But not for the reasons you suggest. See, some of us have the luxury of staying home with our kids. But we do without a lot of frills. But a lot of us don’t have the option of not working. Because the cost of living in the United States is outrageous. So we need to work for things like food and housing.
When I was working with people who are homeless, we quoted a pretty sad statistic about the amount of time someone working a minimum wage job had to work to afford an apartment. Since the required working hours was so outrageous it usually meant more than one adult working a few jobs to survive. Logically, women need to work in that environment. (The minimum wage has changed, housing prices are higher, so I’m not going to guess what the actual figures are at this point.)
Before that job I worked at a childcare center in a fairly affluent community. The childcare center catered to children in need who would be attending the local elementary school for kindergarten. Imagine my surprise when we visited with the kindergarten teachers about school preparedness and were handed a list of things the parents were expected to teach their children before they entered school: count to 100 and read a few words were the ones I’ve never forgotten.
Seriously? We tried explaining to the teachers that these parents didn’t have the means or the time for these things (many parents didn’t speak English and were working multiple jobs). Instead of being sympathetic, they were disdainful. Which pretty much sums up my opinion of the entire educational system in our country.
At a time when more women are working, schools have decided that parental involvement is mandatory for the teaching portion of education. Gone are the days when kids spend the day memorizing times tables and learning phonics. Instead, they are whipped into algebra and sight words before the basic foundation is laid for learning. Where kindergarten was once a transition for a child from no school to school, it has turned into a full-day frenzy to catch up with the rest of the world.
Instead of doing things like learning and discussing topics, the curriculum at my kids’ elementary school was based on getting good scores on the ISATs. Good God, achievement tests are supposed to be measures of what a child has learned, not be the entire basis of an educational system! But that is what has happened when every school and every teacher is judged on the scores of the children in their midst.
More moms work, so let’s pile on more homework so we can catch up to other nations. Good idea when mom and dad work and come home to cook, clean, parent, and supervise homework. And let’s make most of the homework busy work because there are mandatory homework time requirements for each day. Oh, and let’s not forgot to give first and second graders homework. Nothing builds a love of learning like having over-stressed mom and dad scream at you for not writing your spelling words out five times each fast enough.
Of course, busy work doesn’t mean just silly worksheets night after night. What about the plethora of projects? How many landmarks does a school really need? My personal favorite was the Halloween night homework. Yes, after taking your kids out to trick or treat, you were expected to sit down to help them sort candy and count it. That was always such a fun time with kids strung out on sugar!
Or pasting 100 Cheerios to a piece of paper for the 100 days of school celebrations. Food waste. Paper waste. Waste of time.
So, you see, Governor Bryant, you can blame all the working mothers that you want, but that won’t fix the fundamental problems with an educational system that doesn’t know what it’s doing. I know the politicians want to think that the never-ending rounds of testing will solve the problems; instead they feed them. By taking the fun and adventure out of learning, we are doomed. Instead of working with families to make everyone’s lives easier, teachers are panicking and sending home outrageous amounts of homework. Probably because the time they would like to spend actually teaching kids has been replaced with test prep.
It’s a vicious circle, and won’t be solved by blaming the people who are just doing their best to survive. Moms have enough guilt for working or nor working, thanks for adding a little more to their plates.