Right sentiment – wrong question

My husband and I attended a “school board of governors meets the parents” evening on Thursday night and one of the attendees asked what the school was doing to encourage more girls to go into STEM careers. There was also some discussion about the fact that even in this liberal high achieving school certain stereotypes of “boys being good at math” and “girls being good at the humanities” was panning out (if the ISA scores were an indication at least).

I am glad that type of question was asked, but I think we need to examine the whole gender thing far more deeply.  It’s not just about STEM. After the public forum, I confronted the head about the fact that except for this meeting and one other on “teens and technology”, every other public forum of the school had been held during working hours. Including the coming “meet the teacher” event. Which meant that either working parents couldn’t attend, or one or the other or both had to take leave. What kind of message are we sending our students – male and female – at this most formative time in their lives about who we allow and expect to be engaged in a child’s education?

If these meetings are not important – why hold them? If they are important, why are you excluding the economically active role models of your community and only including those who either have enough leisure, have the financial means to be free during working hours, or have chosen for one reason or another (including the reason that if they didn’t stay at home they couldn’t be a participant in their school community life) not to work full-time.

In the years that I chose not to work full-time, one of the over-riding factors in my choice was exactly that I wanted to be a part of my children’s school community and to contribute to their educational lives in this way.  Then I was thrust into full-time work out of economic necessity and no longer had the luxury of factoring this into my choice. And now I am one of the excluded.

Now as an excluded I wonder if I am the only one protesting, or if there are more like me, but we are just not aware of each other, since through our exclusion we are isolated voices that can be ignored.  I wonder how many tried, failed and gave up.  Because the school’s standard answer is that evening events / meetings are not well attended so they are not worth their while.  Is it the chicken or the egg. And more than anything else, what does that say to our daughters and sons about expectations of motherhood, careers, educators, participation in a community?

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