I always find it refreshing to hear perspectives that are willing to breach boundaries and avoid deprecating opposing perspectives. We are all too familiar with polarized rhetoric, most especially in the narrow world of education commentary. So it was with great appreciation that I read Andy Smarick’s recent piece on Fordham’s Education Gadfly, Can bad schools be good for neighborhoods?
Environmental parallels are numerous: misbegotten projects that cleared eyesore swamps and walls of mangroves to make way for highways, waterfront condos, and more. We found out too late that these “messy” wetlands actually served as massive water filters, flood preventers, wildlife protectors, fish incubators, and much more. Profound environmental degradation was the consequence of well-intentioned, if naïve, attempts at progress. (Bold added)
As he notes, acknowledging complexity and the value of local resources does not always necessitate that school closure should not be done. I have written before (“Turning Schools Around”) about the reality that–in certain cases–drastic action must be undertaken. I suggested in that post that when a school closure must be made, ensure the process of building a new one incorporates the input of those most vocal in their opposition, and turn the process of rebuilding into a collaborative community effort.
- The idea of minimizing top down control with a goal towards community self-governance, and a restoration of human dignity
- A focus on a methodology demonstrated to be effective
It is my hope that squabbles over political ideology can be reduced in favor of balanced and mature approaches to public education that value local context and eschew reductionism in the name of either ideology or efficiency. I believe that we can see both the individual trees, and bear in the mind the big picture of the forest entire.