Wednesday, July 22, 2009

school's can't do it alone

I was struck by an article I read the other day by James Traub*. His research makes makes indicates that if we are to seriously close the gap in academic achievement that exists between students of color, poor students, and their white and wealthier peers then we have to look at all the elements (not just schools) that help create achievement in a young person’s life. It’s a grim reality that educators/youth workers cannot be the saving grace that turns a kid’s life around but we sure as hell can try. Sociologist James Coleman consistently pointed out that: "we now expect the school to provide all the child’s human and social capital – an impossibility” (7). In the inner-city, where institutions have disintegrated, and mothers often keep children locked inside out of fear for their safety, social capital hardly exists. Schools can’t do it all. Parents can’t do it all either. We have to look to other support networks and institutions to seriously impact a young person’s life (8). Enter Project Coach…“The critical task is thus to change “the ecology of the lower-class child in order to increase the probability that he will be more successful in attaining normative skills. How do you alter that ecology?” (8). What’s the ecology of a teenager? It seems like there are three big areas in a teens life: school, after-school and home. One of the reasons I believe in Project Coach, and after-school programs in general, is that it can play a pivotal role in influencing a teenager’s life. 

*"What No School Can Do" Sunday, January 16, 2000 New York Times Magazine by James Traub

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your framing of the issue as a impacting the ecology of a teenager's life. One of the giants in the field of child and youth development is Urie Bronfenbrenner. He is often considered the founder of ecological psychology. His basic premise resonates with what you wrote:
    "Child development takes place through processes of progressively more complex interaction between an active child and the persons, objects, and symbols in its immediate environment. To be effective, the interaction must occur on a fairly regular basis over extended periods of time"

    In other words:

    Interaction over time shapes who we become.