Masculinity, Male Teachers and Ian Wright

You may have heard of Ian Wright, the great striker of Arsenal and Crystal Palace. Maybe you have heard of his finishing, pace and skill. However, you may not know Ian Wright, the young boy who loved football.

Ian Wright is the son of Jamaican parents and was raised in South London. At a young age his father left the household. He was then raised by his mother who would fall into alcoholism and an abusive stepfather. These are not ideal situations for anyone to grow up, let alone a top flight football player. In the documentary “Home Truths” Wright investigates his childhood that was marred by alcoholism and domestic abuse. Wright attributes much of his success to his PE teacher, Mr. Pigden. Who he describes as his first positive male figure in his life. 

Wright speaks with great reverence about Mr Pigden saying, “I know he loved me. I don’t know why he chose me. I’m glad that he did. Once he came in, everything was so much better. I used to collect the registers from the teachers. Then they made me the milk monitor. I really liked that. It was really good. I just felt important. Then what he’d do, he’d put me back into the classroom, and then my writing got better. He wouldn’t let me play football if he’d heard I’d been naughty in class. He just gave me a sense of feeling like I had some use.” Wright lost contact with Mr. Pigden and heard rumors of his alleged demise. However, decades later Wright and Mr Pigden reunited. Wright exclaims, “He said how proud he is of me. Then I hugged him and, because he was three or four steps up, I felt like I was 7 again.”

There is a term in law “loco parentis”. Latin for “in the place of a parent”. Usually referring to the legal obligations and responsibilities that schools would have over students. The role of a teacher is deeper than a few legal obligations. The role of the teacher is to guide young students in the pursuit of knowledge. In addition, teachers often play the roles of parents away from home and are role models to the young students. With only 24 percent of teachers being male [1], young children may have their views of ideal masculinity shaped by an unfiltered social media. Thus, we have social media raising children, instead of teachers and parents. The presence of male teachers can promote alternative, positive, gender equitable versions of masculinity that are more suitable for a cohesive society

Mr. Pigden shows the need for positive male teachers in schools and the power of football. And while the story of Ian Wright is a great story of liberation through football, it is unfortunate that he had to overcome such harsh circumstances to succeed. The responsibility is on us to be a part of the creation of a society without abuse and alcoholism. For more resources on this subject click the link below:

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