As we approach the start of a new academic year there are many issues which the society and indeed schools must come to terms with in order to improve students outcome, as well as to inspire confidence in the leadership of our schools. The rarely discussed issue of male teacher marginalization is very much problematic and is intricately linked to the marginalization of the black male. In fact noted Professor of Teacher Education Errol Miller in his classical work “Marginalization of the Black Male” describes Caribbean societies as having men in marginal positions in the family. Miller’s research highlights the decreasing participation and performance of males in the education system. In defining marginal, Miller states “marginal is meant not being holders of the reins of power in society, possessing little of the wealth of the society; a sense of being inferior in social status, having a belief system which justifies domination by others”. Miller’s Theory of Place underpins his theory of Male Marginalization. Miller asserts that society is organized on the basis of the place. For Miller, “place” is the position that one gender holds in the society in relation to the other. Therefore, as men move to the periphery of the society, women move to the center or to central positions in the society. According to Miller there are five factors or dimensions responsible for this entity of the place. These are power, resources, status, beliefs and culture. Miller stated an equalitarian society can never be achieved in reality and thus relative inequality is society’s reality. Miller asserts that at any particular moment in time individuals and groups in society will be more central and others more marginal. The tendency in education circle is one of forgetfulness surrounding the fact that a significant sub-group of the workforce in our schools continues to be marginalized. A growing number of male educators are of the view that female leadership in many of our educational institutions continue to ignore, sideline and show contempt for the concerns of male members of the academic staff. In fact some male educators are of the opinion that many male teachers are emasculated by an education system and profession which have become feminized. It can be argued that this weakening of the male teacher is being done in a deliberate and systematic manner to wrestle power and prestige from males who historically were the power brokers in most Western societies. This male hegemony in the teaching profession can clearly trace its roots to the emancipation of slavery in 1838 when a number of teacher training colleges were established. However, by 1850 all these teacher training institutions became all male institutions. On the other hand, it can be argued that some male teachers are willing participants regarding the emasculation of their kind. Recently, a colleague referred to the issue of male teacher marginalization as “baggy power”. In defining the term “baggy power” my colleague who works at the primary level of the education system opined that there are too many females as principals and this he adds invariably will lead to conflict with male teachers. While there are some who will raise objection to the term “baggy power” the terminology “baggy power” should not be viewed as sexist or misogynistic. My colleague lamented the need for us not to be so politically correct at times, this he adds result in the message being conveyed becoming diluted. Men and women tend to excel at different aspects of leadership. Female leaders tend to hold onto and carry grudges and are often emotionally, while male leadership on the other tends to be strategic. The issue in my view is not about the number of female versus male principals; it is much deeper than numbers and is rooted in a social psychology of respect. There are basically two types of respect, respect that comes to you based on your position, fame or wealth. This type of respect is impermanent and can be lost once you lose your wealth or status. The other type of respect is derived because of one’s virtues, such as honesty, kindness, patience and commitment. Clearly, the society needs to embrace and engender a culture of gender equality in all spheres of the public and private sector; however, we cannot and should cuddle a culture of crudeness and disrespect at the same time. I am fully aware that there are some female principals who overstep their reach and authority in an attempt to control male teachers; however, this is usually to the detriment of their institution and of their stewardship. Unfortunately, we live in a society where gender relations are not taken seriously. Sadly, this area of cultural studies is often relegated to the domain of the academic halls of universities where less than twenty percent of the Jamaican population are privileged to pass through. However, the stark reality is that in the workplace both sexes are required to work in unison to achieve the organizational goals and targets of the institution. As a result, more emphasis and training should be given to leaders at both the private and public sectors in the dynamics of gender relations and how this impacts the wider society. Disturbingly, in many instances there are female principals who speak down to male teachers as if they are addressing their children or reprimanding a student. This “boyification” attitude by some female principals is quite out of order and sends the wrong message not only to the males on staff but also to the students at the school. Students are rather perceptive and lead can lead to some form of disrespect towards male teachers based on the principal’s behaviour. Our boys too also require positive male role models and in many instances male teachers are denied promotion for no particular reason. Too often we have heard of instances whereby male teachers are reprimanded in the public domain, ignoring protocol with the main aim clearly to embarrass the teacher. It is a weak and insecure principal who takes this approach and the time has come for this to stop. This dichotomy of power and power relations is not exclusive to the education system; however, this should be of little comfort to those male teachers who are voiceless due to fear of malice by those in leadership. The adage respect begets respect is most appropriate and should be woven in the culture of every school. Additionally, there is a deficit of trust in many schools and inevitably the school culture becomes toxic and as a result students pay a high price for the weak and vindictive leadership in so many of our schools. The issue of marginality is not a new phenomenon.
