ELEMENTARY education desperately needs more then a few good men.
That struck me again last week at the annual conference of the state's reading teachers. Of 1,100 packed into the Towson Sheraton, only a few were male. The younger the child, the more unlikely he or she will have a male teacher. Male reading teachers are as scarce as Dick and Jane books.
The situation is getting worse. The proportion of males in the national teaching force declined from about a third in 1961 to about a fourth in 1996. It's 24 percent in Maryland.
State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick ticked off the reasons for this disparity yesterday. Although salaries have improved, education remains a low-paying profession. Teachers of younger children are considered "nurturers" and "helpers," both of children and of their own spouses. Nine of 10 women who work full time in education have working husbands, a proportion that has changed very little in 35 years, and so paying them a little less is considered OK.
The saddest reason for the shortage of male teachers is that society considers them out of their element. It's not for men to do the touching and holding that are a part of life in a primary school. Men who do that are sick.
All of which is nonsense, Grasmick said. "We urgently need men as role models in the early grades," she said, "and I think we'll see more and more men in reading instruction as we raise the standards.
"Come back in two or three years, now that we've stiffened the certification requirements. I bet you'll see more men."
Minnesota teacher Mary Beth Blegen, who was named the 1996 national teacher of the year and first "teacher in residence" at the U.S. Department of Education, raised another point yesterday about the paucity of men in teaching.
"We'll never become a true profession until men and women are on equal footing," said Blegen, who was in town for a reading conference at Towson University. "But getting more money into salaries is only a part of the solution. We educators have to do a much better job of getting out our message -- that ours is a noble profession, the most noble of all, and that we're worth being treated well and paid well."
We're all still waiting for Charles Village bookstore
A year ago this month, several letter writers and this column criticized the Johns Hopkins University for its decision not to open a bookstore in the 3300 block of N. Charles St.
To some of us, it appeared an effort by Hopkins to protect its campus bookstore, run by the giant Barnes & Noble, from competition.
We were taken to task. A letter to the editor from a Hopkins spokesman said we had been "told, but did not report" that "the university does in fact have plans to move its campus book center out of Gilman Hall and into Charles Village."
So we shut up and waited. A year later, there is no Hopkins bookstore in Charles Village, though one might be on the way early in the new millennium.
Steve Libowitz, a Hopkins spokesman, said that when the university sought proposals for a bookstore at 3301 N. Charles last fall, officials discovered that the Hopkins-owned property was zoned for a much larger building than they had planned.
It was back to the drawing board to "see how a multilevel building that might contain more than a bookstore would fit into the community."
Hopkins "still intends to bring a bookstore into Charles Village," Libowitz said. The Barnes & Noble campus store remains in operation, though it's a quarter-mile from anything resembling a private home or parking space.
Stadium School could use helping hand from Hopkins
If Hopkins wants to prove itself to its community, it should do everything in its considerable power to help the state's oldest community school find a place to call home.
The Stadium School, established by residents of Waverly five years ago and quickly shunted to "temporary" quarters far from Waverly on East Northern Parkway, needs a place in the community it's never occupied.
First it was slated for Memorial Stadium, then for the former Eastern High School on 33rd Street, being restored by Hopkins' real estate arm as a mixed-use center containing offices, teaching and research space.
We've heard from reliable sources that the Stadium School simply can't afford Hopkins' rent and that state help promised during the campaign last year hasn't materialized.
The Stadium School is Maryland's first semi-independent "charter school." Nearing the end of its five-year contract, it deserves a break. Couldn't city, state and Hopkins put heads together to bring it home?
Pub Date: 3/24/99