Sunday, October 11, 2009

Signe Wilkinson, Fatherlessness, and Schools

Signe Wilkinson (born in 1959 in Texas) is an editorial cartoonist best known for her work at The Washington Post and the Philadelphia Daily News. She was the first female cartoonist to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. She was served as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists from 1994-1995.

In one of her cartoons, published last September 29th (, on which she depicts a classroom where every student chair has been labeled with one of the causes of American school system failure, and the most prominent has been labeled with the word “Dadless”. The fact that such a mainstream voice points out fatherlessness as one of the factors of the current school system debacle (right now, the US schools’ performance compares to those of third world countries) is an achievement in itself, but that that voice points in as the most relevant, is a true accomplishment.

We teachers know (I was an elementary school teacher for nineteen years) that schools are microcosms of the communities and societies where they stand. It is true that fatherlessness is one of the main social sources of student failure at schools, it is also true that fatherlessness is one of the sources of failure in life for so many children who have been risen without their fathers.

Very recently, the Sundance Channel aired a five episodes series titled “Brick City,” on the current struggle to revitalize the once extremely vital, now extremely violent city of Newark. In one of the most telling scenes, a teacher, in a classroom full of high school boys, asked them to raise their hand if they had little or no contact with their fathers; the vast majority raised their hands.

There is an admonition in this: If we want our societies to fail, the only thing that we have to do is to remove fathers from the lives of their children. But if what we want is give our world a chance to succeed and survive, let us allow that fathers to be an integral part of the lives of their children.

We, the believers in joint custody, have already chosen what we want.

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