Origin of Marginality
The concept of marginality first appeared in the field of sociology in the early 20th century and has acquired a multiplicity of meanings. According to sociologist, Janet Billson, there are various types of marginality. She identifies three types; cultural marginality, structural marginality and social marginality. Billson posit the view that cultural marginality is determined by race, ethnicity and religion as well as other cultural indicators. On the other hand, social marginality occurs when an individual is not considered part of a positive reference group owing to factors such as age, situational constraints or occupational role. Billson adds that structural marginality results from the political, social and economic powerlessness of specific disadvantaged groups in societies.
Male Identity Crisis
The Jamaican male for the most part sees his identity in his sexual prowess and his ability to father children. This skewed version of manhood and masculinity anchored in a state of phallocentrism and patriarchy is reinforced almost daily in the pop culture, especially dancehall music.
“I born as a bedroom bully
Bedroom bully fi di gyal pickiny
I born as a bedroom bully
Bedroom bully gal a wine up fi mi
Real top gyallis man a bedroom bully”
The above lyrics from dancehall artiste Busy Signal, clearly captures the sentiments of the construction of masculinity in the Jamaican context. It is quite evident that the construction of Jamaican masculinity for the most part rests on the sexual objectification of women. Ironically, women are the main supporters of dancehall artistees whose music is steeped into this form of male identity and manhood. Interestingly, there are other forms of masculinities which have separated from this hegemonic form. However, males who subscribe to these marginal masculinities often run into problems and must endure the harassment in having their sexual orientation questioned. See below the lyrics of a popular dancehall song
Nuh boring gyal
No man nuh want no boring gyal
Cyah fu@k boring gal
You see my gyal?
She can skin out!
Gyal you ah buddy brucka.
As the debate rages regarding boys’ underachievement there are a number of schools of thought. Firstly, there are those who claim that boy’s underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls and women. These shifts of resources both material and human have contributed to a significant number of males falling through the cracks of an elist education system. The development of human resources requires a more gender-sensitive approach in order to maximize the best outcomes for both sexes. Secondly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent makes with regards to their view of masculinity and schooling. There needs to be a more concerted effort in making education more appealing to boys. Research has shown that boys learn differently from girls and are more interested in hands-on and interactive methods of instruction. Undoubtedly, male under-participation in the education system is linked to the gender socialization. Gender socialization traditionally affords more privilege to males and thus promotes male hegemony. This gendered approach to socialization gives boys less exposure to those skills set which instill self-discipline, time management and promote an interest in academic attainment.
Towards A Gender Transformative Approach
Schools are the primary agents of socialization in many if not all societies.
It is debatable that the overreach of feminism in the education system is already having a negative impact on male students. It is not wise nor is it healthy to hide under the cloak of feminism to subdue the natural competitive tendencies of boys and turn them into “half men”. It is therefore critical to remind ourselves that outside of the need to empower our students in literacy and numeracy skills, our schools are responsible to reproduce the status quo of the society. The state of the construction of masculinity is at a crossroads, what is required is a healthy state of masculinity. It is imperative that our boys see positive role models in our male teachers in which to emulate. Regrettably, the view regarding the construction of Jamaican and Caribbean masculinity is a negative one and by extension the society cannot afford to accommodate any further instances to add to the marginalization of male teachers within the education system. The issue of male underachievement in our educational institutions is cause for concern and must be deconstructed. There is much division among male educators and this invariably plays into the hands of female principalship aimed at the marginalization of the male educator. Additionally, our culture of homophobia and transphobia also contribute to the situation of division of male educators to work together to address concerns relating to them. As a male once you lose respect for and confidence in the leadership of your school it is clearly a sign, not necessarily from above to part ways. The way forward to create better working conditions in our schools for both sexes will require all stakeholders to voice their honest opinions at arriving at more gender neutral policies. The time has also come for male teachers to have their own association to advocate on issues which are of concern to them. The days of “holding down” the male teacher has passed. We need to re-socialize the society, especially since the workplace is a shared space requiring of us to get along with each other, regardless of religion, sexual orientation, sex, political persuasion or social class. We must put aside our personality differences in order to adequately address the needs of our students.
In the powerful words of Hillary Clinton, let’s continue stand up for those who are vulnerable to being left out or marginalized.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
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