Book Reviews

Book by Thornton, M. & Bricheno, P.
Review by Michelle M. White
Director of Academic Advisement
Department of Academic and Student Development
Millersville University
Millersville, PA

This book is an excellent resource for understanding “missing men in education” in the United Kingdom in terms of the numbers who teach, especially in primary schools. The contributors assert that teaching is a gendered occupation with low status and relatively low pay. Over the last ten years, they have interviewed, surveyed, researched and analyzed men who were students in teacher education programs and who teach. They offered results of an academic journey between engagement with the literature, engagement with policy issues, data collection and analysis, conversations with others and re-engagement with literature. The book goes beyond popular misconceptions in order to enhance an understanding of why men are missing from education, what roles and responsibilities they take when present and whether or not their absence matters to the child, schools, and society at large. The contradictions that surround men who teach, how they have developed and changed over time are acknowledged and explained.

The authors recognize the complexity and constraints of such concepts of masculinity such as competitiveness, aggression, assertiveness, dominance and power on men considering entering the professional field of education. Men in the UK who make teaching their career choice go against the grain of mainstream expectations. Whether heading for successful completion, drop-out or failure, there are some important recurring themes in men’s experience of teacher training. These revolve around physical contact and suspicions of child abuse, related perceptions of being constantly scrutinized, and of simply standing out in this predominantly female profession. Men as teachers are in a good position to challenge traditional gender stereotypes. Expectations regarding working in education with children have changed during the past 100 years. Where once teaching was regarded as a respectable, reasonably high status occupation and a masculine profession involving intellectual work and material rewards, its current low status within the labor market and its relatively low salary make it an unlikely choice for high aspiring men. However, theirs is a glass elevator in terms of career intentions and support of others. They are most definitely not missing from management and leadership roles in education.

A key theme of this book is that what is most needed in education are high quality committed teachers. Teacher gender should not be the prime consideration in terms of entrance qualifications for teacher education programs; potential teacher quality should be.  Decisions about entry should be based on equal merit and potential for success, not the gender of the applicant. In conclusion, the authors make a compelling case that a diverse teaching force is desirable but positive discrimination toward men is not. Quality teachers of both sexes and all ethnicities are the major requirements and strengths of the education system. The book is an excellent resource for understanding male students in education programs and male teachers in primary grades in the UK. The book is composed of timely information and current research that will resonate with advisers in schools of education, especially elementary education in the United States.

Missing Men in Education. (2006) Book by Thornton, M. & Bricheno, P. Review by Michelle M. White. Stoke on Trent, UK: Trentham Books Limited. $29.95. 168 pp., ISBN # 1-85856-344-5
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