Education and Community: The collective wisdom|
of teachers, parents, and members of our community.
Education is vulnerable to a host of internal and external forces says Spring. One of the external forces is political. The major political players in education are major government actors, special-interest groups, and the knowledge industry. (Spring, p3) Spring contends that this external force subjects the schools to many pressures and as a result schools retract and defend. Spring argues the politics of education is centered on who is in control of the knowledge being disseminated. The major conflicts in education are caused by competition among groups and individuals to influence the knowledge being disseminated to the students. Knowledge is power. He argues that in a free society information should be freely disseminated. For equity to exist information must pass both in and out. The trick is to balance the majority, special-interests, politicians, and the economics of education. (Spring, p217)
Micropolitics, says Blase, is about power and how people use it to influence others and to protect themselves. It is about conflict and competition. It is about cooperation and building support to achieve a desired end. It is what people in all social settings think about and have strong feelings about.
My research supports this notion of external forces influencing the micropolitics of the school.
Much of the work about making more effective schools has to be attributed to Ron Edmonds. In his speech delivered at the National Conference of Teachers Corps in 1978, Ron Edmonds began by saying, "It must be a central component of any effort to make them (schools) more effective." (Edmonds, 1979, p.28). In another article, Edmonds is specific about micropolitics as he introduces five characteristics necessary for effective schooling. In micropolitics the principals play an important role, and Andrews gives Edmonds a great deal of credit for bringing this fact to light, in creating a positive school atmosphere and climate for effective schools. Besides a principal as head of the microcosm, Mann (1978) makes a modest proposal of his own. Mann takes on school micropolitics in his "Little King" essay. (Mann, 1986) "Schools have rightly been criticized for being adult-centered, not child-centered. The politics of education has been too much about adults' working conditions and not enough about children's learning conditions." (p49)
My research supports this notion espoused by Edmonds and Mann that schools are for students and not for adults.
Community involvement actively in practice are reviewed in the next two examples. These examples provide ways and means of involving community. In Rochester, NY the parents are formally evaluating the teachers in their schools. The reason for this first of a kind program is in response to having parents be more involved and to improve education. This kind of evaluation will provide the impetus to the teacher to become more active with parents and thereby the community. This interaction will pave the way for more efficient community involvement in the schools. Add telementoring to this initiative and you have a whole new revamped community school. Will it work? Certainly a teachers union is weary, some parents think only the complainers will be involved. The idea is geared at the teachers where it belongs, since it is the teacher who is the first line of instruction. Once the teacher becomes accountable, then other initiatives will have a chance. (Belluck, 1997)
Involving the community in the business of education is the special project of Ron Bocinsky, Founder of SchoolNotes.com, an online community bulletin board for educators, parents, students and community members to post and discuss educational matters. In its infancy, SchoolNotes.com has already provided some communities with a forum to openly discuss their schools. Getting information out, having open forums for discussion, and providing a neutral place for all is just the beginning of involving the community is education. (Bocinsky, 1998)