There's one way in which our schools are more old fashioned than ever before, and that's in the demands they place on parental time. So great are these demands that they assume a world of families in which at least one parent has, at most, a half-time job. Furthermore, because our society remains sexist in its expectations of men's vs. women's availability for unpaid labor, the assumption is that it's the mothers who should be volunteering their time.
Some complain that the system preys on maternal guilt and that it creates a sense that a mother’s worthiness is measured in how many hours she puts in at her children’s schools. Under the headline “Just Say NO to Volunteering,” Sarah Auerswald, a former PTA president in Los Angeles, wrote in June, “What I am about to say is not very PC, so get ready: Moms, stop volunteering so much.”
As local and state economies continue to struggle, budget cuts to rich and poor school systems are increasing the reliance on unpaid parent help, The need is so great that some school districts, like a couple of specialty schools in Prince William County, Va., have made it mandatory to commit to a small amount of volunteer time, and others are considering it. In San Jose, Calif., one elementary school district has been discussing a proposal that the families of its 13,000 students commit to 30 hours of volunteer work during the year.