Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Unbundling Our Neighborhoods

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Unbundling Our Neighborhoods

Article excerpt

I have fond memories of my neighborhood schools. My family moved a lot, so I went to several schools, but they all had some things in common. When I walked to and from school and home and back for lunch every day, neighbors often shouted greetings or simply waved at my friends and me. And there was one absolute: If I misbehaved, my mother would know about it by the time I got home. Those moms were the original social networkers!

Knowing that all of those folks were looking out for me gave me a lot of comfort, even when someone phoned my mother! So I've been sorry to watch neighborhood schools break down over the years. And I feel let down when some schools fail to educate all their children to the highest level. However, in spite of their woes, I still believe in the value of children attending schools in their own communities, places where they know the adults around them and are known by those adults.

The newest threat to the neighborhood school is "unbundling." As you'll learn from several articles in this issue of Kappan, unbundling schools means deconstructing the elements of K-12 schooling and then recombining them in new ways. This is done partly in the hope of finding more efficient and effective ways to deal with the many noninstructional functions of schools. But partly it's a direct challenge to where and when children attend school.

Busing and Charters

Unbundling is not the first proposal that's been floated as a way to improve education by tearing schools, and their neighborhoods, asunder. Consider the unbundling that occurred when we began to bus children out of their communities so they could sit alongside children of a different race in often-distant communities. Consider the unbundling that has come along with choice, charters, and vouchers. These reforms have almost always been targeted at urban communities. In all these cases, instead of investing in high-quality education for our cities, we have put the burden on the children to leave their neighborhoods to learn. …

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