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Fri, 29 Jun 2012

Local Community Schools

Comment to Diane Ravitch's Blog

Choice to have a wonderful neighborhood school is both a worthy goal and a potentially troubling one. Local control does not have a perfect record.

While a school community might decide to offer plenty of physical activity and play, there is equal chance that the local school will expect everyone to pray the same prayer before the game. There might be a dynamic discussion of the universe and the role of humans in the world of biodiversity. Unfortunately, with local control, there might also be a community norm expecting children to know their dominion over the beasts of the field. There might be a school full of different colors of skin and a variety of garments. There also might be a school full only of "people like us."

Local control might hire a staff of dedicated, eager, engaged educators. But a principal might, instead, hire his cousins and their friends instead of somebody from the next town or county. Unions and teacher due process are not, necessarily, significant components of local control.

I hate thinking these thoughts.

I really love the ideal of community-controlled schools. The ideal also includes my desire to see strong teachers whose hands are not tied by cronyism or expectations they will examine only narrow beliefs.

What will balance the need for neighborhood/community schools against the honest acceptance of a world not constrained by the mountains (real or metaphoric) which surround the community?

What prevents a set of train tracks from dividing a town/city/community into ethic enclaves?

State and federal laws have frequently been designed to prevent schools from perpetuating belief isolationism or segregationist localism. Those laws are not universally loved any more than I love the laws which impose statewide or nationwide standardized testing.

Can we find a balance?

Can we avoid just throwing up our hands and letting commercial/corporate gurus take over?

Let us struggle (acknowledging it won't be quick or easy) to support *public* schools, with all the traditions and buy-in from the community; public schools which have broad financial support from all citizens (with or without children in school); public schools with teachers who love the tradition and community-building sequential interaction with one generation after another; public schools which celebrate the accomplishments of the individual students, their many "teams" (including drama/arts and band/chorus, not just football, etc.); public schools which benefit from the return of their adult successes.

Let us simultaneously embrace a broad view which doesn't pit "our good community" against "them and their undesirable community."

posted at: 09:51 | path: | permanent link to this entry