Whenever I have taught children, there has been an obsession with safety.
This was a statement I made four years ago when I wrote an essay about people and their insane, irrational fear of being around children.
Men need children. Children need men.
While all men shouldn’t or have no desire to be around children, it is wise to look at the reasons why and be honest in our assessment regarding men’s interaction with children.
What must change (in relation to men’s influence with children) if we are attempting to create a saner, more loving and thinking world?
For several years, I heard from friends and family that I would make a wonderful father and teacher.
Having switched my major in college to English with an eye on instructing eager, hungry minds, I began making preparations to move into the world of erudite instruction that would serve the young people that I would be fortunate enough to teach.
During the early 90’s, homophobia was in full swing and nowhere was it more pronounced and encouraged than in education with almost a witch hunt focus on gays and lesbians.
With dreams of changing the world (which I believe is one of the many purposes of education), I was left sitting on my hands.
I could either jump in with the sharks wearing blood soaked swim trunks and hope for the best or I could save myself a buttload of misery and stay out of the water.
I stayed away from young people and teaching for as long as I could.
I watched in shear horror as my partner dealt with very vocal homophobic students, coworkers and faculty.
I watched with incredulity as people dismissed the powerful offerings of teachers and adults. My heart broke when people chose fear and ignorance over the possibility of change that a male presence could offer.
There was no blueprint for being talented in a given area and knowing that you would not be accepted in this arena or worse yet be run out of it and soon as there was any whiff of being “different”.
While homophobia was partly to blame, there was also the belief that men around children was a bad idea simply because of our gender.
Men and their (perceived) devious, predatory ways was the real issue.
Many educational colleagues love to rail on about pedophilia which is not the same as homosexuality.
I have yet to hear an accurate or fact-based account of any teacher ever experiencing this dramatic scene(confrontation with and defeat of pure stupidity) at work with a colleague.
So where does all of this irrational fear and straight up stupidity come from and how do we challenge and defeat it?
We start by recognizing men’s goodness.
When good men have skills that are necessary for the maturation and psychological well being of young people, we can work together (with allies that love, respect and admire men) to assign men roles with children that highlight skills our young people need.
We are no longer in need of men who are assigned the role of silent, emotionless ATMs whose response to anything emotional or deep consists of pointing out the failings of those asking questions and or then referring them to women who “know more about those things”.
It is not ok to assume that beyond donating sperm and financial assistance men are useless and have little value.
Children are not better off without men.
Men and those that love them must offer assistance in reestablishing male input and the particular ways men approach the world and navigate their existence in it.
We all have much to learn from how the world is seen by men.
Anyone who has met a powerful man whose power stems from his commitment to mental health, self evaluation and improving children’s lives recognizes and understands the goodness of men.
Men are psychologically harmed when they are assigned social roles that only benefit patriarchal.
Men are harmed when we get assigned the role of non-thinking monsters.
While I have never subscribed to the ridiculous notion that only men can raise boys, I understand that male energy is different, needed and should be invited in on a consistent and well thought out basis.
So the next time you are considering a baby sitter or someone to care for your young ones, consider a male colleague or family friend to take up the challenging, eye opening and heart expanding task that is influencing and loving children well.
Start small and build.
There is much to be learned and nothing to lose.