fatherlessness and schools

Can Schools Help Fill the Void Fatherless Boys and Girls Experience? ABSOLUTELY!

Male primary school teachers have become an endangered species. While pre-school and kindergarten gender disparities are worst, where women comprise 97.7 percent of teachers, elementary and middle schools aren’t significantly different. Between 1987 and 2012, the percentage of male teachers declined in every measured period, falling to 23.7% of all teachers. The future gender uniformity was exhibited in a NY Times article:

“Mr. Leaders, who earned his education degree from the University of Nebraska in June, started teaching fifth grade last month in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He is the only male teacher in the building.”

Men are even discouraged from pursuing an educational career, using the worst possible smears.

Although once a male dominated profession, students now transition through elementary and middle schools rarely encountering male teachers. The gender disparity is also in PTA’s, the schools link to the greater community.

For children without male role models, not interacting with male authority figures can exacerbate problems.

It’s undeniable, the active involvement of fathers pays significant dividends in education. The Department of Education states:

“Research has shown that fathers, no matter what their income or cultural background, can play a critical role in their children’s education. When fathers are involved, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.”

The United States PTA adds:

“Research shows that when fathers and father figures are engaged in children’s education, student grades and test scores improve, attendance increases and students are more involved in school activities.”

How are schools doing in attracting dads and addressing fatherlessness?

When NPR asked Alan Blankstein how schools help fatherless kids, he said:

“I don’t see a lot happening in schools. I think [successful] interventions are happening in a random way, at best.”

Sonia Shaljean, of the UK’s Lads Need Dads, works with fatherless school boys suffering “a void of masculinity,” unashamedly teaching them “bloke skills”. She’s a hero. Her experience is:

“They share a ‘father wound.’ I can almost feel it, it’s a tangible ache. You can see it when they walk in. They share their stories of hurt, they learn new skills and their entire attitude to school, to learning, changes. They lose their anger.”

One boy in her program showed how little concern is given to fatherlessness;

“One lad cried a pool of tears. He said ‘you’re the first person ever to ask about my dad in ten years.’”

That’s shameful.

How can we get men involved? Bethany Mandel asked:

“Would men — fathers — feel as comfortable coming to an event when they know they’ll be outnumbered by mothers, or would they be more inclined to participate if they’ll be surrounded by their fellow dads? Educators keen to get dads involved know it’s the latter.”

When fathers are welcomed, amazing things happen. A Dallas middle school hoped 50 dads volunteer for a breakfast with fatherless kids. So many responded the schools website crashed and 600 finally attended. Shelby Traditional Academy instituted a “Flash Dads” program for students without male role models. A day after a shooting at a nearby school, Dads lined the hallways giving students high-fives as they entered. They likely felt very safe.

Programs like “Watch D.O.G.S.” (Dads of Great Students) and Strong Fathers Strong Families create positive educational engagement with fathers. Chrystal Wilkie, of Minnesota Valley Action Council’s Head Start, learned:

“The Strong Fathers Curriculum has made our staff more aware of involving and engaging the dads or other male figures in our everyday programing, i.e. conferences, newsletters, health requirements, family days, policy council, parent meetings and volunteering in the classroom.”

More “involving and engaging” dads is a move in the right direction.

Almost 6,500 schools have started Watch D.O.G.S. programs and Strong Fathers Strong Families has conducted 5,000 engagements. While impressive, considering there are 90,000 elementary schools in the US, there’s a long way to go.

Males are now a “marginalized group” in education, deserving positive attention. Unfortunately, national media coverage often happens when father events are cancelled or crashed. A Staten Island father daughter dance was recently cancelled as schools were ordered to eliminate “gender-based” practices. Single mothers have also taken to showing up at dad events. One Texas mother, attending a donuts for dad event, said:

“My kids have lived a while without having their father, they’re not sad about it.”

Her actions generated glowing coverage from ABCCNNPeople and Today. A Georgia mother argued she should attend a father daughter dance since:

“I’ve identified myself as her father and her mother because that’s what I’ve done for six years.”

Society is now learning the hard way, fathers or positive male role models, cannot be so simply replaced.

So, what’s the solution?

The proposal to create a White House Council for Men and Boys has an extensive section on male involvement in education. After being blocked for eight years, this council should be adopted with funding commensurate to enable father involvement in education. Safeguards are needed to ensure such programs aren’t used by gender feminists, as in Sweden, to “target masculinity.”

Locally, schools should proactively welcome fathers. Given the fatherlessness crisis, all schools should enact father engagement programs, perhaps like Title IX, federally funded. This will save money in the long run. Finally, events for fathers and male role models should be respected. Fatherless kids need to be allowed to experience positive male role models with other dads, policemen and firemen willing to assist.

Undoubtedly, some students will experience family breakdown during their academic years. Father involvement in education will help keep these dads around after separation. For kids without male role models, schools — either through male teachers or father’s groups — can fill the void fatherless boys and girls experience.

With their infrastructure in local communities, schools could play a significant role in addressing the fatherlessness crisis. The question is, are they motivated to impact fatherlessness with the same level of enthusiasm they’ve recently exhibited for other social causes.


This is the third in our ongoing series on fatherlessness.

This article first appeared on The Daily Caller.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Terry Brennan

View posts by Terry Brennan
Terry Brennan is a Father of two daughters, a CFO, and a Co-Founder of the international child advocacy organization, Leading Women for Shared Parenting (LW4SP).  He writes frequently on better public policy and fatherlessness.  You can connect with Terry on Twitter  @Terry Brennan 211 and learn more about shared parenting laws, research and polling at www.lw4sp.org.

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