A Ripple in the Water

A Ripple

We get to be a ripple in the water.

I was asked an important question yesterday by a good friend: “Do you ever worry that your activism will result in retribution against your kids?”

The short answer to that question is, simply, yes.

As a dad, I worry about that every single time I post anything. I worry about it every time I ask a question. I worry.

So, why do I do it? If I’m doing it for my kids as I claim, why take the risk?

The answer is just as simple as the question: my kids, especially my boy, are being put at risk by the decisions of the leadership of this school district. The risk is already there. I didn’t bring it. I didn’t create it. It wasn’t the result of my actions.

My kids, their education, their future, their lives, were at risk before I asked a single question. They were at risk before I wrote a single word.

That’s the system that we have now.

But still I worry.

I worry about collateral damage every time I post anything, and believe it or not, I think about every word I post in that light.

I worry that my actions might hurt another human being.

I even worry that my actions might hurt those whom I believe are seeking to hurt my kids.

While I realize that what I’m about to say is often considered heresy in this town, I am a pacifist. I don’t believe in war. I don’t believe that we can help perfect our world by fighting each other.

Yes, I’m that radical, liberal, hippy, freak that you’ve been warned about.

I think that change, true change, comes as a result of communication, connection, understanding and love.

But love is not the same thing as subservience. Love is not obsequiousness as the Huntsville City School board seems to believe.

Love means standing up when necessary.

Love is risk.

Love is speaking for those who don’t have a voice.

Our kids don’t have a voice in this system.

Our teachers don’t have a voice in this system.

Our instructional aides don’t have a voice in this system.

Even parents, tax-paying parents, don’t have a voice in this system.

Only those who fully and vocally agree with the superintendent’s actions and decisions have a voice.

I’m not conceited enough (I am conceited, though, just not enough) to believe that I can be a voice for all of those people.

But I can be a voice for my voiceless son who struggles to ask for juice when he’s thirsty.

I can be a voice for my daughter when she wonders why she’s having to spend so much time taking tests when she could be reading another book or writing another poem.

For those two, I can and should be a ripple in the water.

Despite the risk from those who might further threaten children (or teachers for that matter) when a dad dares to ask a question that the leadership of the district doesn’t like, we get to be a ripple in the water.

Making waves for the sole purpose of making waves is useless. In fact, it’s dangerous. As such, I try hard to avoid waves for their own purpose. (I’m sure there are many who disagree with me on this. This isn’t an exact science; that’s why I invite those who disagree with me to speak up. It helps me keep a sense of perspective.)

Our district, however, doesn’t value questions, challenges, or disagreement. Our superintendent values command and control above all things.

Command and Control aren’t words of praise. They aren’t words of love. Control is stagnation. When waters are controlled, they die, and all those living in those waters die as well.

But a ripple breathes life into stagnate waters. A ripple repudiates command and control.

And we get to be that ripple.

Yes, I do worry everyday about retribution. But I worry more about living in a world that threatens dissent.

And so I do my best to make specific and intentional ripples because with our “get to” comes responsibility.

So I’ll be that ripple. Despite the risk. Despite the threats.

Because I love my kids.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who aren’t afraid to make a ripple in this world as we try to perfect it.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. It’s a valid worry. When I started my activism against the Huntsville City Schools and, specifically, Williams Middle School Principal, my kids were directly targeted by the staff and faculty. They were pulled out of class and scolded on their parents behavior. They asked if they were embarrassed about their father’s actions, etc. My kids said they were proud of their father and my daughter, a straight A student, suddenly started getting B’s.

    1. I think this administration is taking a more subtle approach. Dr. Wardynski was asked at the beginning of his contract if he knew of you. He said he did, and that what happened to you wouldn’t happen again.

      Anyway, as I said, they’re taking a less direct approach this time, perhaps.

  2. I love the metaphor. Thank you for saying what I feel so eloquently and passionately. The school system has a documented history of retaliation against parents and students who dare buck the status quo. I know all too well the lengths they will go to discredit those who dare be the ripple in the water.

    Imagine if Martin Luther,King, Jr and Rosa Parks hadn’t rippled the waters?

    Keep on rippling the waters my friend. We shall overcome someday. God is on our side. We are right and they are wrong.

    1. Don’t give me too much credit for the image, I completely stole it from Amy Ray!

      Thanks for all your support, RedEye. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.


  3. There should be many worries about retaliation by the school system here. When I first announced that I wanted to add to my practice the area of Special Education Law, a good friend, a former advocate, firmly told me “NO”, under no circumstances should I consider this while my children are students of HCS. She then told me story after story of instances of children that were retaliated against by not only HCS, but the surrounding systems once the parents became those ripples. Parents just become tired of dealing with the schools, or too scared, and refuse to do anything to stop them. Now that my oldest child has been removed from the system, and has actually started learning, no thanks to Casey (although I thought he was the only one that educated the kids!), I am beginning to rethink. My youngest can handle it, and if not, I will take him out of the school system too.

    1. What about those parents who can’t remove their children from the system? What about those children? I no longer have children in the system (thank God), but I can’t turn my back on those parents who do but don’t have the resources/courage to stand up for them. I want all children to have the same opportunities that my children had.

      Education is the HOPE of the republic.

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