When I was young, my parents taught me that we would not be able to change the world if we can not solve the problems in our house or in our neighborhood. If we can not solve the problems that happen in the living room or across the street, how will we change the problems happening across the ocean?
Working with children and youth in a variety of capacities since I was 14, including as a teacher, counselor, organizer, and advocate, I’d come to understand the inherent ability of young people to change the world. As a friend to many parents, I also saw the roles of mothers and fathers in raising children who had the ability to change the world. Between those two primary views, I’d also studied the roles of youth in society in college and did graduate work focused on education. I’d also completed a significant statewide action research study for a state education agency focused on increasing the ways students connected to each other, their educational environments, and the things they were supposed to learn in schools.
Through those experiences I began to understand that my own experience raising kids would focus on changing the world. This would happen through example, conversation, and enacting different forms of social change in my household.
I’m writing today to report that my studies go well.
Intentionally striving to ensure her critical engagement, righteous compassion, and deep knowledge of the world she lives in, at the age of nine my daughter is committed to changing the world around her.
However, this might not be apparent to an outside, quick observation. Depending on the viewer, an outsider may see a curiously imaginative personality whose empathetic knowledge melds well with her interpersonal skills.
From my own view though, that of the (obviously biased) ground-level scientist I am, I will offer this: Through intentional design but without shoving it down her throat, my daughter exhibits a deep understand of injustice and intolerance in the world around her. Her high degree of intuitive empathy has been nurtured through in educational environments where her skills, ability, and knowledge have been grown through design and deliberation. When those haven’t been present, my daughter has been given new opportunities that do meet those goals. At home, she’s exposed to an array of stories, songs, and other opportunities that allow her to interact substantively, meaningfully, and deeply with the notion of changing the world. She is constantly encouraged to share her most critical conceptions and imaginative responses, along with her pragmatic conception of the world she wants to live in.
While she doesn’t wear dreadlocks or wave picket signs, raising my daughter in this way has shown awesome results. She has developed a deep compassion without denial; understood complex situations without shying away from them; and started to create her own uniquely powerful vision of the world as it is, and as it could be.
In the meantime, my life has changed too. I have come to understand the necessity of personal engagement, and I see now the need for the transition of generations to ensure ongoing transformation in our world. As I have grown to create more and better things with my hands, I have seen the need for things to get better and better. Shift happens.
So long as I live, I will never stop being this young woman’s dad. I’ve always said that’s my most important job, and that will always hold true. I believe anyone can do this, with design, hope, intention, and action. It’s just like changing the world, one kid at a time, because it is changing the world. There’s nothing greater that a parent can do.