In focus-group interviews that I conducted, candidates enrolled at the most-selective education schools reported having been told, "You are too smart to become a teacher" and feeling as if "I would probably end up living in my parents' basement with my wife and children." On another occasion, even a foundation executive who worked in urban-school reform told of having to bite his tongue when his son, who attended a top college, announced with pride that he was going to become a teacher. The executive was about to say, "Is that all you are going to do after all the money we spent on your education?"I remember a print ad from quite a while ago, which must have been placed by the NEA. It showed an empty classroom and the line: "The sale is over." The "sale" was the cheap price society paid to hire teachers, back in the days when when other lines of work were closed or hostile to women and when women expected to receive lower pay. We've never really adjusted to the end of the sale on teachers, have we?
But beyond economics, I think it used to be much more ingrained in women that we should be unselfish and unmaterialistic. It was common to the point of mind-numbing triteness for girls, asked about careers, to answer, "I want to help people" or "I want to work with children" and, of course, "I don't care about money." Girls that didn't feel that way would disguise that fact, for fear of being thought not a good person. That's the way I remember it.