To an extent, I can relate to the disappointment of those Staten Island families who had their
school dance postponed last Friday. My daughter’s school had to postpone a dance, too. But our dance was a “Loved One and Me Dance,” and it was delayed due to snow. At Namaste Charter School, there’s a little piece of framed art at the bottom of the entry stairs, right before you open the door to the hallway and the main office. In the drawing, children of every ethnicity hold letters that spell the words, “Everyone Welcome.” That’s what public school is all about. It’s unfortunate that right-wing culture warriors appear to be just waking up to the decades-old shifts in family structure and gender roles that are
transforming the “Daddy-Daughter Dances” of yore into events like a “Loved One and Me” or “Amorcito y Yo” school dance. They apparently are also unaware of the realities of the 21st-century economy and the irregular and non-traditional work hours so many parents are juggling. In New York City, the New York Post has spent a week reporting on upset parents in Staten Island complaining that
district guidelines aimed to reduce sex stereotyping meant their father-daughter dance was postponed and could be changed into a more welcoming event for adults and children in any combination. The Post’s editorial board
weighed in, saying, “PC overzealousness wins again.”
At Our Dance, You Can Bring Whomever You Want and Be Whoever You Are
Is it overzealous to insist that a public school event welcome all members of the school community? I don’t think so. I think about some of the dads I have seen at our school’s family breakfasts, the ones who come in straight off an overnight shift. You can see them smiling through tired eyes, drinking a little coffee so they don’t fall asleep while their child’s class gives its cheer, but not drinking too much coffee. They’ll have to sleep soon so they can put in another late-night shift. Those dads won’t be at our “Loved One and Me” dance on Friday night later this month. But they aren’t bad dads. They’ll be working. My daughter’s dad will be one of those dads. If we had a father-daughter dance, I’d take her if she wanted to go. But she probably wouldn’t want to go. We would both feel weird. We wouldn’t feel like we belonged. People seem to be complaining that opening up an established father-daughter dance to a broader variety of adults and children ruins their tradition. Well, there’s nothing wrong with tradition. If a school parents’ association wants to hold a fundraiser that targets a particular subset of the school community, they can host the event in a hall or a church basement and set it up however they want. But it sends a terrible message to host a school-based event for young kids that has so much potential to exclude. It’s not just about questions like: What if your dad can’t make it, or what if you don’t have a dad? How about:
What if you’re a son who likes to dance?
What if you don’t define yourself as a son or a daughter because you don’t want to be boxed into categories like “boy” and “girl"?
What if you just want to be you?
That’s actually my favorite part of the title “Loved One and Me.” You can be whoever you are. And you can come with any grownup you love. I can’t wait to take my kiddo to the dance later this month. We’ll probably see at least one friend of hers in our shoes—coming to the dance with a single mom parent. I know we’ll see a whole family of five—mom, dad and biological and adopted kids. There will be lots of other families in lots of other arrangements. And whoever comes to our dance, everyone’s welcome.
Maureen Kelleher is Editorial Partner at Ed Post. She is a veteran education reporter, a former high school English teacher, and also the proud mom of an elementary student in Chicago Public Schools. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an associate editor at Catalyst Chicago, the go-to ...