a curriculum made up of pieces fragments which have no connection one with another and I think we have to do something about teacher training first and foremost because that is where one of the greatest lacs exists. We simply are not doing a very good job of teacher training in most cases we are doing a miserable job and as long as the teachers are not skilled and qualified and sensitive to the things they ought to be sensitive to like boy girl differences I don't care what kind of curriculum you have I don't care what kind of building you put up and I don't care what kind of books and materials you buy it's all for naught. The teacher becomes the major filter for the world and that teacher better be very well-rounded and very well grounded. Let's narrow that focus to what we were talking about earlier Mel do we need male teachers or simply a new breed of teachers whether men or women just the new kind of teacher who would be able to handle the energies of the young child and channel those energies not stifle them channel
them into intellectually creative development. I think a new breed of teachers is long long overdue and we would not be the first ones to say it. In fact I think one of things we ought to be doing that we don't do typically in elementary school particularly is using community resources to a greater extent than almost every community. There are persons with skills and backgrounds and talents who could be very very helpful. Many of them are males but not all of them and that wouldn't be the key factor the fact that if they could bring to the classroom life the classroom as it normally exists now in the schools in which almost all of us went are really museums places for the storing of dead information. There are ways of making the classroom especially for the young child who has just spent five years at home getting in touch with this universe in the most amazing manner he's developed language. One of the most complicated things he can do he's developed concepts and understandings out of his own experience and he has already developed the key tools for learning. Then he gets to school and we try to box him or her into a certain way of learning
to answering certain kinds of questions with certain kinds of answers. And we close off the avenues. We actually reduce his ability to learn systematically. You mentioned in the beginning of the program something which you just began to touch upon again that is that the kind of effect that female teachers have on the young male child in the first few years of school need not be detrimental it just happens to work out that way. Now you would agree that a new breed of teachers could still be 85 percent female as it is today if they had some sensitivity in dealing with the male student. Probably the best time for the female to be a teacher try to list all my students you know I wish on all of them. All these nice young ladies who are going to teach for a year or two and are not obsessed by teaching which I think they should be that they ought to have a pair of very sensitive bright twin boys and when their children start going to school after they've spent the preschool years with their own kids and watch that kid learn the language and become aware of the world of size of shape of texture of color of form
and just constantly learning and exploring and discovering. So I def very proud of the child they sent him to school and now that a kid starts disliking school he's not interested in reading anymore he's not interested in discovering things because somebody has told him there's only one way to discover. While he was at home he had all kinds of ways of discovering and learning and feeling and becoming aware. And so the schools quite systematically retard most kids and these young ladies who were going to help that retardation really should not be allowed to teach probably until they've had a pair of twin boys go to school for a year or so and they would become aware of what happens to the child. Maybe they wouldn't do it to other people's children. Well how can we convince children that learning and intellectual achievement are not just sissy stuff. Or in the case of the girls in some respects in the later years that learning and achievement is for men only only men go out into the world and play the big roles the decisive mover and shaker roles in history and in day to day society. Yeah but the women know that you know all those guys were reared by mothers taught by female women
so that basically they've been controlled from the outset. Is that knowledge sufficient though that there's power behind the throne approaches. I don't think that some fishing for the American woman. No one has to be one of the movers and shakers and get the credit. But I think she ought to be able to do it but she wouldn't do it through you know her children. You shouldn't take it out on them. Better go find her own way in our schools do not meet their needs either. I mean the girls don't get a particularly good shake. They get better grades because they meter and more orderly and they're more regular in turning things in. But I'm not sure they're being stimulated to the depth of their own intelligence either. What kind of people are we going to get to compete with the glamorous TV world that the child sees so much I spend so many hours watching especially in the younger years so many more hours watching TV than he does even in the classroom. So the great educational institution and the last third of the 20th century is not the American school but the American TV too. Well it's never been the school we just thought it might be. How do you compete with this educational institution the TV show was the people you
get some glamorous people in this class from some live to people who know what's going on who care about what's happening who are well educated in a variety of fields. You stop making stupid demands for example elementary teachers to be able to teach an entire curriculum of six or seven different subjects when they've been trained scarce to handle one. We would never expect a Ph.D. with all of his years of training to teach more than one specific subject yet elementary teachers who deal with our kids at the most critical time. You've got to go out and teach arithmetic and geography and music and art and reading and writing and literature. It's absurd. Now the teacher education business has to be completely redone and I don't think it's about to be it's a very conservative kind of organization. Well if you're going to have glamorous teachers in the classroom aren't you going to run the risk that they will be dispensing little more than glamour that it won't be a realistic situation. Can you have a model for the male and female student to identify with that is not drab that has a touch of glamour to it but I don't know what you mean by Glamour I don't care about fancy clothing a well-structured
