Maybe Providence Schools Need to Allow Diversity


This isn’t a way of thinking that I tend to encourage, but we’ve all been trained to it, and in this case, it might apply.  Go back and take a look at the photos from Mark Patinkin’s interview with students from Providence schools who say that teachers have taken no interest in them.  Now, click over to Dan McGowan’s interviews with five Providence teachers of the year, in which they suggest fixes.

What do you notice?  The list is missing the teacher of the year from 2017, but your observation that they are all white women still applies.

Now, I believe that hiring and, especially, professional awards, should be done based on objective criteria; whoever wins, wins.  And of course, the teachers of the year aren’t necessarily representative of the entire faculty, demographically.

That said, when black male students are expressing a sense that teachers in a failing school district don’t take an interest in them, and the stars among those teachers are all white women, we might reasonably ask whether we’re missing some important criteria.  Consider that the student who most directly insisted that not a single teacher has taken an interest in him did concede that the dean of students seemed to care, and his mother told Patinkin that the administrators at the school “were the only ones who tried to get students on track.”  At least as currently reported on Gilbert Stuart Middle School’s Web page, the administration is four-fifths male.

Our current approach to education, as well as political correctness, make it difficult to think of a fair solution that could conceivably make it through the public-policy gauntlet.  Here, again, educational freedom might help.  If a school could try to fill an obvious need by emphasizing male teachers, for example, then families who think that environment might help their children could give it a try, and we could all observe the results.

As it is, we’re locked in to making universal decisions within the confines of discrimination policies that have to apply across the board, and that are founded on narrow ideological views of fairness.


Featured image: The classic “Puddin’ Taine, ask me again and I’ll tell you the same” scene from the Little Rascals episode, “Readin’ and Writin'”

  • Joe Smith

    The last Commissioner would duck when the point of teacher gender proportions was raised in response to his statement that the classroom teachers should reflect the community – clearly his focus was on women of color. Heaven forbid we talk about whether the elementary school 85-15 women to men ratio has an effect on the reading / literacy gap among boys.

    And take out ‘gym’ teachers (and music) – probably goes north of 90%

    But Justin – it’s not just public schools. You write – If a school could try to fill an obvious need by emphasizing male teachers, for example, then families who think that environment might help their children could give it a try, and we could all observe the results.

    Well, Catholic schools are 86% female in elementary – about the same as public schools – and same trend that high school tends to be more closer to 50/50. Arguably decades ago that would be unsurprising given the role of nuns in catholic education; however, laity make up 98% of the catholic teachers so it would seem the same “supply” side of the market issues prevail. Hence, either “the demand” side from parents is weak or regardless of that, there are supply side (ranging from low starting pay across both public and private to the cultural dynamics) issues that simply expanding ‘choice’ isn’t going to fix. Given private schools have more flexibility in hiring, those schools would have an easier time hiring more male teachers if it was simply the need to respond to demand forces.

    Perhaps we need to look at the other end of the supply pipeline. Why not, for example, eliminate the social security penalty on early retirees if the earned income is from an elementary/middle school (public or private)? Relook the AmeriCorps incentives instead of just blanket student loan forgiveness.

  • rlamont

    I am male. I was taught by Nuns. I ended up with a PhD in Physics.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I am male. I was taught by Nuns. I ended up with most of the skin removed from my knuckles.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Male elementary school teacher in SC. Could we use more of this. I noted, perhaps elsewhere, that he teaches them eye contact.

    • Joe Smith

      In our PC world, we’re afraid to talk about it; when possibly it might be not the gender per se, but related to MBTI type characteristics that are related to gender (or biological sex perhaps more accurately).

      The first four personality types by percentage of the population for females are “feelers” while the first three for men are “thinkers”. If you look at math scores, females do better in younger grades. We like to say culturally (or due to bias) females get told later in school that they are not good in math (or science), but it may be simply running into more teachers with different personality types than they are used to in earlier grades.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        It may not be “math”, but I am certain women have far less understanding of “spatial relationships”. Every time I go to the supermarket I am reminded of it. Carts left in the middle of aisles blocking traffic while “shopping”, congregations to chat which block whole aisles. I want a “men’s shopping” night.