The realm of the Parent-Teacher Association in Carroll County is still largely ruled by women. In fact, about 70 percent of the county's PTAs are led by female presidents.
But lately more men are making inroads into local PTAs, in Carroll and throughout Maryland. Both the state and national PTA offices view this as a happy development. Rightly so. It reflects the growing involvement of fathers in areas of their children's lives that formerly, and unfairly, were dumped in the laps of mothers. Changing diapers at 3 a.m., taking charge of visits to the pediatrician, leading shoe-buying expeditions and other duties once regarded as "women's work" are no longer viewed by most males with fear or disdain.
Now they want to help run the local PTA, too.
Cynics might attempt to explain this shift by noting that men have had little other choice than to get involved since more than half of American women hold down jobs outside the home. It's just as likely, however, that many men have realized that they ought to take more of a hand in the rearing of their children, not hTC simply out of fairness and responsibility but also out of a desire to get in on the fun and satisfaction of bringing up the kids.
Says Maryland PTA president Vicki Rafel, "This is a trend we're seeing statewide. We try to encourage this kind of diversity among our officers, in terms of gender and also ethnicity and race."
Do men bring anything different to the groups? A PTA official in Anne Arundel County answers, "Is there a difference between the way men and women think? Not to sound sexist, but I think the men tend to look at things in a more logical, reasoned manner, while women are more sensitive to the human side of things. But now all these elements are being tossed together. It's like a stew."
With more fathers offering their input, the schools will benefit. So will the PTAs, as this infusion of energy from new male officers complements the strengths that women have always supplied. By the same token, the men ought to learn a good deal from the experience, especially those who have rarely, if ever, worked with women at the upper levels of an organization.
And, the main beneficiaries will be kids, who can't help but reap advantages when both Mom and Dad take an active interest in their lives.