By: Eva Carafa
In Part 1 of this four part series, we considered whether teaching is a low-status profession, despite the platitudes heard every day about the importance of teachers. In Part 2, we’ll consider whether there is a relationship between the War on Women and the War on Teachers currently being fought in the media and at negotiating tables around the country.
Have you ever wondered why the Christian Right is so adamant about Creationism?
I have. After all, it’s not like my day to day life would change if I believed in creationism, evolution, or, say, like Scientologists, that man somehow came from clams and Body Thetans. (No, I can’t explain it. You’ll have to read it for yourselves and explain it to me.) If tomorrow, some scientist proves that mankind evolved from sea anemones, my opposable thumbs and I will go with that.
In other words, like most of us, I’m more preoccupied with what I’m going to have for dinner than where mankind came from. Full disclosure: I’m not a scientist. I can see why they’d think more about it. And because I want my kids to be, if not scientists, at least scientifically literate, I have read science journals and books, gone to natural history museums, and come away completely convinced that evolution explains how we all got here.
I can remember being taught creationism in Sunday School, when I was about 5 or 6. Mr. Lewis, a kindly fundamentalist with nothing but my salvation and personal relationship with Jesus in mind, told the story of the Garden of Eden. We went through the 7 days of creation, which was straightforward enough. I became alarmed, though, when we got into Creationism 2.0, in which the children of Adam and Eve marry. My father owned sheep, and I had a rudimentary command of basic animal husbandry. “Wouldn’t their children be inbred?” I asked, thinking of how my father traded rams with other sheep herd owners to prevent this very problem. “Wouldn’t we all be genetically defective?”
Mr. Lewis was taken aback, and more or less ignored my question. But my regular Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Megill, told me that the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel were merely stories, not historical accounts to be taken literally. That gelled with Catholic or Jewish religious services I went to with friends after sleepovers.
In 7th or 8th grade, we read about the Scopes Monkey Trial. I was appalled to learn that prior to 1925, creationism was routinely taught in place of evolution, at least in the South. We were shocked that in the same century that saw the US put a man on the moon, a kid sitting in a Southern classroom would be taught that Genesis was an actual account of the Earth’s first days of existence.
But creationism roared back. I am even more shocked that in the 21st century, creationism has re-emerged, cleverly rebranded as intelligent design, with supporters who are determined to re-introduce biblical teaching into science classrooms.
What, you may ask, does the creationism controversy have to do with teachers and Rush Limbaugh’s rants against Sandra Fluke? Everything, I would argue, because it is from the book of Genesis that anti-female views spring forth, and it is that view that lies at the heart of the War on Women. And because teachers are overwhelmingly female (over 80% of all teachers are women), I would argue that the War against Teachers is just another front in the GOP’s War on Women.
Hear me out. Genesis tells us that God created Adam from dust in his image to steward the Earth. Eve was an after-thought, created out of Adam’s rib, essentially to keep him company. But instead of just happily keeping their campsite neat and making herself pretty, Eve, apparently bored when Adam was off stewarding, befriended a snake.
The snake must have spent a lot of time talking up knowledge, because somewhere along the line, Eve decided she had to get her some of that, even if it meant disregarding God’s one command: do not eat the fruit of this tree! After all, what kind of a loving God would prohibit his creation from ingesting knowledge? So Eve boldly took a great big bite out of an apple, and I guess knowledge suited her, because, after that, she enthusiastically recommended it to Adam, sure that he’d like knowledge as much as she did.
Turns out, though, God had been serious as a heart attack about the whole apple thing, and when he found out what Adam and Eve had done, he kicked them out of the Garden of Eden. Ever since, mankind-or, more particularly,womankind-has been punished over and over again for Eve’s transgression. We’ve had to suffer menstruation and childbirth pains. We’ve been treated as chattel, second class citizens, incapable of voting. A man with a wife who disobeyed wasn’t merely allowed to beat her, he was encouraged to do so, for the good of them both.
And this brings me to the big question: Do creationists really care about God’s Six Frantic Days of Earth-building? Or are they more interested in preserving Genesis as the basis of their world view? I’d argue that the Religious Right, not being overly concerned with life sciences, are much more interested in preserving what they see as the “natural” or “god-given order” of things.
