We belong here.

In a recent posting I put forth the concept that the involvement of men in early childhood education should not be viewed as something special or unusual. I spoke of how this has been the predominant attitude I have encountered by female colleagues and the public in general during my long career working with children. I would like to elaborate on this idea a little.

I have never felt that it was particularly unusual or different that I chose to work with children and it has always puzzled me when other people have viewed me that way. Once I made the choice to try early childhood education as a career, it seemed natural and the right thing to do.

Back in the mid-eighties, at one of those famous Minnesota Men in Childcare winter retreats, I tried to articulate this feeling. Looking back, I think I did a pretty poor job of it. I remember saying something to the effect that we needed to convey to the public that we were just like other men – we had families, we watched football, we worked on cars, and we worked with children. It has taken me another 25 years to fully understand what I was feeling that day.

The truth is that all men have it in them to be good with children. When we list the reasons why there are so few men working with children, (pay, status, cultural bias, exclusion practices) I think sometimes the unspoken reason people outside our group think of is that only a minority of men have the ability to work with children.

I think this philosophy gets quite a bit of support when we continue to have so few men in the field. I would be the last person to say that this struggle has been as difficult as racial and gender issues in employment, but the basic concept is comparable.

As we continue to reserve most of our business and government leadership positions for the white male, this practice tends to confirm in people’s minds that only the unusual female or person of color is capable of rising to the challenge of leadership. In our own way, the struggle to get more men into the early childhood education field reflects a similar bias.

Not only are men generally capable of working well with children, our presence in children’s lives is essential to their well being. I will explain what I mean by that at another time.

So, if you are a man in the early childhood education field and wonder at times why you are performing this import work, I want to say to you; “The question isn’t why you are doing this, but why not?” You belong here. We belong here.