I’m interested in the following ideas and I’m thinking about a true experiment that could help to test them:
1. Education is not just what happens to kids inside schools. A whole community should be involved in educating all of its residents. Standard educational measures (such as test scores and school completion) will improve to the degree that many people in many venues participate in education and do not leave the job to professionals in schools.
2. Kids benefit from being offered opportunities to serve their communities. They are more likely to succeed in school and less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior if communities tap their energy, creativity, and knowledge for constructive purposes.
3. A rewarding and effective form of service is to catalog the assets of a community and make them more available to residents. All communities, no matter how economically poor, have assets worth finding. When communities know their own assets, they can address their own problems better and take better advantage of outside support.
4. It is a promising idea to help youth to identify opportunities for learning in their communities and to make these resources available to their fellow citizens.
We’re cooking up an experiment in which kids would be assisted in identifying skills and knowledge that other residents want to learn. The kids would then find opportunities for learning–formal courses and classes; educational institutions such as museums, parks, and libraries; individuals and companies that sell training; jobs with educational value; and residents who are willing to share knowledge free of charge. This project would resemble the St. Paul Neighborhood Learning Community.
Kids would enter the information in a database so that other residents could find learning opportunities on a map or by searching by topic. Some local community centers would be randomly selected to participate in the data-collection; others would not; and we would survey kids and adult volunteers in all the centers to measure the effects of participating. We would hypothesize that, in the participating centers, there would be a greater increase in measures of: academic success, understanding of community, and interest in civic participation.
This sounds like a phenomenal experiment. I’m very interested in hearing how it pans out; if programs like this were implemented in more areas I think the benefit to both students and the society at large would be tremendous. Keep us posted!