Monday, March 31, 2008

Dismantling Neighborhoods

Children are entitled to good schools, whatever, you take good to mean. It's a function of your expectation and your socio-cultural environment in which case schools are neighborhood entities. There was a time when children could not wander across school districts. Besides keeping education cost down, that policy ensured, though unintentionally I am sure, that there remained a connection between schools and their communities. We knew the teachers and the teachers knew the parents and the children. They went to the same church, rode on the same buses and each knew where the other lived. The teacher was everything to everyone in the community. It was easy to ask about the children and how they were doing at school, often in casual-on-the- phone or by-the-street conversations. We knew instinctively, it seems, that the school was the gateway to society. It was there the next generation was nurtured, taught and socialized how to live with, share with, work with and look out for their peers in society and it became easy because they lived on the same street, or three streets down or around the block. They met at church, at school, in the park, on the streets. School was a natural extension of that camaraderie. Getting along amid looking out for each other came naturally it seems until vouchers and charters came along worsening what was already going bad (Could gangs have been a response to the school-community relations demise or a deepened manifestation of efforts to resist that shift?). I am nt sure but that was me thinking aloud on that last question. By removing students from their neighborhood schools and commuting them like refugees, we have effectively dismantled them from their neighbors and destroyed whatever connections they had. This movement creates the first step in alienation and in the disruption of the very values that are essential to communities in the face of crises, emergencies and disasters. Coordination, Communication, Collaboration and Cooperative are relational conceptions. They best exist and come natural in environments where relationships among individual are held intact and schools have a remarkable way of building and maintaining relations. This is why sororities and fraternities are so powerful. They are the creatures of schools and powerful manifestation of the relational debates. School are not just places for learning and education, they are the basis of community relations and construction. It is in schools societal values are passed on. They are the building block of society. This is one reason why the contestations surrounding education can be so intense and animated. So next time you are offered a dollar to take your child across town or someone sets up a charter as a carrot of academic options or excellence ask them to give the dollar to your child's existing school or build the charter in your community. Because, when it the time comes to work together as neighborhoods and communities, it should not surprise you to find your children are across town if your accept that dollar or send them off to a charter.

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