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Men in the classroom



Published: Fri, September 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Dallas Morning News: Life's delicate balance of baritone and soprano -- yang and yin, masculine and feminine -- gets out of whack in places. Take public schools, the realm of the adult female.

It's an environment in which the adult male has become "a dwindling breed," according to the National Education Association. Fewer than a quarter of the nation's teachers are men-- a four-decade low -- the NEA says. And in many elementary schools, all the male teachers on staff could car pool in a Corvette (not that they could afford to).

Fact is, students now settling into their classes will be hearing another year of voices that sound mostly like a mom's, as opposed to a dad's.

That's no slam on moms. But they can't replicate the lessons and blessings and energy of the male presence.

Study results

Now into this picture comes a provocative study that tries to throw new light on how we teach and how we learn. Economist Thomas Dee of Swarthmore College concludes from his research that boys often learn better from men and girls from women. His findings, published in Education Next, have been greeted with skepticism and a shrug in education circles. Critics have faulted the work for a simplistic bottom line on a hellishly complex subject.

For anyone looking for new arguments to get more men into the classroom, it's tempting to hold up the new study as a manifesto. Could more men teachers help stem the hemorrhaging dropout numbers for boys? Or reverse the dwindling percentage of boys headed to college? Are more single-sex schools the answer?

The author hopes the study could be a jumping-off point for fine-tuning how schools entice youngsters into absorbing information. We hope so.

We also hope the study could be an enticement for the next young man to hear that calling to the classroom. And the next. And the next ...




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