Fear and Anti-Male Discrimination in the Classroom

In his book The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, Barry Glassner discusses how Americans have become unnecessarily fearful of many things, thanks in good part to opportunistic politicians, single-minded advocacy groups, sensationalist news media, “news magazine” programming and so on. Such irrational fear complexes can do profound and unjustified harm not just to the directly affected individuals and groups, but to society as a whole.

When a segment of society has been unjustifiable tarred, it often takes dedicated activism to raise people’s consciousness to the injustice and perniciousness of such discrimination. My consciousness was recently raised by blogger Justin Trottier with regard to a branch of discrimination that does not seem to receive much public acknowledgement: discrimination against men.

Discrimination against men. It happens. Like in education, where simply being male apparently constitutes Strike 1 with regard to pedophilia. The fear of male teachers engaging in sexual contact with young students has become a major source of anxiety in education systems around the world. Below is the story of my brush with this phobia.

I’m a 26 year old male from Canada teaching English to children in Seoul, South Korea. Less than two weeks ago I had been teaching for my second last day at a school I had been at for 9.5 months. Everyday during my time at this school, I spent 1.5 hours with a class of four/five year olds. I really like kids, and I try my best to be sensitive and responsive to their concerns. I want them to feel comfortable, loved, accepted, taken care of, and so on.

I’ve always been affectionate with my students. However, for the first few months, the affection was displayed via high-fives, pats on the back and small hugs which were more often than not initiated by the students. I myself was resistent to becoming too affectionate with them because of concerns of it “looking suspicious”. Sometimes one of my 4 year old girl students would want to give me a kiss on the cheek and I would not allow it.

But as time went on and my students and I bonded, I started giving each of them hugs regularly, would let them give me a kiss on the cheek if they wanted and would sometimes give them a kiss on the cheek. I tempered my affection for kids based on such things as how long they’ve been at the school, whether or not they’ve initiated a hug with me in the past, their current state (e.g., are they crying?), and so on. I also take into account such considerations as not wanting some kids to feel like I like other kids more than them, so one way or another, I try to make sure each student – new or not, affectionate or not – knows that I care about them. And I always offer to give hugs to scared and tearful new students who are leaving their home for the first time; but it’s their choice whether or not they walk into it.

So, the incident. On my second last day at the school, a fellow male teacher – slightly older than I and who had been at the school a few months longer – said to me in private, very earnestly, that he had seen me kiss one of my students. I responded by saying “Yeah.. On the cheek…”. He responded saying that it was very inappropriate. I dead-panned “they’re five”. I could have also added that this was the last time I would ever see them (they didn’t have class on my last day), but I did not as this was not the first time I had ever kissed one of the four/five year olds on the cheek. He responded that it’s very inappropriate. They’re not your kids.

It’s really hard to receive this sort of communication and not feel personally insulted and not-so-implicitly accused of being some sort of weirdo or deviant. In all honesty, my day was ruined. Being connected with pedophilia can have that effect.

It appears that there is a broad distrust of male teachers. Yes, some male teachers have sexually assaulted students. But look what our fear of this presumably statistically infrequent event is doing. Just about any professional who deals with children or education will tell you, I imagine, that many children are affectionate, that many adults are inclined to be affectionate back, and that the relationship between teacher and pupil is a very important part of education. And now, because of a small collection of undesirable conduct, we are handcuffing all teachers – though with far greater suspicion directed at males – and undermining relationships, freedom to consensually express affection, and education. I have friends in teachers’ college in Ontario who have told me about how they’ve been specifically taught how to successfully avert a student-initiated hug by tactfully turning it into a socially-awkward handshake.

I’m not denying the reality of the need to protect children from sexual advances from teachers. But what a crude way of going about it. This is a case of fear about one of the things that could go wrong greatly interfering with educators’ ability to see that things go right. And, really, it’s just plain disturbing in my opinion. Does anyone else not find it disturbingly dehumanizing that we are constructing a culture in which teachers and students aren’t allowed to develop and enact warm and supportive relationships with one another? And that we’re teaching distrust and social distance? This is not a reasonable, helpful or proportional response. Wouldn’t it be better to simply make students, teachers and everyone aware of the simple reality of the situation – that sexual abuse does sometimes happen – and to teach students what sexual abuse is, what their rights are, how to go about addressing concerning situations, and simply creating a culture where actually inappropriate appropriate behaviour – e.g., sexual advances and unwanted nonsexual acts of affection (e.g., hugs) – can safely be reported?

Pedophilia in the classroom is a legitimate cause for concern. But so is preserving the humanity of the student-teacher relationship. And so is not sexually profiling male teachers.

Comments
13 Responses to “Fear and Anti-Male Discrimination in the Classroom”
  1. Tim says:

    Totally know where he’s coming from. I taught abroad in Moscow and although I wouldn’t ever kiss the kids they would always want hugs and stuff. Me being very sensitive as ever being perceived a pedophile or anything in the least I would never hug them or show much affection. The most I ever did was a handshake or pats on the back.

    I think kisses may take it a little too far but I would never call it pedophilia for any teacher to kiss any child. Just breaking with professionalism. Hugs should not be a problem.

  2. School Teacher says:

    California has a female education system. Lots of rules and regulations that women and girls tend to prefer.

  3. Anon Ymous says:

    See eeocagenda.blogspot.com

  4. Anon says:

    I could write my own book on this topic as I’ve experienced first- hand how pervasive the problem is. Instead, I’ll just say that people perceive what they want to perceive due to their own fears and agendas. Contrary to prevailing fears in our society, not every male who shows affection to children is a threat to children.

