This letter was mailed to Marianne Mazzorato, Chief Assessment Officer at the Education Quality and Accountability Office by one of our advisors, Dr. James Brown.
Dr. James Brown is a Canadian parent, grandparent, teacher and scholar who is retired after a 40-year career in education. Dr. Brown graduated from Teacher’s College as an elementary school teacher in 1965. Following that, he went on to earn six university degrees, including a doctorate in education, and post doctoral diplomas in Educational Administration and in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership.
Dr. Brown has been an elementary school teacher, a secondary school teacher, a department head, a principal and an Ontario Supervisory Officer. He has taught all grades from junior kindergarten to grade 13, including special education, in Canada and the United Kingdom, and has lectured at the graduate school level for several universities. He has five children, (three sons and two daughters), and nine grandchildren, (three grandsons and six granddaughters).
Dear Marianne Mazzorato,
I read Moira MacDonald’s article in the National Post of February 11, 2013 and I sincerely hope you were misquoted. The article implies that those who feel that the relative lack of male teachers disadvantages boys do so because they believe that “male teachers have certain special qualities that make them better at teaching boys.” The article also states that “Marianne Mazzorato, chief assessment officer with Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), the province’s student testing agency, agrees.” Surely you would agree that the issue around the need for a relatively equal number of male and female teachers is more a matter of gender role identification than of some mystical quality that either male or female teachers might possess.
As you are aware, throughout the 1980s and 1990s significant affirmative action initiatives were put in place in order to increase the number of female secondary school teachers in general, and mathematics and science teachers in particular, because the lower results being achieved by girls in mathematics and science were deemed to be due to the preponderance of males teaching those subjects. In spite of the impression created by the National Post article, I am certain that you cannot be suggesting that gender role identification was a factor in girls’ relative lack of success due to the preponderance of male teachers in the past, but that it is not a factor in boys’ relative lack of success due to the preponderance of female teachers now.
Gender differences exist, probably due more to the manner in which boys and girls are socialized than to innate differences. This notwithstanding, in our society, girls have been, and still are, lauded for engaging in what are perceived as “boy activities.” Meanwhile, boys have been, and still are, sanctioned for engaging in what are perceived as “girl activities.” As schools are increasingly staffed by only females, education is increasingly seen by both males and females as a “girl activity.” As such, many boys see it as “no place for boys.”
Furthermore, when female teachers regularly tell many parents that their sons are failing to achieve because they are not behaving in the manner that their teachers consider acceptable, i.e., as girls, parents’ expectations for the academic success of their sons drops. The British study quoted in the article demonstrates that when the parents’ expectations drop, the children’s results suffer. Perhaps teachers who were once little boys themselves would have different expectations in terms of what constitutes “acceptable” behaviour. This, of course, would suggest a need for a more equitable balance in the number of male and female teachers for reasons other than some “certain special qualities” that male teachers might have.
I assume that you will be contacting the National Post to correct their unfortunate, unintended misrepresentation of your position on this issue of the effects of gender differences on educational results.
I am enclosing a copy of my book, Rescuing Our Underachieving Sons, which provides a summary of the research surrounding the issue of why boys are failing to achieve to the maximum of their potential in school and what parents, the education system, and society in general can do to correct this situation. I am also enclosing copies of the series of booklets which I have written on the role that parents, the education system, and society can play in dealing with the problem.
Dr. James S. Brown
Former Director of Education
Former Director of Policy and Research
Ontario Education Improvement Commission