Should parents volunteer at affluent schools?
So a mother writes a blogpost saying that she is sick of volunteering at her sons’ school.
Not because she does it too much and nobody says thank you.
Because the school is relatively affluent and, thus, parents who volunteer in places like this are ignoring real social problems.
AND because schools requests for volunteers most often fall on women and thus are “cavalier about women’s time and worth.”
AND, she wrote, because it is “self-referential.”
Here’s a paragraph from the post:
“To judge by the number of appeals I receive, you would think my children are in desperate need of parental sacrifice. But they aren’t. We live in a fairly affluent suburban town where the median family income is slightly above $100,000. And yet I am constantly being asked to give my time to the school, to bring in food for countless celebratory festivals and chaperone everything from field trips to student-play rehearsals. Most of these unpaid volunteer activities, while seemingly well-intentioned, are, in fact, unnecessary make-work, designed to make us feel good about ourselves even as they allow us to ignore more significant social problems, like overcrowded and underfunded schools nearby but not in our neighborhood.”
Excuse me, readers, but please tell me what I’m missing.
Are parents supposed to excuse themselves from participating in the life of their child’s school because they are not poor?
Is it really self-reverential for parents to participate in field trips and other events that often require parental involvement--whatever school their child attends?
Is parental volunteering at school really taking people away from focusing on society’s most difficult problems?
At what point of neediness is it socially acceptable to volunteer at your child’s school?
Does it require a certain percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch because of family income (the common measure in public education for deciding who is needy and who isn’t.) Is the measure whether or not there is toilet paper in the bathroom?
For that matter, one wonders if Ms. Olen has opted to use the time she isn’t spending at her kids’ school helping poor kids somewhere else.
I am not one of the big volunteers at my daughters’ affluent private school. There are a number of other parents who are extremely involved in the daily life of the school--volunteering in the library, chaperoning field trips, sharing an expertise with kids, and, yes, organizing book fairs and other events to raise money to help needy kids afford to attend the school.
I believe they contribute to the school in important ways and I appreciate the work they do. While perhaps what they do isn’t as necessary as, say, spending time writing a blogpost to complain about being asked to volunteer, it seems nonetheless useful within the context of the school community.
Many of these parents, incidentally, also spend considerable time--professionally and personally--and money helping society’s less fortunate. They manage to help in school and in society.
The real issue is not, of course, the demands that schools put on parents in reasonably affluent schools.
The real problem are the schools where parents are absent in the lives of their kids or too uneducated themselves to give their children the start in life they need to succeed. If someone wants to talk about what we do about THAT, let’s have a conversation.
| January 7, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: Parents | Tags: volunteering in school
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