Social Constructionism and the Inner City Designing Environments for Social Development and Urban Renewal
Not very long ago, and in many parts of the world even today, young people would learn skills they could use in their work throughout life. Today, in industrial countries, most people are doing jobs that did not exist when they were born. The most important skill determining a person's life pattern has already become the ability to learn new skills, to take in new concepts, to assess new situations, to deal with the unexpected. This will be increasingly true in the future: The competitive ability is the ability to learn. ( Papert, 1993, p. vii)
As the rapid pace of change has become a common denominator in industrial countries, it has become increasingly difficult for many people to adjust to the new pressures they face. Consequently, there are those who are left with a growing sense of alienation in modern settings, especially in big cities and among the poor. In particular, for the underprivileged, the urban setting has become less of a tight-knit community as neighbors have begun to distrust one another as much as they have historically distrusted outsiders. As a larger proportion of our society has moved to the city, cities have become increasingly more difficult places in which to live ( Heilbrun, 1981, pp. 1, 6, 269).
No one can doubt that most American cities these days are deeply troubled places. At the root of the problems are the massive economic shifts that have marked the last two decades. Hundreds of thousands of industrial jobs have either disappeared or moved away from the central city and its neighborhoods. And while many downtown areas have experienced a "renaissance," the jobs created there are different from those that once sustained neighborhoods. Either these new jobs are highly professionalized, and require elaborate education and credentials for entry, or they are routine, low-paying service jobs without much of a future. In effect, these shifts