Not wrong

8 May

I wanted to follow up on my blog post yesterday to say:

Father-daughter dances are not “wrong” or “bad.”

It’s not that simple or clear cut. As economist Tyler Cowen says, “[J]ust imagine every time you’re telling a good vs. evil story, you’re basically lowering your IQ by 10 points or more. If you just adopt that as a kind of inner mental habit, it’s one way to get a lot smarter pretty quickly.”

True that, Tyler.

When I wrote that it’s unclear to me why schools would host an event that actively excludes some parents/guardians and children, I didn’t mean that I haven’t heard the reasons: an opportunity for fathers to bond with their daughters is certainly a nice notion. (One that I would hope doesn’t require an event to happen.) And tradition is an understandable rationalization, although lots of things have been traditional that I wouldn’t endorse continuing, like denying women the right to vote, prohibiting same-sex marriage… you see where I’m going with this.

What’s unclear to me is why a school, which is more often than not an organization that strives for inclusion and equity (see anti-bullying initiatives and other programs like Acceptance Week) would host a Father-Daughter dance. And this is where it gets interesting: at the three schools I know of that offer this kind of dance, it’s organized by parents/guardians (usually the parent/guardian organization affiliated with the school). And thus, it’s considered “their” business by the school, operating somewhere beyond the inclusion and equity values that the school is striving to implement in its curricula and programs.

This is not to say that the parents/guardians aren’t striving for equity and inclusion. Just that they may not have the awareness and understanding to discern what the school means by equity and inclusion, or the language and skills to stand up when something is unfair or exclusive to members of the community (especially when other members of the community seem perfectly content with the status quo).

Because volunteerism is vital to the life of most schools I’ve worked with, I believe volunteers, as agents and representatives of their schools, need education and guidance. It’s not that parents/guardians can’t have their own definitions of equity and inclusion. In fact, it can only enrich the education of students to have to discern values that are a continuous challenge to live by, instead of thinking all they have to do is memorize a “how to” manual. Knowing what the school’s values mean in practice–in the programs the school offers and how the school goes about its daily business–provides a forum for parents/guardians, students and employees to hone their own understandings and work collaboratively through a shared, even as it is diverse, vision.

And then we can talk about how a Father-Daughter dance does and does not fit a school’s culture, educational program and aspirations for students and for society.

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