Energizing a Neighborhood’s Commitment to Educating

When I was young, I remember how people in my neighborhood took me under their wings and taught me everything from playing the clarinet to doing the running long jump to taking care of my beloved collie, Randy.  In a working paper for the Kettering Foundation, John McKnight writes about the importance of an educating neighborhood:  “School reform in the United States has usually meant getting parents contributing to the school and the school becoming more efficient, technological, and test-driven.  While these reforms may be helpful, they fail to energize a neighborhood’s commitment to educating.  Implementing this commitment may be as important as traditional school reform ideas.”  Co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, McKnight believes that an educating neighborhood is a vital part of school reform.  His research shows that it can result in lightening the burden on teachers who are now asked to do many things that are impossible for them to do, eliminating the we-they relationship that exists in many places between schools and their local neighborhoods, building a stronger neighborhood with, not only capacities to teach, but with new commitments to be responsible for the socialization of young people, and reducing the existence of youth-related problems.

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