Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mr. PTA President

Today I saw this item in The New York Times that reported the first-ever male Parent Teacher Association president, Charles J. Saylors. Finally, I thought, fathers are stepping up to the plate to take more of an equal role in parenting (although the news item notes that only 10 percent of the total PTA population are men, growing at a rate of 1 percent per year over the last five).

This list toward the end, however, is a bit misleading:

Why all this effort? Because it is good for children. They do better in school and in life when their fathers are involved. The National Household Education Survey by the US Department of Education found that:

Students whose fathers were highly involved at school were 43 percent more likely to receive As.

Children of highly involved resident fathers were 55 percent more likely to enjoy school than those with uninvolved fathers.

Students with nonresident fathers who participated in even one activity at school were 39 percent less likely to repeat a grade and 50 percent less likely to experience serious disciplinary problems.

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that fathers are the silver bullet to fix achievement and disciplinary problems. It’s true that more men in the PTA is a sign of increased engagement among men, but the reality is that men that are sensitive to these kinds of gender roles probably aren’t single dads in the same way we talk about single mothers. Fathers who are engaged in the PTA probably also have an engaged wife (or husband) who is helping out. Moms involved in the PTA also tend to have less burdensome workloads or be stay-at-home moms. That means the child is less likely to be impoverished, more likely to have a stable home life, and has more parental attention generally. So it’s good that dads are getting into the PTA, but there’s still a long way to go in engaging men in child-rearing.

Cross posted at Pushback.

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