Growing Toward Adulthood: The Role of the School in Neighborhood Building

Jamie Godfrey of Shelburne Falls, MA writes:

What is the goal of education? There are many different, often competing, answers to this question. Is it the job? The productive worker? The good citizen? The critical thinker? One possible approach sees education more broadly as “growing toward adulthood.” But how do we grow? Can it be controlled? Scripted? Measured and tested? Or does it just happen? And what does it mean to be an adult? Meanings of adulthood today include everything from the spiritual to the chronological, legal and pornographic.

Why is nearly all public talk about education today really about schools and schooling? Are they the same thing? By equating education with schooling have we robbed it of something essential? And by asking schools to carry the whole responsibility for education, have we placed an impossible burden on them? How has the institutionalization of our children at an early age affected them? And what is the impact of the professionalization of the school on its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood? We talk about the school as serving the community, but in reality the opposite often seems to be the case.

At the same time, how does our tendency to reduce education to schooling affect older people? Does education even apply to them? If “adulthood” is the goal, is it a permanent achievement by a certain age? We spend many thousands of dollars on each child’s “education” every year, while our outlay for working adults is limited to smaller amounts for “job retraining,” and our contribution to elders is miniscule by comparison and usually has no educational motive attached to it at all.

What is the role of the school then? Do other social forms – the workplace, the family, the religious body, the local café – have an educational function as well? What possible interplay might there be between all these forms, including the school, which opens up a richer educational experience that is life long?

On Saturday, May 16 at 10 a.m., the next session in the Conversation Café series “Who is My Neighbor” will take place at the Senior Center in Shelburne Falls. Entitled “Growing Toward Adulthood: The Role of the Local School in Neighborhood Building,” the conversation will be a wide-ranging exploration of the purpose of education and the role of the school in our towns.Come and share your own ideas and questions about education, schools, and the neighborhood. Or simply listen while you enjoy a cup of Mocha Maya coffee. These are great street level conversations about things that really matter. The Center is located at 7 Main Street in Shelburne Falls. Call Jamie Godfrey, Director of the Shelburne Falls Senior Center ,at 413.625.2502 for more information.

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