Friday, October 5, 2012

Schools Rallying Communities

I have strongly mixed feelings about charter schools, but my biggest concern is one I almost never see mentioned by charter proponents, detractors, or neutral observers.  We hear a lot about how communities affect schools, but almost nothing about the reverse.

I grew up in a suburban district where people routinely headed to the local high school for football games, basketball games, school plays, and scads of other events.  And, to a lesser extent, the elementary and junior high schools brought in community members for fairs, concerts, etc.  All in all, the schools brought the community together quite often for various reasons.  And that's not uncommon.  Or at least, historically, it hasn't been uncommon.

But that might be changing.  If we imagine a world where schools and neighborhoods are completely decoupled and people from one town go to scads of different schools all over the place, that relationship almost ceases to exist.  We won't read stories like this piece in the NY Times about a small-town HS football team that's rallying the community.

Granted, it might be worth the trade-off if the new non-neighborhood schools dramatically outperformed our traditional school system, but it's important to recognize that there is a trade-off involved here.  And that schools have larger ripple effects on society beyond the academic performance of their current students.

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