A Few Good Men

Wanted: Gentle hands, big heart. Proven track record in potty training. Working knowledge of A.A. Milne characters. Competitive salary and benefits. Men only need apply.

As of last week, such ads became legal in Norway.

The oil-rich Scandinavian nation, long a champion of quotas and preferences in hiring of women, is promoting affirmative action for men.

Like many nations, Norway faces a dearth of men working in "women's jobs": day-care centers, preschool, primary school, and social services. Too few male role models for our boys, explained the minister of families and children.

It's not a problem exclusive to Norway. It's global. As this section noted a week ago, only 3 percent of US day-care staff are men. Just 15 percent of US primary-school teachers are men.

"It's critical that school systems make serious efforts to find more male teachers, especially at elementary schools where boys are first forming notions about gender-appropriate behavior," says William Pollack in his new book, "Real Boys."

Are there any male role models among your young son's caregivers or teachers? Have you ever hired a teenage boy to baby-sit?

If you owned a day-care center and a man and a women - equally qualified - each responded to your ad, which would you choose?

Picking a man would challenge me. I still associate nurturing skills with women, even though I've experienced gender prejudice. As a child-care attendant at church, I've had parents recoil at the idea of handing their infants over to me. They were only slightly reassured by my rsum as a father of two daughters.

Will Norway's solution work? I'm doubtful that cultural prejudices, low wages, and fear of child molesters can be greatly reduced by a law that promotes the hiring of men.

But give the Norwegians credit for taking a stand and attempting to correct the gender imbalance.

* We're home. Let us know how we're doing. Write to the Homefront Editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com

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