As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., my mind goes to the topic of education.
Over the years I’ve studied the life of Dr. King—and I sometimes imitate his voice and his cadence. I know that his father was a huge influence in his life, especially when it came to education. Martin Sr. really pushed his children educationally, and Martin Jr. finished high school at age fifteen and went to college. There he was very intentional about getting the education he needed to live out his calling; later he was able to do what he did largely because of his educational background. Many times he was honored or asked to participate in an event because people saw that he was smart and capable.
Even when I was a kid, the dominant theme I heard in the African American community was: get education. We knew it was something valuable that no one could take away.
As I grew older, “I had a dream” of playing big-time football in a Division I program and then the pros. I eventually learned that going to class was a very important part of that dream, and it was reinforced again when I messed up my knee and had to pursue a different dream. That’s when I really grasped the importance of getting an education. It has equipped me to reach for even bigger and better dreams.
Thanks to Dr. King and others, all people have much greater opportunities for a quality education. But in today’s culture, I fear there’s a different tragedy taking place: this tremendous asset is too often taken for granted. Some don’t even value the privilege of getting an education, which people were struggling so hard for years ago.
I guess it’s no surprise that American students continue to fall behind their foreign peers in academic achievement. We’re not doing our best in this area, and I believe we have to be more intentional educationally.
There are many different ways to address this issue, and involving fathers is one great one. Research has shown that parental involvement contributes significantly to a child’s success in school, and this is particularly true when fathers are involved in their kids’ education, demonstrating through words and actions that education is very important.
Dads, we have to take a leading role in encouraging our children in their education. Don’t buy into the notion that they’ll do fine if they just get by. There are so many benefits to a good education, and maybe the best one is the process itself—growing from the challenges and experiences along the way.
In our culture today, technology has brought our children some great shortcuts, but they are not substitutes for the greatness and the depth of the process of learning. And so many people want to “make it big” and find instant success and fame—and get paid, of course—without paying their dues.
Every night after dinner, my wife and I try to read a little bit with our teenage son. Sometimes he tries to skip out, but it’s important to us. We know he is being positively shaped by both the wisdom he’s reading and the practice of making that time a priority.
See the Action Points below for some specific ways you can be more active in your children’s educational pursuits.
ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey
- If you don’t already, check in with your kids every night about their homework. Clear some time and be ready to jump in and help with the spelling list or science project if necessary.
- Let your family members see you reading—a lot. Make it a habit to talk with them about something you’ve been reading lately.
- Of course, one great way to be more involved is to volunteer a day at your child’s school through our WATCH D.O.G.S. program. Find out more or learn how to start a program at your child’s school.
- Check in with your child every month or so about how he’s feeling about school in general, including challenging subjects, friendships and other involvements.
- Ask your child, “What is your dream?” Then talk about how a good education will help prepare him for that—or another direction he may choose later on.
- Ask your children about what they’ve heard at school about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Talk about other information you may know and why he’s an important figure in our nation’s history.
We want to hear from you. How are you making a difference in your kids’ educational pursuits? Please join the discussion below or on our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.