With the new economy comes not only new captains (hopefully lady captains) of industry, but new tenders of hearth, home, and rowdy carpools to tee-ball practice — dads. As more women earn advanced degrees and tackle high-powered, time-consuming jobs, and more recession-dazed men two-step around their homes to the slow drone of Sportscenter, dads are taking a more active interest in their children's education, which in New York includes turning the school PTAs into mini-nonprofit organizations capable of strong-arming public officials for new swing sets or baking cupcakes for a bake sale with the efficiency of an outsourced factory.
According to a 2009 study by the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and the National Center for Fathering, 590 out of 1,000 fathers surveyed said they attended school parent meetings, up from 470 out of 1,000 a decade earlier when men were men and neglected their children to go bowling like Fred Flintstone. Fathers like 43-year-old Juan Brea — who insists that he's "not into baking" as if one of his testicles would disappear if he ever donned an apron — are at the vanguard of male-led PTAs, which, according to Brea, run like small business, something he knows a thing or two about since by day he is the chief operating officer at a small nonprofit.
On the whole, PTA members welcome the increased participation of fathers. A 1997 study for the National Center for Education Statistics concluded that children whose fathers were more involved in school were more likely to stay in school, do well, and, shock of all shocks, enjoy themselves while there. Some men, however, feel excluded from the insular world of bake sales and field trips, and feel pressure to assure female-dominated PTAs that they're not corporate assholes trying to fill the void in their lives that their job at Lehman Brothers left when it evaporated, as well as stave off the creeping suspicion that their most productive years are behind them.
Ever since Caesar Michael Bloomberg's 2010 decree establishing NYC Dads, a 14-agency initiative aimed at getting fathers more involved with their kids' schooling, there has been a surge in male PTA leadership in the city, and even though PTA women have praised their new male counterparts for bringing a fresh perspective to PTAs, some note that dads can get a little too intense. Among gripes about male treasurers who talk fiscal policy as if they were running a hedge fund or decide that now, on the eve of a hectic book buy, is the best time to start a devisive argument about school politics, some women have noted that, while men are eager to strategize about ways to get $150,000 worth of new white boards, they're not so eager to do some of the grunt work, such as curling ribbon on silent auction baskets.
Getting fathers involved in their kids' education is great, but do schools really need a new class of PTA "visionaries" trying to play business titan in the public school system?
What's New at the PTA, Dad? [NY Times]
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