As a full-time father, I've spent many hours volunteering in my children's schools and serving on (or chairing) PTA committees. I've commented before on the relative absence of fathers in school, but an article in the current issue of Instructor magazine (written for elementary school teachers) does a better job than I ever could of defining the problem.
Kyle Pruett, a professor at Yale and a fomer keynote speaker at the Midwest Fathers Conference, is quoted as saying that "Many men, myself included, do not feel welcome in schools. There are no posters on the wall or magazines in the front office that make me feel like this is my place."
Why is this? "The schools say the fathers don't come because they're so busy, they're working," Pruett says. "And the fathers say, 'Nobody asks, of course I'd come.'"
Ron Klinger, founder of the nonprofit Center for Successful Fathering, says he faced resistance when he began running school-site fathering workshops in the 1990s. "We discovered that school teachers actually preferred to have mothers there rather than the fathers. Who knows why?" He provides the answer: "Schools are matriarchal."
For sure. Women outnumber men on PTA membership roles 9-1, and moms were nearly three times more likely than dads to volunteer at school. (In single-parent families, mothers were only slightly more involved than fathers.)
This father absence is a shame, because fathers' presence in schools can do wonders for kids. "We know that when fathers are positively engaged in children's lives, a lot of positive things happen," according to Pruett. "They are better behaved. They do better in school. They are less likely to use physical violence." Plus, children with fathers who are involved at school are more likely to get better grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and they are less likely to be disciplined.