Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unintended Consequences From the Women's Movement

Almost everyone would agree that US Public schools today are in educational disarray. Test scores are down, employers are complaining about the lack of basic skills of new-entrants in the work force, and great universities are having to offer remedial reading courses to newly admitted students. I would like to offer a rarely mentioned contributing factor to this unfortunate situation (culled from the 'Unintended Consequences' list of social growth): the success in the last 40 years of the Women's Movement.

When I was a boy going to public grammar and high school, the majority of my teachers were middle aged women, mostly married, extremely experienced; they were willing to work for relatively modest wages for a prolonged period of time because it was a second income. (Their husbands were the primary income earners in the family.)

Moreover, women of that generation who wished to work had primarily three choices: to be teachers, nurses or secretaries. The glass ceiling in the general economy was low to the ground for woman; and even worse, there was a glass wall surrounding it. For many educated women, teaching seemed the best choice: it offered shorter hours, public respect and proximity to home (most teachers came from the cities and neighborhoods where their students lived); they could attend to their family duties as well as go to fulfilling work. Many wonderful and wonderfully (for the students) overqualified women became the great corps of teachers that raised the IQ of the post WWII generation.

Today, that same wise, experienced, knowledgeable work force is for the most part gone. Those women who were our teachers yesterday are now working in banking, the law, medicine, etc.

Of course thank God these social and economic gains have occured for women: but like all things in life, it has come at a price: the lessening of the available pool of highly talented and qualified teachers for the US public schools. The free educational lunch on women's workforce limitations is over. (By the way, the same is true among predominantly black schools: the best and the brightest black intellectuals who used to teach in inner city public schools and colleges are now also lawyers, doctors, businesspeople, etc.)

"What God giveth; God taketh away."

I'm afraid the 1960s and 1970s social movements for freedom for women and blacks did not factor the 'Unintended Consequences' of this teaching talent shift...and therefore did not make the necessary now-competitive-with-the salary adjustments to keep a high-level teaching work force in place. Instead the school systems (and the electorate who put the school boards and Mayors in place) continued to offer 'a-second-income-salary' to teachers; which of course logically left the talented people who could demand--and get--much more in the general marketplace to leave the school system.

You pay for what you get. That was a rule I and many of our generation grew up with: When a society chooses (rightly and properly) to no longer enslave people in any particular social, economic and political form, it must accept that that social freedom comes at a short term social cost: many benefits formerly attained in that system--absent social repression--will be lost (in the case I'm speaking of: great teachers at low cost). Slavery is not illogical; it is highly beneficial in the short term to the Masters.

And if that society wishes to continue to reaping its former benefits at the previous high level (in this case, highly trained, no-where-else-to-go teachers of the 3Rs: 'reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic') IT HAS TO PAY OR IT HAS TO PAY: it needs to offer higher wages for the now-free women and black /teacher-workers--and all other teachers, for that matter. Or, if it doesn't pay in dollars and cents, it will pay in another fashion; the continuing dumbing down of the US public school system.


Blogger sonofagun said...


1:19 AM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

Thanks for your positive comment. And--addressing your email--thanks for watching and enjoying the Gunsmoke episode.

12:18 PM  

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