Particularly the view that man is in charge of Earth, and women are here only to serve and amuse men. Preferably by greeting him at the door wrapped in Saran wrap, offering him his slippers and a martini, and then serving a good meal in a clean house. Then, Sexy Time. None of this my-opinion-is-every-bit-as-valid-as-yours horseshit. None of this I-deserve-equal -pay-for-equal-work nonsense. (As if a woman can perform work equal to men!) None of this women-can-hold-public-office drivel. Or my-orgasm-is-every-bit-as-important-as-yours crap.
Think I’m crazy? Watch: Jesse Lee Peterson, Conservative Preacher, Says Women’s Voting Rights ‘One Of America’s Greatest Mistakes…’ It takes Reverend Peterson a mere 40 seconds to lay all the problems in America at the feet of women. Or listen to Rush Limbaugh’s theory on why his penis is shrinking: Rush Limbaugh and Shrinking Penises . Yup, women again. Still not convinced? Listen to Allen West complaining of women neutering men: West: Women Advocates Neuter American Men..
Now I know some of you are now shaking your heads and saying to yourselves, “Eva, OK, these guys are nuts. But not all men don’t think that way. And certainly all women aren’t like the ones we can hear in the background of the Peterson and West videos!” And you’re right about one thing: These guys ARE nuts.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t saying what many Americans believe is true. We are, after all, a society that believes, by large margins, in creationism. (Didn’t think I’d bring it all back to that, did I?). A Gallup poll released in June reveals that 46% of respondents do, in fact, believe in the creation story as an accurate depiction of the beginning of the world and the creation of man, all at once, instead of over millions of years. An additional 32% of Americans believe in the newer, shinier “intelligent design” version of creationism, in which the first days of creation unfold according to Charles Darwin, under God’s divine supervision, before we pick up the Genesis story. Only 15% of Americans believe we evolved, along with everything else, from primordial ooze, without God’s help.
Most people aren’t as conscious of, or open about, their disdain for women as Peterson, Limbaugh and West, et al., but it stands to reason that someone who believes the creation story also believes that man was put here to steward, and woman was put here to keep Steward Man company. (Interestingly, it also supports the right wing view that we are here to control, not to protect, the environment.)
So here we are, finally, to the GOP War on Women. Most of us can agree that there has been a flurry of legislation this year aimed at controlling the choices a woman can make with regard to her reproductive health. (Google it. Or you can start here.) Mostly we think about the abortion wars, including unnecessary medical procedures like transvaginal ultrasounds, or the fight over birth control coverage, which is where Sandra Fluke comes in. Evil women need contraception and abortion to negate the consequences of their lascivious behavior. Rarely do I hear any talk about men in these tirades. Did Rush ask for men to take more responsibility while he was demanding that sluts like Fluke post their sex tapes for his enjoyment? I don’t recall that.
If a woman claims she’s raped, she better show up with some by-God serious injuries to prove it. If she gets pregnant, according to Todd Akin, it’s proof that God knows she wasn’t raped at all, or her body would’ve “shut the whole thing down.” And if a woman needs an abortion to save her own life? Well, she’s out of luck, if the GOP platform becomes the law of the land.
These social issues are also about women, these tramps, having the temerity to demand medical care to protect their sexual health. With utter disregard for male-dominated religious institutions who owe their very existence to the biblical precepts expressed in Genesis. So essential to its core are these beliefs that hysterical Catholics and others on the Religious Right compare President Obama to Hitler because Obamacare requires religious institutions (but NOT churches) to cover birth control for female employees.
But what about teachers? Teachers are overwhelming female (over 80% are women, and the number of men in the teaching professions stands at all-time lows). They spend their professional lives tempting students with knowledge day in and day out. (EVEs, every one of you!) And what is the traditional gift a student offers a favorite teacher? You got it-an APPLE!
Therefore, when we begin at Genesis and extrapolate from it what we would expect the status of women who share knowledge with others to be, the answer is…not high. In other words, starting at the cause we’d expect to find that symptom. In Part 1, I argued, and hopefully convinced you, that teaching is, in fact, a low-status profession, despite the lip service about teaching being next to Godliness.
