Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fathers and School

Last May, Grandma Texas came to visit during a school week. She came with me on a Thursday afternoon to pick up The Boy, The Girl and The Tot (Who Isn't) from school and her observation about life at the kids' urban elementary school struck me as odd: she was surprised to see so many fathers at school. She thought that this was perhaps a Chicago thing, but more recent news makes me think it's yet another sign of school success.

Perhaps it's because The Dad has worked from home since we moved to Chicago 9 years ago, or the acquaintance of a fair number of police officers and fire fighters (both male and female) and nurses, but a sizable population of involved fathers has never struck me as odd. And fathers at our school are involved. And more to the point, their involvement is visible and tangible, regardless of individual race, educational level, marital status, address, generation, age or socioeconomic status, fathers are very involved at our school. They drop off their kids, pick up their kids, attend parent-education events, lead fundraising, chaperone field trips, direct traffic, volunteer in class, read books, coach extracurricular sports and bring special activities (like the Pilot Light Chefs) to our school.

I've always taken this for granted, but it's actually anomalous in Chicago today. Per new CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard, such involvement is so rare in some neighborhoods as to be bizarre. In some areas of the city, in fact, according to Brizard, census data show that there are some neighborhoods where there are no males between the ages of 18 and 35 living there. They are all either incarcerated or dead, he said.

Although my father was not intimately involved in my early elementary years in the early 80s, I feel fortunate that I cannot really imagine a world bereft of dads.  And I thank goodness that my kids--and their classmates--do not have to either.

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