In the Media

 A sign
of parental success is watching your children do greater things than you ever
dreamed of. A couple of weeks ago I postedan
interview with my daughter Claire
about her social work and teaching of family
counseling in Pokhara, Nepal.

Now it’s
my son Ian Willey’s turn to take the spotlight. Dean of KIPP
Washington Heights Middle School
in New York City, Ian combines his passion
for children’s education with artistic talent—specifically, love for words, rhyme,
and rhythm. Since his own high school days in Louisville, he has been
developing as a hip-hop writer and performer, mentored by our good friend John McClure,
who runs Jonymac
out of his home in Nashville. Ian (or I.C.Will,
or Mr. Willey) is assembling a new album to come out this April, and has produced
his first music video.

video features his song “Bored of Education,”
performed along with others in the education and hip-hop community of New York
and 66 energetic fifth and sixth graders.

taught writing for many years, and as a dean he now specializes in character

Ian and his beautiful spouse Leyla, also a middle school dean

education, so
crucial to learning. Early development of self-discipline and focus have been
found to be better ingredients for success in school than the much-touted I.Q.
and other test scores. KIPP’s motto, “Work hard; be nice,” sums up what Ian and
the teachers he works with model and teach: both responsibility for oneself and
kindness toward others. But helping children develop such character qualities
is only half the challenge. Ian uses his music to articulate to the rest of us the
larger societal issues of education, poverty, opportunity, and creative potential.

learn so much from my own kids and the bold ways they put themselves forward. When
I submit to telephone radio interviews, as I did this morning, and cooperate in
publicizing Inhabiting Eden at times when I had rather be alone in my
study writing, I remember that the larger goal is not my own comfort, but
rather, alongside Claire and Ian and so many others, giving back to a world
that has given so generously to us.

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