Men will disappear from the teaching force for young children in less than 25 years if current trends continue, America's largest teaching union has warned.
Today, men account for just 9 per cent of America's early education teachers, according to new data from the National Education Association, compared with a peak of 17.7 per cent in 1981. News from secondaries is also gloomy, with the percentage of male staff languishing at an all-time low of 41 per cent.
"Go into any elementary school classroom and you're unlikely to find a man - if you do he's likely to be the janitor," said Bryan Nelson of MenTeach, a think-tank promoting male recruitment, and author of a study of the malaise.
The crisis in male teaching - the worst ever - is most acute in primaries and among ethnic minorities. Mr Nelson's poll of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) - under 4 per cent of whom are male - found men shunning primaries. Reasons included primary teaching being seen as "women's work", fear of being accused of abuse, and low wages. He backs training grants for men.
The NEA last year called for redoubled male primary recruitment. Meanwhile, initiatives such as South Carolina's Call Me Mister, which trains black men to become primary teachers, target minorities. Just 350 of the NAEYC's 103,525 members are non-white men.
Positive male role models are at a premium amid proliferating single-mother families, experts say. Men are also thought to connect better with wayward boys.