Donna, Mother of 3, Atlanta, GA
Imagine your daughters are now in their 30s - out of school and starting into adult life. What do you hope for them about their life? What would make a 'good' life?
A good life for them would be doing what they love. I think so many generations in the African-American community focus so hard on education in that you aren’t successful unless you are a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher. We put a lot of pressure on our kids to be those things, but I have a daughter who is an artist. So, even though she’s smart, she doesn’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer. For all my girls, I just want them to be happy. I want them to do what they love. I think if you do what you love, the love of learning will be enough, and you will be content with your life. If you do what you're passionate about, the idea of economics isn't as big because you're fulfilled in different ways versus thinking that money is the end all be all or the answer to everything.
Do you think that everyone agrees about this idea of a 'good' life?
Honestly, I don’t think so. I think a lot of people buy into this cookie cutter mold of what success is or what it looks like. Not to say that being a doctor or a lawyer isn’t an accomplishment, but that doesn’t necessarily equal a great life. If my daughter lived in Brownstone in New York and danced her whole life, I would be happy – if that’s what made her happy. I want her to be able to really just be an individual and find her passion.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving that idea 'good' life?
In a perfect world, I think every parent would want school to play a very big role because your kids spend so much time there. If you’re in a great school, you feel comfortable with the role they play in assisting in shaping who you kid will become. After you get home from school, there’s very little time that you have with your kids. If your child is spending most of their day in school, you want that environment to reinforce some of those things that you all are doing at home as well.
We put so much pressure on testing and grades and things of that nature versus teaching to the whole child - academics as well as a character and emotional learning. The most talented or articulate kids may not be the most academically astute kids. I think overall schools really harp on that. Everything is about the tests and the academic part, and they don't focus on what's meaningful for each individual child.