While I don’t much care for idyllic dreaming, I will entertain the notion of a hypothetical situation in which I could actually conduct research upon the proposition that: Men as teachers and caregivers in early care and education (0-8 years) programs influence the immediate and long-term outcomes for children.
The positive outcomes of such research I have considered often. But first the disclaimer – I understand and acknowledge that men represent a diverse demographic and that stereotypes exist about their values, culture, and teaching strategies and competencies, and that I am making certain assumptions and generalizations about the benefit of men in early education. Having said that:
- More men in the ECE profession will provide a culturally responsible representation of the larger society.
- More men in the ECE profession will provide a responsible sample of positive male role models for all children.
- More men in the ECE profession will promote a wider vision and definition of developmentally appropriate practice to include greater elements of appropriate risk, physical activity, nature and science exploration.
- More men in the ECE profession will encourage greater father participation.
- More men in the ECE profession will expand the range of current teaching, team, leadership and communication styles currently prevalent in the highly gendered field.
- More men in the ECE profession will impact the larger societal view of men as caregivers and support and encourage men who may not elect to enter the ECE field to nevertheless be more positively and actively involved and engaged in the lives of children.
- More men in the ECE profession will alter the perception held by society of men who enter the field. No longer viewed as “outliers” these men in ECE will find greater acceptance socially, culturally, educationally and politically.
- More men in the ECE profession will alter accepted expectations for behavior by men and alter the status relationship between traditional “alpha males” and nurturing, caregiving males much as technology has altered the power and status relationship between traditional alpha males and “computer geeks”.
More importantly, children will grow up:
- Feeling cared for by men.
- Feeling more supported by men.
Boys will feel:
- That they not only must go to school, but that they belong in school and are represented by teachers that reflect their gender and interests, culture and values.
- That should they elect to become caring and nurturing men that they have acquired the mentorship and skills necessary to do so successfully.
Girls will feel:
- That their academic success and intelligence is valued by men.
- That caring and nurturing men possess social capital.
- That taking appropriate physical, emotional, social, and intellectual risk is healthy.
In my vision, there are more stay-at-home moms and more stay-at-home dads because devoting your time to your children is a career of the highest importance and significance. There is less domestic violence and less child abuse and neglect. There is less value placed upon material wealth and more upon whole-person well being. There will be fewer teen pregnancies because boys will have a greater awareness of how demanding the nurturing role is and make a greater investment in responsible sexual activity.
In my world, research isn’t about proving the worth of committing resources to quality ECE programs. It is about committing ourselves to social justice and to our humanity. And research that can legitimately demonstrate that the contributions of men in ECE lead to positive child outcomes will be huge step in that direction.