Now, if we’re wrong, if Genesis has no role in shaping modern attitudes toward women, we’d expect either that teaching is a high-status profession (even last night, watching the Presidential debate, lots of “teachers are good” head-pats, but no consensus on having their pay reflect that.) Or, if it isn’t, it would be for some reason having nothing to do with it being overwhelming female or women’s role in society or anything like that. Right?
So let’s take a look. Researchers have started at the problem, looking for answers to the age-old question, “Why is teaching is a low-status profession?” And what have they found? Is the problem unions (which I will look at in Part 3), or failure to being good at teaching? Or something else entirely? Nope. Here are the well-documented reasons for the problems of teachers:
“Teachers endured other consequences of feminization, even though they were not in the best interests of women. Scholars are beginning to raise the possibility that much of the low status of teaching is attributable not only to the relative weakness of children, but also to the diminished stature of women. Like nursing and social work, teaching has been burdened with an image of ‘social housekeeping.’ Such ‘women’s work‘ becomes both identified as an extension of the domestic sphere and vulnerable to loss of discretion, autonomy, and status… And it is not surprising that historians and labor economists have begun to explore connections between feminization and explicit initiatives (like installing ‘teacher-proof’ curricula and Individually Guided Education) to ‘deskill’ teaching by limiting occasions for teachers to use their professional judgment and skills. Click here.
Being seen as “women’s work”, then, prevents a career from becoming high status or prestigious. (Unless, of course, like midwifery, it becomes profitable for men to take it over, which is why doctors now deliver babies in hospital for a king’s ransom.) And where does that idea come from? Genesis, I would argue.
Mind you, this is despite the fact that, back in the day, the smartest college educated women really only had two career choices: teaching and nursing. Sure, she’d only teach while waiting to get married (although, let’s face it, who wants to marry a smart girl?) and she certainly would not continue teaching after she had her own children. For many decades, students learned from the brightest women America had to offer, and the US sat atop the public education heap.
But in the late 60’s and early 70’s, other career paths opened up for smart women, like becoming anything she damn well pleased. Being smart, women in college looked around and noticed that other careers carried much more status-and better pay-than teaching and nursing. And they weren’t that much harder to qualify for. In other words, then, even when teaching was one of only two career refuges of the smartest women, it was still low-status enough to dissuade women, given a choice, to enter the field.
To review: caring for children=women’s work=low status=low pay. Let that sink in for a moment. All that education, all those licensing requirements, and in the end, all teachers are doing is “social housekeeping”? Not everywhere, mind you. In Finland and South Korea, teachers are revered, and future teachers are selected from the highest ranks of the educated. (Read about the difference between the US attitude toward teaches, on the one hand, and those of Finland and South Korea, on the other, here .
For men who chose teaching, the problems are even worse. They leave the profession in droves, tired of speculation about their motives for wanting to provide care to children. Again, I turn to Genesis. If man is steward, and woman his Gal Friday, isn’t there something wrong with a man who would forsake his dominance and take up a woman’s chores? Isn’t that, after all, why society reacts so viscerally to homosexuality in men? So if a man chooses to do women’s work, there must be something wrong with them, am I right? They must be gay, or worse, perverts! (Though in some circles, homosexuality might rank below pedophilia, or the terms might be used interchangeably. Take a look at the article, Number of Male Teachers hit new Low.
So when it’s time for budget cuts, is it any surprise teachers are asked to bear the brunt of them? After all, the job is barely professional, right? Any ape could do it! Teachers don’t do it for the money, they do it because it’s their job, as women/second class citizens, to care for children/third class citizens. As Governor Chris Christie recently said at the RNC in Tampa, in his keynote remarks:“Now, we believe that the majority of teachers in Americaknow our system must be reformed, to put students first so thatAmerica can compete, that teachers don’t teach to become rich orfamous. They teach because they love children.” (italics mine)
See what he did? He gave teachers a head-pat even as he stabbed them in the pocketbook! The greatest attribute of teachers isn’t their training, skill, or professionalism. Nope, it’s their love of children! What woman doesn’t love children? If teachers are acting out of love, then teaching is really more of a hobby, isn’t it? And why should society pay you well to perform your duty/hobby? Hell, teachers should be grateful we pay them at all, or that taxpayers don’t demand payment from teachers for the privilege of being allowed to kids.
And while you’re at, how about a transvaginal ultrasound? It’s on us!