Reflecting on priorities of family & work

Social Justice – The Flip Side of Advantaging Our (Affluent) Kids

Let me start by saying that I do not feel “white guilt” for providing opportunities for my kids in where we have chosen to live (the burbs), the money and time we invest on their extra-curricular activities, nor the expectations we set for them in our home. Still, my last post on Advantaging My Kids got me to thinking about another aspect of my life – work. I’ve worked for over 20 years on issues of educational equity and closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for under-represented students of color in urban schools as a teacher, administrator, executive director of a nonprofit, currently a senior role at another nonprofit, and also as a volunteer and active board member at an amazing charter school in Oakland.

It is not lost on me that the more I do for my kids the further the gap expands for other kids who do not have the money for, knowledge of, or access to the systems that traditionally allow education to be the great equalizer in America. So the question on my mind is “How do I rectify this disconnect between home, work, and community?” I’ve held steadfast to several things in my life since having kids. These things seem to focus on my kids individually and the larger educational system as a whole and the inequities our society creates.

  1. I do not donate money to my kids’ school. Donated money includes voting NO on any and all parcel taxes our district tries to pass. Robert Reich, former Secretary of the Labor under Bill Clinton, expresses my views on the issue of supplementing tax-payer money with even more tax-payer money specifically for affluent school districts in his piece Back to School and Widening Inequality and posits a rising tide lifts all boats solution here. My kids and their peers in our community don’t need charity. I invest additional money in my kids’ education, but do so through after school and summer activities. Another part of the equation is that we don’t have limitless money. I want our charitable giving to count for kids who need it and the money we invest in our own kids to be targeted to their specific needs and likes.
  2. I do not volunteer at my kids’ school either. I don’t see volunteering at the school as advantaging my kids. Maybe parent volunteerism helps students in the school at large but what I see it do in my kids’ school is make their teachers’ and administrators’ jobs easier. That’s not to say I’m not involved in my kids’ education – just not at their school. Time is a resource and donating my time is just like donating my money.
  3. I do donate money to education and volunteer at schools (Lighthouse Community Charter Schools) as well as informally working with many other schools and educators in them. Those schools are all in under-served communities with large populations of students living in poverty.
  4. My work will almost always certainly exist in a mission-driven organization focused on closing the educational opportunity and achievement gaps I am helping to create with my kids. I enjoy this work and am extremely passionate about it. Perhaps this passion bleeds into my beliefs about what I should or should not be doing with my kids’ school. It’s hard to compartmentalize this part of my life.
  5. I want to help my kids to understand the complex issues inherent in systemic classism and racism. They’re still a little young to truly grasp this but I’m hoping that talking openly about it with my kids at their level and setting an example goes a long way. This will probably be the biggest challenge for us as parents. Truth be told, my parents have no social justice orientation – very much the opposite. They openly wonder where they went wrong with me.

Even though I have worked in schools for a long time, I didn’t truly understand a lot of these issues until I had my own kids and until they reached school-age. My thinking is continuing to evolve and what I do feels right to me. What feels right for you?

One comment on “Social Justice – The Flip Side of Advantaging Our (Affluent) Kids

  1. RC
    May 4, 2015

    I see you Rob. Fantastic my man, and honest. I feel equally the same way.


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