female glamour. If you want to use the word all I think it's irrelevant in schools I think what we need there is stimulation I think we need creativity I think we need people who are highly sensitive and tuned in who are obsessed by what they're doing. That is my definition of glamour. Oh alright fine then I'll buy that. We have been too long talking about people having commitment and dedication. These are things for dead purposes I want people to be obsessed I want teaching to be their whole lives so that when they deal with kids it's a constantly dynamic kind of relationship. I mean they really care about those kids in a society where women spend less time in the home and more time in the career competing with men for jobs don't we need to teach that female student masculine behavior roles so she can adequately compete with men in the great world outside the classroom. I think it's happening now anyway. I think the female in the last generation or so has really taken hold and decided that she did not want to be some kind of a faded Victorian image of womanhood and that she really wants to develop herself her own
personality her own intelligence that she wants to have some control over the world in which she lives she does not just want to be a passive receiver I think that's already happening. I would like to encourage it. I think we can. I don't think much of it's being encouraged in the elementary grades except the girls get lots of rewards that you made it obvious with your statistic at the very beginning of the program that 85 percent of our teachers in the first three to six years elementary years and early junior high school 85 percent are female you made it obvious that the teaching role is not very attractive to the male. And you've further made it obvious with your criticism of the way that the female teachers handle the child that perhaps they're not up to snuff perhaps we don't have our best talent in the classroom you know and this is something which has been brought out over and over again here top people from the top universities across the country the five basic cap of whether male or female they rarely end up teaching. What is the most important not to resource in this country our children. Now we always want to believe it in the society we live in and I think you believe it. And so how are we going to attract that caliber
teacher that caliber of students in the graduate schools and the seniors are graduating from the undergraduate schools into the classroom. Well you've got to make teacher education considerably more stimulating than it has been. It has very often been and still is in most places pretty Mickey Mouse kind of operation with a lot of trivial stuff being done. It could be me the art and science that it is. And there are those people in the field already who have some feel for this and they could stimulate those students. But the fact of the matter is that the lower the level we talk about you talk about first grade second grade teachers the lower the level in the American Schools The lower the status in our society. A third grade teacher has more status than a first grade teacher a junior high teacher more than sixth grade and so on. And of course none of that makes any sense and it's hard to break down that kind of an emotional range meant that we've had. Well of course it doesn't make sense. The mind of the child coming in the first grade is a much more receptive to molding by the teacher as he matures and grows through the grades or becomes more set in his ways less amenable to influence by the teachers as well that's kind of an old
fashion image and I don't like the idea of molding but people do. By the time they vented a lightning educating informing. Well you know by the time the child enters school we know now and begin to know more all the time that the child has really developed a lot of very basic personality traits and patterns and that. Some of these are not very susceptible to change but there is still room for change and I think if we could get the caliber of person we're talking about and just having a five digit cap is no indication that person would make a good teacher. Teaching is a very strange kind of thing. All right how are we going to determine here at the very end of the program with the last question what the index of potentially good teacher traits can we use we can use the 5 beta kappa. That's one way we got hung up on in the society IQ test that's another poor way perhaps of finding out what potentially qualified people to teach grades that may not be the best way well what ways what ways. Well you have to observe persons actually working with kids and you can observe then the kind of relationship they can establish how comfortable they are with the kids how much they're able to stimulate those
kids to produce what kind of creative activity comes out and not just pleasant interrelationship it takes more than that I want that person to be able to get along with those kids and to stimulate encourage and inspire them but also to be able to present them with basic language skills for example basic mathematical concepts. I want that person to be flexible enough to be able to see how to incorporate most of the life and language experience of the person and their teaching into their curriculum so that it's a living breathing curriculum instead of a stodgy fragmented bit of nonsense. Sometimes when you get people who are very well-educated have lots of information in a given field they tend to make that teaching a straight transfer of information. I got to have more than that. People feel about what they learned I want the person who does the teaching not only to have the information but to know how to get the other person the learner so turned on that he will come grabbing for more information as well as for attitudes and feelings about what is being learned. I think in the past 30 minutes the audience that has been listening with me to Dr. Mel and Howard would
agree that here's an educator with a frank no punches pulled approach to talking about the problems of what is fast becoming one of the most significant institutions in our society. The American School. Dr. Howard thank you very much. Thank you. Northeastern University has brought you Dr. Melvin Howard's chairman of the rating Department director of the Center for reading improvement director for Educational Development discussing the elementary years female domination in the classroom. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program were not necessarily those of Northeastern University or this nation. Questions I asked were the moderators method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Your program host has been Joseph R. major director department of radio production. This week's program was produced by Carolyn garde Crowe. Directed by Robin began
Issue and inquiry
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The Elementary Years: Female Domination of the Classroom
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Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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Issue and Inquiry is an analysis of public affairs issues such as environmentalism, public health, education, and politics. Produced for the Division of Instructional Communications at the nation's largest private university, Northeastern University.
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Producing Organization: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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Chicago: “Issue and inquiry; 8; The Elementary Years: Female Domination of the Classroom,” 1970-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 16, 2021,
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