One Way SF Can Not Be Ferguson


First day of school. Remember it? You’re not happy to end your summer, but really, kind of excited to be challenged, see school friends and meet your new teacher. For us parents, we get jacked up too. And here in San Francisco, we get the advantage of having one of the highest achieving urban school districts in the country, but that’s not what pulls my strings. It’s when I look at our schoolyard, San Francisco characters – old and young - diverse, and talented, joining together in a public school community. It’s the kind of gathering that makes you feel proud or “orgulloso” of #goingpublic in San Francisco.

I’ve been working with Ashoka Changemakers on an #activatingempathy competition - it's the latest thing to hit our social change movement: the ability to see through others' eyes. Brain researchers tell us that empathy is actually an innate trait originating from way back when the human race was still stuck in caves; when being able to understand another's perspective was critical to our survival – is he dangerous or will he be an ally? 

Today, social change leaders like Ashoka’s Bill Drayton, point to the ability to “walk in someone else shoes” as critical to dealing with the major challenges we face in our world today – be it in climate change or world peace. And for our future leaders, their ability to understand others is essential to being an effective changemaker or successful entrepreneur.

That’s what our public schools in San Francisco have going for them. It’s a community, with its warts and beauties, where people with differences have to understand each other and come together to support our students.

I have watched my kids grow at Fairmount Elementary School for six years – and have seen how they have developed empathy for those around them at school. Their friend Juan has learning disabilities and few friends, another friend's grandparents take care of him, and John’s mom cleans our house. They see a parent community – made up of people like them, people different from them. They look up to a principal born in Mexico and directing their school. They have encountered distinct cultures, class values, and problems; this is what experts say that is #activatingempathy.

This is what I value so much in our public school community. I hope you’ll join us. #goingpublic.

Melissa Daar Carvajal