To the “Mothers” of Education

There are very few people who would argue that the field of Education is dominated by females. According to the statistics, women make up around 70% of our nation’s teachers. These chosen women have the distinct blessing to educate the students of our nation that make up 24% of our total population.

As they demonstrate their love for their students in the classroom, it is not uncommon to hear them refer to them as their “kids.” This maternal term of endearment makes today’s reflection the perfect start for our Mother’s Day weekend celebrations; for these women truly are the foundations of our classroom families.

But, these daughters of God were not always in the position of educators. Michael J. Sedlak, an Educational researcher from Michigan State University, describes the early years of our nation’s schools:

“During the Colonial era, and through the mid-nineteenth century, the vast majority of teachers in America were young, white men. There were, of course, some female teachers: women in cities who taught small children the alphabet, for example, or farm girls who managed groups of young students during a community’s brief summer session. But when districts recruited schoolmasters to take charge of their winter session scholars—boys and girls of all ages—they commonly hired men for the work. Convinced that good deportment was synonymous with good learning, community leaders believed that women lacked the stature—physical and social—to win or impose the authority and discipline essential to an efficient school.”

Sedlack goes on to describe how religion played a part in the establishment of our school systems and how women were able to benefit from this spiritual calling:

“… During the Colonial era, male-dominated pedagogy had assumed that children were sinful and possessed an inherent inclination toward evil that had to be controlled with force and intimidation, at least until they were old enough to experience a genuine conversion. ‘Christian nurture,’ as the new doctrine came to be called, increasing rejected assumptions about innate sinfulness and encouraged a view of children as capable of moving gradually toward the conversion experience that signified salvation… [Then] new pedagogies surfaced to enable teachers to fashion an educational environment that could nurture and guide children instead of controlling them physically or frightening them with images of eternal damnation. The personalities and dispositions of women were assumed to be particularly suited to performing this nurturing function.”

“…by 1850 a majority of the nation’s teachers (particularly in the Northeast and Mid-west) were women. The ‘feminization of teaching,’ as this trend has become known, continued through the early twentieth century, by which time roughly four out of five teachers were women. Virtually all teachers in elementary schools—where the greatest expansion occurred—were women. The remaining male stronghold—the high school—was still a small rung on the educational ladder; it was not until after the turn of the century, when teaching conditions began to improve and secondary schooling became increasingly universal, that men began to return to teaching. By the 1930s an overall gender ratio of 70% female to 30% male was achieved; it has remained constant since then (Clifford, 1989; Rury, 1989; Sedlak & Schlossman, 1986).”

So there you have it, a brief history on how God was able to bring women into one of the greatest positions in helping build and maintain God’s Kingdom. Through their maternal instincts, care for youth and spiritual strength, they have made more silent impacts on the lives of their “kids” than one can fathom. For that reason, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our female teachers around the world and wish them a happy Mother’s Day.
May Jesus live in our hearts forever!

References
Sedlak, M. W. (1989). Let us go buy a school master: Historical perspectives on the hiring of teachers in the United States, 1750-1980. D. Warren (Ed.), American teacher: Histories of a profession at work.
Sedlak, M. W., & Schlossman, S. (1986). Who will teach? Historical perspectives on the changing appeal of teaching as a profession. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation
And others found online at http://wakingbear.com/history.htm

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