No bourgeoisie institution makes me want to lock arms with my proletariat brethren and forcibly seize the means of production from the soft, plump hands of our capitalist overlords quite like the Parent Teacher Association otherwise known as PTAs or PTOs .
Their reasons for existing and means of sustaining themselves are entirely dependent of systems and structures that perpetuate inequality.
What are you talking about Stumped Mom? The PTA strengthens our communities and schools by promoting parental involvement at our schools and brings much needed resources and interest on to our campuses.
Stumpers I can’t blame you for taking this perspective, because this is entirely what society wants you to think and I’m pretty sure it’s what makes those self righteous PTA board members look down their noses at us barely making it schleppers. Mom’s like me who are lucky if they get their kids to before-school care with clean faces each morning, let alone make it aross town after work to make the monthly PTA by 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday are the famous objects of PTA mom disdain. I will confess, my own personal laziness makes me resent their industriousness. However, there is more to my beef with the PTA than simple personal envy.
But stumped Mom, our schools are chronically underfunded, there is insecurity in staffing, and the teachers are underpaid and parental involvement at school helps kids to succeed.
I do not contest those points but let us and take a more critical eye and ask some crucial questions. When we do we find the classist, racist patriarchal and capitalist structures that buttress these groups are easily laid bare
What makes for a good PTA?
Parents with organizational skills and spare time A Community with Resources and Capital Relationships and Connections between those parents and the people with the Capital
All of these critical components more abundant in more affluent communities, which thanks to the well documented racial income gap in this country, are overwhelmingly white. PTA participation is also a ladies game, with Mom’s far outnumbering Dad’s in participation. So the pressure to join and support the PTA weighs heavily on women adding to their emotional labor burden and straining marriages.
Don’t just take my word for it. Reports show that PTA fundraising contributes to the achievement gap, that has been well documented, between white and affluent neighborhoods and communities with less resources. And even in diverse or well integrated schools white parents hold a disproportionate influence over decision making.
Cross sections factors that make for successful PTA’s allow affluent mostly-white, people to perpetuate the privilege of their children over that of others. And most of this happens on the barely recognized volunteer efforts of women.
If your a parent with a kid in school you likely understand the pressure to join the PTA. I get invitations in the school newsletter every week. Parents pressure each other into pouring time, money and energy into stop gap measures meant to fill in the holes created by and tragically unequal public education system. Many of us visit our schools and see run down facilities, stressed staff, and outdated materials. We want to do whatever we can to help our children. But shouldn’t we be talking about campaigning against the policies that undermine funding and support for public education? Nobody talks about this at back to school night or in the school newsletter. Instead we are treated to constant plugs for more PTA volunteers and lend special thank you’s to those lovely PTA Mom’s (sorry Dads the stats show this is a ladies game).
In a more just society we would stop valorizing the systemic hoarding of privilege through support of Parent Teacher Associations.
But those PTA invitations won’t stop. So what’s a woke parent to do? The next time a PTA pusher approaches me on the school yard. Here is what I’m saying:
“No thanks I’m going to invest what little spare time I have in direct involvement in the classroom and any spare resources I have will be dedicated to campaigns for just and equal schools,” but I’m also gonna wait till my daughter is ready to start our daily foot-race home before I shout “DOWN WITH THE PTA” as I flee the scene. For PTA Moms are as brutal as they are industrious and I’m not hanging around for a beating.