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Can we find agreeable ground when it comes to some of the issues that divide us? As we move beyond Week Four at the Capitol that question continues to dog me. I’ve learned that legislation, committee meetings, public hearings, and floor debate certainly don’t answer that question. In fact, the opposite often occurs. Lines get drawn; positions become hardened; and the verbal zingers become sharper. Is there another way? There might be but it surely comes long before the filing of legislation.

It begins with each of us recognizing we don’t all see the world the same way. And rather than focusing upon differences and winning, energy gets directed on offering hospitality, seeking to understand each other, identifying each other’s needs, and brainstorming solutions that meet all the identified needs. If you think it sounds like a lot of work, you’re correct. It’s not easy but it just might create something more than greater division.

This leads us to HF 9, “an act relating to parental and guardian consent and information regarding the gender identity of students enrolled in a school district or charter school”. From the emails I’ve received, I’m assured great difference of opinion exists in our community. I know I have one. And you probably do as well. And reflections of both of ours were certainly shared in subcommittee and committee meetings this week at the Capitol. But was any of it helpful? And will the legislation really solve anything.

As I continued to ponder this bill and its intention to recognize parental rights, I recognized my need for further input. I know what works for me, my family, and my values. And I have strong assumptions and suspicions about those who disagree with me. But are they correct? And even if we have value differences, is it possible to find an agreeable workable solution? I’m not sure, but I do believe it is worth the journey.

I met this week with some leaders from ACES 360 and Iowa Safe Schools to have a conversation, gain understanding, and brainstorm solutions. Regardless of the current legislative timetable, we’ve agreed to hold additional conversations with legislators to brainstorm. I’m not focused upon changing minds as much as brainstorming how we live together in our diverse world.

Will you help me (us) brainstorm. I’ve begun to identify some needs. Can you come up with some ideas that meet all the listed needs? The needs (in the beginning stages)…

– Respects parental rights and values

– Recognizes that children often seek out a trusted adult for advice

– Some children need a safe place to talk outside of their home.

– Diversity exists in homes, parental engagement, and family support.

– Parents have been entrusted with the primary responsibility for their children.

– Getting between parents and their children should be avoided except in extremely unsafe environments.

I don’t know if we can reach an agreeable solution for the issue HF 9 addresses. But I do believe the journey would be worth it. After all, it would take our eyes off each other and our differences and refocus them upon using those differences to create what is best for our kids. I’m idealistic and I’m not ready to give up. I hope you are as well.

Author: Jon Dunwell


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