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Are Women in the Workforce the Cause of declining Educational Achievement?

Work Ethic is the Key to Education

A few days ago Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant ignited a heated debate by claiming that standards in education have declined in line with women returning to the workplace.

Speaking during a televised panel discussion, Republican Governor Bryant quickly realized his controversial remarks would cause a backlash from those who oppose his views, but he stood by his claims.

He pointed out however that he was not trying to blame working women for children's declining education.

In response to a question asking why American children's test results had become 'so mediocre', he told the panel, hosted by the Washington Post: 'Both parents started working, and the mom is in the work place. That's not a bad thing. I'm going to get in trouble. I can just see - I can see the emails tomorrow. But now, both parents are working. They're pursuing careers. It's a great American story now - that women are in the work place.'


He went on to say that he didn't believe it was the mother's place to teach children to read, but said that before women started working, there was a 'loving, nurturing  opportunity' and both parents had a more time to devote to the family.

Equal opportunities for women began notably in the 1950s and 60s. The struggle for women to be accepted as equal in the workplace is epitomized in the successful TV series Mad Men, set during this period.

Prior to this the traditional role for women was to act as the matriarch, to be the mother and home-maker, cook and cleaner and to keep the house in order.

What are we to make of Governor Bryant’s comments? Do they ring true? Are they discriminatory against women? Are they naïve? The answer is ‘all of the above.’

There is no doubt a two working parent family can harm a child’s educational development. Some kids are left home alone and undoubtedly choose not to study but, instead, play video games or interact with their smart phones, tablets, computers, and so on. But it goes much deeper. Kids are not brought up with the work ethic required to have the discipline to complete homework before turning to different forms of entertainment.

It’s a work ethic and discipline problem and dads are as much to blame as moms. A strong work ethic is difficult to develop even though both parents might be working full time to financially support the family and, therefore, exhibit a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic comes from a strong sense of ethics, and that is where the problem lies.

Kids are not taught to act responsibly and there are little or no consequences for actions. Kids believe they are entitled to have certain things and have them their way. Basic standards of behavior do not exist anymore in society.

The pursuit of excellence is the underpinning of virtue ethics. It is clear, at least to me, that we no longer are a society that values the pursuit of excellence for its own sake.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on June 11, 2013