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Guest Blog: Finding Common Ground in Support for our Children

posted on August 23, 2017 by

“In the vast diversity of our plurality, how will we share identity? Perhaps, we’ll find our common ground in our earliest identities – as family members.”

 

 

 

Results from the Presidential election indicate we are experiencing some division in our united states. Nearly half the population favored one party and nearly half the other. Where will we find common ground on which to build our shared future? In the vast diversity of our plurality, how will we share identity? Perhaps, we’ll find our common ground in our earliest identities – as family members.

Fathers Building Futures is an economic development initiative for fathers demonstrating professional promise. Fathers are trained in auto detailing, power washing and woodworking. The project is inspired by men who have, and who will continue to, overcome obstacles in order to succeed as providers for children and community.  The New Mexico Center for School Leadership and Learning Alliance New Mexico invited a group of fathers from Fathers Building Futures to participate in a focus group to inform the local plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal policy which replaced No Child Left Behind. About ten of us sat around a table at Fathers Building Futures and we talked about education.

We agree we want safety, high-quality services and pathways to prosperity for our children; for all children; for our nation.

We met with fathers on their lunch break. Many removed themselves from their woodworking stations to have a conversation about their sons and daughters. As we talked, I noticed hard-won experience in the wrinkles near their eyes, deep love in their voices as they spoke about their children and sawdust on their shoulders – resting next to the social responsibilities they carry daily as dads.

When we talk about the future of public education, or the future of our nation, I believe we agree more than disagree. And despite the division that is present in our country, the dads at Fathers Building Futures all seemed to agree. Here’s what they had to say:

  • For children to be academically prepared for life and the workforce, children need drive, communication skills, work ethic, respect, cultural competency and compassion
  • Children should have a positive attitude and the ability to get back up again when s/he gets knocked down
  • Important ways to know if a child is learning include: participation, one-on-one assessments by teachers and multiple tests to gauge growth
  • Schools can better support children by caring, encouraging better time management and organization, providing a career focus, giving attention to a child’s specific needs, connecting with families and offering holistic support

I don’t know their values, philosophies or political affiliations. I do know each of us share a role as a father. And from the shared role, we found common ground on which to build the future.

This was an important conversation for fathers – just as it’s important for mothers, siblings, educators, community members and business owners. It’s an important conversation because it asks us to create a shared narrative for things to come and how we will collaborate to support posterity.

We agree we want safety, high-quality services and pathways to prosperity for our children; for all children; for our nation. We agree on the “what” (often). It’s more difficult to agree on the “how.” How will we create safety, high-quality services and pathways to prosperity for our children? Various views emerge, many conflicting.

As a father of a 17 month-old daughter, I think about my hopes for how systems will support my daughter’s success. I agree with the bulleted points above and I saw eye-to-eye with most of the fathers on most of their comments. I don’t know their values, philosophies or political affiliations. I do know each of us share a role as a father. And from the shared role, we found common ground on which to build the future.

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