HANK RUBIN | GUEST COLUMNIST
I wear this lapel pin every time I put on a sport coat. It holds great meaning for me … and maybe, when you learn a bit about it, it will for you, too.
I designed it in the 1990s and have worn it ever since. Here’s what it’s intended to represent:
The little red wagon not only harkens back to our own childhoods, but – more importantly – reminds adults of the responsibility we all share to find the best way in which we can each contribute to the well-being and education of today’s children. As a symbol, it encourages you to accept the job of getting other grownups to pile into the wagon and then to reach back, grab the handle and pull everyone along in aligned support of children’s learning and well-being. This is what we should expect of grownups and of leaders; and not just of education’s leaders.
The “tboc” on the wagon stands for “The Benefit of Children,” the criterion we each should use to guide us in daily decision-making: for turning left in the morning, or turning right; for voting for or against a candidate or a bill; for trusting or attacking a corporation or a public leader. For the big decisions as well as the small ones.
Right now, Rochester needs a reminder that our priority should always be “The Benefit Of Children.”
In the midst of loud debate in Rochester around what we should do with our public schools, we hear resignation, anger, suspicion, and only scattered statements of hope. I have friends on all sides of the positions we’re hearing…some arguing for takeover, some for elections, some for charters, magnets, community schools, state boards, metropolitan boundaries, and some for the status quo. Nearly every one says that this should be a discussion about children, but then proceeds to defend adults’ behaviors or attack adults with suspicions.
There may be no community issue more worthy of debate than what to do with our schools; so let’s make our debate constructive.
It isn’t all that complicated. We’ve all seen how simple organizing principles – like “It’s the economy, stupid!” or “Show me the money!” – make it easier to agree on what’s important and what our priorities should be. In this case, our principle should be the benefit of children. If you can think of a better one for this debate, please share it!
Otherwise, every position argued should be weighed against a series of simple questions related to TBOC: What will be its benefits for children? What, if any, will be its costs for children? How will your strategy achieve those benefits? And then provide some data or other validation to credibly affirm that your strategy is likely to achieve those benefits?
Let’s rule out sweeping bromides like “democracy is good” or “change is necessary.” We all know these are true. In this debate over The Benefit Of Children the lines between what we say and what we do must be short (because our children demand urgency) and strong (because the outcomes will affect children’s lives).
Hank Rubin, PhD, is with Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, a board member of The Children’s Agenda, and retired vice president of Rochester Area Community Foundation.