Monday, January 31, 2011

Sputnik and Community Schools

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment” said President Obama in his State of the Union address. Speaking about education, he then said, “So the question is whether all of us –- as citizens, and as parents –- are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.”

The responsibility for children succeeding, he continued, “begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities.”

Hearing his charge, I couldn’t help but wonder just what this call for responsibility meant, for our work to bring school and communities together.

So what is the connection between Sputnik and community schools? More than you might imagine.

When I think about the impact of Sputnik and what it meant for our Nation, I remember the rockets and astronauts that made the long journey into space. Yes, these were individual people and isolated rockets, but they were supported by coordinated support systems, including flight controllers, equipment specialists, and numerous scientists and technicians. Each had a pivotal role in collectively ensuring a safe passage for the astronauts. More importantly our society mobilize its assets toward a shared goal…putting a man on the moon
Fast forward to today.

I think about how those working on community schools are trying to building a space station here on earth by creating places where multiple systems – education, social services, health, community development – can safely dock, thrive and develop. We work on creating connections and relationships between homes, schools and communities. Just as space stations cannot succeed without crucial connections and support - neither can schools. Docking in space can be difficult. Connecting on Earth is not always easy, but it’s essential.

Young people need nurturing at home, support from their communities and learning and development opportunities, enrichment and social supports in school.

When we are at our best – in our Sputnik moments – we harness all the assets, energy, imagination, potential and possibilities in our society to help our young people succeed, with schools at the center of it all.

The challenge confronting our society is figuring out ways to reconnect -- to dock -- the people, organizations and institutions that are committed to the success of our children. We must change the way we think about the relationship between home, school and community.
This is the work the community schools have been doing for two decades and more. Much of what we know and have learned is outlined in our recent finance paper.

Let’s build a new kind of vehicle – one right here in America that brings us together and wins the future. Ours is an American vision … retooled for the 21st century when collaboration is vital to our success. We know how. We are ready.

Marty Blank

Thanks to Brent Schondelmeyer my good friend at the Local Investment Commission in Kansas City for inspiring this blog.

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