(PORTLAND, OR) Tensions boiled over yesterday at Willow Glen Elementary School after Isabella Layton described her father’s occupation as “e-mailing” during a kindergarten class in which students were asked to describe their parents’ occupations.

Isabella’s father, IT administrator Kenneth Layton, was immediately called into the principal’s office to explain what exactly his daughter meant by the phrase. “I checked my phone a couple of times when I got home from work. It was a BlackBerry, so it was only ever e-mail. There were a couple of times when the server crashed and I needed to make a phone call, but that’s it. I swear!”

Principal Tyrone Gordon blasted Kenneth for his lax attitude to a fictitious occupation, “You call yourself a technologist, and sometimes an ‘engineer’. However, all you really do is send e-mails? What kind of a message do you think that sends to today’s young people? Do you think they can just breeze through school, skip college and suddenly find themselves in a well-paid job just ‘doing e-mail’? All day, just shuffling e-mails around the place? As a responsible educator, that’s not a dream we will be encouraging here.”

Gordon went on to question whether e-mailing was in fact a productive use of anyone’s time, “Just what does he think work is? He e-mails a couple of distribution list, opens a few e-mails, and if you’re lucky he even reads them. There’s a bit of forwarding going on. A zero inbox is a pipe dream for Kenneth. Why would you ever get paid for doing that?”

Most parents at Willow Glen have traditional jobs, with children understandably proud of parents who have followed time-honoured professions like medicine, nursing, and firefighting. Parents who identify themselves as “middle managers” have traditionally been ostracised at the elementary school, and the use of the term “IT” was the last straw for Principal Gordon. “Why can’t people do jobs that kids can understand? Even the slowest kindergarten pupil understands what a bus driver does. He drives a bus, and can be proud of that every single morning when he starts work. Don’t confuse the kids, IT and e-mails are not work.”

The condemnation of Layton’s so-called employment came from parents of all professional persuasions. Even Robert Drake, the father of Isabella’s best friend at school, described e-mailing as “not a legitimate occupation”. When quizzed about his own professional qualifications, he admitted that his own exotic dancing career was yet to take off.