    Finally, the perception is not the reality as many have asserted. Instead, the perception is only “real” to the ones doing the perceiving. No matter how much you may perceive someone to be bad for being affectionate to children, that person may just connect with people differently than you can or will choose to. Just because you are not affectionate or choose to protect yourself from suspicion by not being too touchy with kids doesn’t mean something is wrong with someone who displays more warmth than you. I trusted that people who knew me would know I’m not a threat to kids. I was wrong. Like I said, people perceive what they want to perceive based on their own fears. Some of us choose not to play into all that fear and negativity, and simply strive to be ourselves, and live with the risks, fears, and falsehoods this entails in our society. Congratulations on protecting yourself better than I did. Just be careful you don’t forget to be a genuine human being in the process, or lose your natural ability to show affection. You may end up looking real good, but feeling really bad, because you have forgotten how to express love because of your fears of being perceived a certain way. I prefer to just be me and what happens as a result-well-it is what it is. Besides, I didn’t need to remain in a school or school system which was so very quick to put me in a false light and disregard so readily what I brought to children and to the school. A genuine and dedicated male teacher doesn’t need to be in that environment anyway-blessing in disguise!

  5. hehe, i bet u r handsome…

  6. Sara says:

    Feminists use the bugbear of child and woman abuse to keep men in a perpetual state of degradation and terror. Our anti-male society is evil and that’s all there is to it. We need to pull a 180 and restore decency to America, and that means ignoring unsubstantiated accusations against innocent men. The bimbos are now trying to export their brand of hate and totalitarianism to other countries, and we must do whatever we reasonably can to hinder them.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Respected Teachers,
    I’m a Hindusthani, Keralite, Bhagavath Githa teacher.
    In our culture—there is writen numerous natural rules[In VEDAs] which should be followed by each humanbeing whatever job they are doing for his survival.
    For Hindus teacher is called ‘GURU’ and his mind should soooo pure and must be freed from all types of sense enjoyment. And education[VIDYA] is something God like. [our education godess is Lord Saraswathy]. Guru should communicate his students without touching. There is no need of touching for a Good Guru. If you touch a student, who is a hungry of love which they may not getting from his guardian, your affectionate touch may awake that particular child aalllll type of sense ejoyment. So show affection and love withou touching.
    There is is a sloka in BHAGAVATH GEETHA [second chapter 62, 63, 64 slokas]”While conteplating the objects of the senses , a person developes attachment for them, and from such attachmen
    developes lust a and from lust arises anger, from anger delusion arises and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, inteliigence is lost and when intelligence is lost one fails down again into material pool..Senses are so strong and impetuous. Lord krishna says to Arjuna, ” Oh! Arjuna that they forcibly carry away the mind even a man of discrimination who is endeavoring to control them.

    A GURU should be very controled in every sense.
    So avoid touching while you share love and affection.
    “Guru Devo Bhava”=Guru is God himself.[Try to own one Bhagavath Githa with meanings.]

  8. Respected Teachers,
    I’m a Hindusthani, Keralite, Bhagavath Githa teacher.
    In our culture—there is writen numerous natural rules[In VEDAs] which should be followed by each humanbeing whatever job they are doing for his survival.
    For Hindus teacher is called ‘GURU’ and his mind should soooo pure and must be freed from all types of sense enjoyment. And education[VIDYA] is something God like. [our education godess is Lord Saraswathy]. Guru should communicate his students without touching. There is no need of touching for a Good Guru. If you touch a student, who is a hungry of love which they may not getting from his guardian, your affectionate touch may awake that particular child aalllll type of sense ejoyment. So show affection and love withou touching.
    There is is a sloka in BHAGAVATH GEETHA [second chapter 62, 63, 64 slokas]“While conteplating the objects of the senses , a person developes attachment for them, and from such attachmen
    developes lust a and from lust arises anger, from anger delusion arises and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, inteliigence is lost and when intelligence is lost one fails down again into material pool..Senses are so strong and impetuous. Lord krishna says to Arjuna, ” Oh! Arjuna that they forcibly carry away the mind even a man of discrimination who is endeavoring to control them.
    A GURU should be very controled in every sense.
    So avoid touching while you share love and affection.
    “Guru Devo Bhava”=Guru is God himself.[Try to own one Bhagavath Githa with meanings.]
    [The previous posting was incomplete so i m continuing] If you find this answer useful plz do write to me….m there for more advise.
    God Bless you..
    My email is ammu.mishtey@gmail.com ,

  9. Again Kalpana Ganapathy writing….
    My son and his friends complaing for so many years that they are frequently descriminate by female teachers in schools, and tution classes and they are stopped going to tution classes, but they cannot stop their schooling na?
    Various descriminations..
    1. If the boys did not submit their project work or something they will get severe scolding but if girls did not submit teachers will not.
    2. Teachers will allow girls to do cultural programs in their choice and boys are neglected and if they ask permission they will not give and easily neglected as if they dont care for the boys students.
    3. They will tease by saying vlgr[bad] words in front of the girls and boys will again got upset and frustrated both in schools and tution classes.

    • Raj says:

      Abuse in Indian society was always on men. It is a hypocrisy that women and politicians want to grab power in punishing innocent men. Men who were abused became saints and sages. If any of you disagree I recommend to install few cameras inside Indian houses. India has the highest anti-male discrimination laws and social culture.

  10. Michael says:

    I live in Russia. When at school I had not significant discrimination on sexual grounds. Then I successfully graduated and enrolled in a university (though Russian non-natural science faculties such as Economics, History, Sociology etc correspond with the US colleges) I faced female-majority in classes and female-friendly education (lots of talking, emphasis on the needs and interests of female audience), and moreover, there is A LOT of prejustice against male students and you cant fill a lawsuit against the discrimination -these lawsuits are considered ridiculous in Russia.

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