Yes, Americans continue to lament over the current state of our economics and the trend of “trimming the fat” perpetuates the monetary diet that is leaving our schools and communities emaciated and hungry for a solution. SOTRU’s Abundant Community contributor, John McKnight, uncovers the resolve of one Chicago community in helping to eradicate this problem. In this SOTRU Monday edition, we learn how it takes a village to educate a child.
Throughout the United States, local school districts are cutting back on teachers and curriculum while increasing class size. With our current economy, it doesn’t appear that this trend will soon be reversed.
This grim prospect depends upon whether we have the novel belief that it takes a school to educate a child. Historically, the primary source of education was the knowledge and wisdom of the villagers. However, as the power of schooling grew, the neighborhood knowledge got devalued and unused. And so it is that local people often feel cornered as schooling recedes.
Supposing, on the other hand, that we looked again at the neighborhood knowledge. What would we find?
In one African-American, working-class neighborhood in Chicago, they’re finding out what their neighbors believe they know well enough to teach the local young people. When they interviewed 19 adults living on 3 blocks, they found that they were prepared to teach 37 different topics. Here they are:
Mathematics | Black history | World history | Geography | Etiquette | Gardening|Cooking | Painting | Parenting | How to have faith | Sheet metal work|Plumbing | Carpentry | Skating Real estate/business | Reading comprehension | Sewing | Typing | Reading | Knitting | Computer technology | Real estate | Good neighboring | First aid | Self-esteem | Life styles for youth Marketing | Strategic planning | Physical fitness | Basic accounting | Reading a credit report | Banking | Diction | Grammar | English | Public speaking | Journalism for beginners
It appears that 19 neighbors may be able to teach more topics than the local school. So it is clear that the neighborhood, like the village of old, has much of what is needed to educate the children when the school reduces its role.
The work ahead is to revive our neighborhood capacity to be responsible to, and for, our young people. The initial steps are simple. Find out what your neighbors are willing to teach. See which of these topics the local young people would like to learn. And then, make the connection.
Together, these new connections are the beginning of creating a village that raises a child, and a community that really cares about its young people.
Is this a good solution to an ongoing problem? Do you think this is one way to supplement what your community schools are lacking? If so, what unique skill set/s do you have to offer that might benefit the children in your community? We at SOTRU want to hear from you. To find out more on this neighborhood initiative, email John at JLMABCD@aol.com.
John McKnight is an expert on communities. An Ohio native who currently lives near Chicago, he has spent decades organizing communities and researching them, primarily in the Windy City itself. In the course of his career, he mobilized neighborhoods during the civil rights movement, wrote several books about community development, created a center for urban affairs at Northwestern University, and even taught the current President a thing or two about advocacy. (Yes, it’s true: way back when, a young and eager Barack Obama interned at McKnight’s training program for community organizers in southeast Chicago). If that’s not enough, he recently co-authored a book called “The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods.”