In just over two weeks, my daughter, Tate, will turn one year old. I have enjoyed fatherhood and fretted about the future. I walk through the halls of my school and observe young men and young women who have ventured through their life with varying degrees of success. I want Tate to expereince greatness.
As happenstance would have it, I discovered The New York Time's article "For Girls, It's Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too." Before Tate arrived, the notion of raising a strong daughter had not occured to me. And, honestly, the notion of raising a strong son had not occured to me either. But now that Tate has blessed my life, I am drawn to the importance of raising strong, confident girls who remain strong, confident women.
Sara Rimes, the author of the piece, reveals, "To spend several months in a pressure cooker like Newton North is to see what a girl can be — what any young person can be — when encouraged by committed teachers and by engaged parents who can give them wide-ranging opportunities." Nothing astoundingly insightful here, but an important reminder for parents and teachers, both of whom have an important effect.
Yet, I found myself thinking beyond my daughter as I read this article. I thought of the forty or so young women in my two Pre-College classes--young ladies on the verge of college. Have I been that committed teacher? Have those girls had engaged parents?
A second issue arose as I plodded through the article. Money. The article points out, and not for the first time, the effect that wealth has on education. The community that I teach in, doesn't come close to the median house price of $730,000. In fact, the median house price is just about $200,000. I have officially turned green with envy.
Not of their money--though I wouldn't turn it down. No, as an English teacher who loves good writing, great discussion, and students who get beyond the basics, I envy the teachers who get to experience students who want, and I mean want, to do well. Of course, I don't know if I have the qualifications to "hang" with these students. Most of their teachers "have degrees from the Ivy League and other elite schools." Poor me; I have one from the less prestigious Northwest University.
I don't want to come across as naive. Yes, every school will have pitfalls. Wealthy parents tend to belive that their wealth and education give them the right to tell teachers what to do, as demonstrated by one student's mother: "'As I’m sitting here saying I don’t care what kind of grades she gets, I’m thinking, she comes home with a B, and I say: ‘What’d you get a B for? Who gave you a B? I’m going to talk to them.’" But who am I kidding? Parents from all background do this.
However, I want to come back to the idea of strong girls, and specifically, I'd like to leave Tate a note:
The world is viscious. It will teach you that your appearance has more importance than your compassion; it will show you that cattiness trumps logic. The opportunities that you have resulted from the independent drumming of countless women who envisioned a society that values the feminine mystique for its strength and wisdom. Choose your path with the strength and wisdom those women have left you. Never let a boy or a man dictate your self-worth--not even me.
Some will tell you, "If you believe you can do it, you can do it." Don't believe them. You can only do it if you put the effort into learning what is needed, and then perform it at the acceptable level. But if you never master Chopin on the piano or the Diana Taurasi jumper on the court, understand that you are still important and valuable. Be compassionate, and you will be respected.