The School/Community Collaborative Bridge

The ideologies, values, and belief systems that appear to be indigenous to individuals identified as being representative of urban communities have proven to have devastating effects on the social, educational, and political advancement of those who represent this culture. This culture, that is reflective of the erroneous generational marginalization of certain groups of disadvantaged people, has been perpetuated, promoted, and passed down by the political power structures that fervently seek to maintain their control and supremacy over scarce resources at the cost of the less fortunate. This aristocratic ideology has extended beyond our communities and is evidenced in our schools. The critical implications of this belief system on the socio-cultural structure of our schools has been highlighted in research and discourses over the years, leaving some to identify it as a contributing factor in the educational neglect experienced by many urban youth.

Dating back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, studies conducted by individuals such as James Coleman, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobsen, and N. Keddie began to identify correlations between the functioning of schools and the schools perception of individuals that were representative of urban communities. With these understandings, what is to be said about the current direction of urban education in America? Are we as an educational community making zealous attempts to identify with and address the challenges that confront the urban community on a daily basis or are we continuing to “appear” committed to change? Responses to such questions can take an array of perspectives, depending on the respondent. It is time we take real action by escaping the blaming the victim approach that has mentally enslaved many and held schools captive over the years. While I believe that individuals in urban communities must institute a higher degree of accountability among its members, I also believe schools must undergo a shift in paradigm and began to examine urban communities through more productive lenses. This paradigmatic change will empower these communities and promote educational, social, and political success. The collaborative bridge between the school and community must be strengthened and roles of the community and school in the change process must be redefined. Once there is a better understanding of how each institution can better serve the other, opportunities will be maximized.

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3 responses to “The School/Community Collaborative Bridge

  1. The need for building a collaborative bridge between schools and the community is an irrefutable point well taken, but how do we do it? Might we look at and study effective parents in urban communities as Dr. Mary Poplin is studying effective teachers?

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. Conducting research in the community is an option that must be earnestly explored, but I would like to see this research to take an approach slightly different from the one you propose. I believe that this study shouldn’t stop at effective parents. We need to study all dynamics of these communities if we are to produce knowledge that will lead to true change. What I have come to observe, is that in most cases, the administrators, teachers, and staff do not live in the communities in which they serve. An equally concerning notion is that many of the teachers have never lived in such conditions and therefore find it difficult to identify with some of the challenges that confront these families and the community as a whole. Now I am not proposing that school personnel must either have lived or currently live in urban communities to be able to effectively meet their needs. What I am suggesting is that school personnel need to be visible in these communities. I believe that we need to hear the voices of these communities and allow them to share their views of how we can best serve them. It appears that those who fail to understand the urban community make decisions about what is needed by those living in urban communities. Who better to identify the needs of the community than those who live there? In their book titled, Transforming Urban Education, Kretovics and Nussel (1994) state that we are witnessing a loss of leadership in the underclass communities. I fail to accept this conception and suggest that leaders are still present in these communities. We must identify these leaders and work with them to create change from within. In years past, this was a very viable approach to change. It was through this method that leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and the great Martin Luther King emerged to prominence. This is an approach that has worked in the past and can still work now as evidenced in our recent presidential election. This election proved that when people are given a reason to believe, they work together to create change. President Obama made it a priority to listen to and understand the common citizen and therefore many people were able to identify with his message and answered his call to service. We must instill belief among the citizens in urban communities. Belief in a political system some view has failed them and belief in a school system that does little to understand them. My beliefs are entrenched in the idea that we must ardently work within these communities to best serve them.

  3. Well said. I am in total support of your claim that teachers and administrators experience difficulty understanding the people and culture in urban communities because they are so disconnected and inexperienced with these places. I propose teachers do mandatory home visits, or mandatory monthly meetings at facilities in the urban communities. This would only provide a glimpse into the lives our students lead, but at least it’s a step in the right direction, and would hopefully make teachers and administrators more likely to frequent the urban communities in the future. With regards to research being conducted in urban communities, I also think it’s time we listen to the children themselves. The educational community is beginning to recognize the value of listening to the voices of children, and it is very likely they have many of the answers we are looking for in our quest to improve their educational experiences.

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