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Education and Urban Renaissance

reviewed by Marilyn Gittell - 1970

coverTitle: Education and Urban Renaissance
Author(s): R.F. Campbell, L.A. Marx, R.O. Nystrand
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: , Pages: , Year:
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The consensus of opinion by the authors of these papers that educa­tion can no longer be insulated from other urban services and needs is a most welcome change of attitude, particularly for the professional educator. There, is a general acceptance of the urban school as a community-based institution. The editors tell us that the conference was originally conceived to discuss the characteristics of the ideal urban school and was later revised to relate specifically to the Model Cities legislation. Only one of the authors questions the neighborhood confines of the Model Cities Demonstration Project as a satisfactory geographic boundary; as such, David Lewis' paper presents an im­portant contrast to the other views. One would have expected that the papers would combine a realistic or practical evaluation of edu­cation reform and some innovative alternatives for structural and educational change.

The Bourgeois paper, which was added after the conference, pro­vides a discussion of some of the organizational problems faced by the Model Cities group in St. Louis, but its emphasis is on structur­ing the Model Cities agency. There is no insight provided in any of the other papers about the context of educational change in large urban school systems, the kinds of political forces and pressures which might influence the development of a meaningful Model Cities Demonstration. Certainly the experience of the poverty program and the attempts at school reform offer a significant background for ap­preciation of the problems which might affect the plans under Model Cities. Yet all of the authors seem to purposely eschew the subject of school reform. Bailey alludes to the fact that cities have never been asked to do this before, but somehow he anticipates that a new found sensitivity will emerge among city and education bureaucracies to carry the program ahead.

The several sociologists and political scientists assigned the task of discussing school organization and governance are certainly attuned to the political nuances and institutional conflicts in cities, and yet they chose to write about their subjects in a political vacuum. We get no indication of the constraints of civil service regulations, bureau­cratic procedures, union contracts and the complex of political vested interests to be confronted. It is also surprising that experienced social scientists like Janowitz, Cunningham and Bailey completely neglect the community control issue. Every Model Cities planning group in the country spent an inordinate amount of time on the question and means for balancing the professional and citizen role in policy-making. Most recommended a highly developed role for the com­munity. In the five papers directed at this general area there is almost no mention of the question except a perfunctory approval of greater parent participation. There is no discussion of the concept of com­munity control or the alternatives for mechanisms to achieve mean­ingful community participation in policy-making—and this is the heart of the matter.

The summary essay statement on public accountability is somewhat telling of the general attitude towards the role of citizens in educa­tion in the volume; it defines accountability as a willingness by pro­fessionals ". . . to explain the basis for (such) judgments upon the requests of concerned citizens and that they take into account public concerns." Considering the events in education reform over the last four or five years, this statement is certainly archaic. There is a similar omission of concern for the role of students. At the time of the con­ference, student, parent and community groups in several cities were demanding or had achieved some direct roles in the operation of schools, and indications of how such arrangements could best be developed should certainly have been a priority for this collection. At least part of the problem was the non-existence of community representatives, parents, teachers, black leaders, and students at the conference to raise these issues. It is also unfortunate that the same academic celebrities are constantly pressed into service to answer all our problems. For the most part, their recommendations are a repeat of the professional inventory, their insights and concepts of reform are predictable. They could gain immeasurably from a hearing of some of the views of those directly involved in local school struggles.

Presumably these papers were to serve as a resource for Model Cities groups to draw upon for ideas regarding structure and pro­grams. Unfortunately, they do not provide the range of alternatives they should. Experiments throughout the country, such as the school without walls in Philadelphia, student run schools in Washington, D. C., community control districts in New York City, Follow Through and Headstart models throughout the country, offer a wider range of choices than one can get from these essays. Only the Great High Schools Plan in Pittsburgh is described in any detail. Too many of the articles run over too quickly any new ideas for curriculum or changing professional roles.

The most sensitive piece is written by Williard Congreve who has worked with community schools in Chicago. He is the only author who stresses the need for fundamental change in attitudes and educa­tional goals. His emphasis on the learning process, how to learn rather than what is learned, is basic and yet so often by-passed. Recognition by the teacher that learning does not always center around him and his set of values can, according to Congreve, change a tuned out student to a tuned in learner. Obviously, Congreve has been captured by the British Infant School model which has proved so successful in English working class communities. The approach embodies a philosophy as well as a process and stresses the indi­viduality and dignity of each student.

The listing of recommendations in the concluding essay suggests the rather prosaic quality of the papers and the generally superficial analysis of issues. Too many of these items have long since been ac­cepted as truisms, i.e., "The urban school must become a center for community life . . .; the urban school must develop closer working relationships with other human service agencies"; "Instruction in the urban school must be student centered" and yet the how to to accom­plish these ends is ignored—in terms of politics, process and alterna­tive programs.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 71 Number 3, 1970, p. 510-512
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 1795, Date Accessed: 5/19/2022 5:57:38 AM

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