Wednesday @ Houlihans: recap of Jan 4th and PTA tech invite for Jan 25th

First the announcement: I am inviting a bunch of PTA folks in to get some web pages up and going. We will be taking over the Jan 25th timeslot. So for you others that were thinking of coming, you have been warned. 🙂

Yesterday at Houlihans, Pattsi Petri and I hashed out our thoughts. I am not going to be able to remember everything, so if there are any holes in my story….

I told her about CUWiki (a summary of which I have moved to a new “umbrella” blog) and we discussed the merits of finding community spaces, but we totally lack the understanding of using a wiki to accomplish that. I shared how the CUWiki group has looked at examples like DentonWiki and ArborWiki, and we talked about how similar attempts around Chambana have never really worked out.

We then talked about what is currently happening with Unit 4, the Superintendent, the stuff with the Lottery/Choice/School Assignment. At the time, I had just found out that Unit 4 contracted a Missouri company to work on the FIC website for registration. This afternoon (Jan 5th), I read a rumor (all things are rumor until I hear it from the horse’s mouth) that Unit 4 hired a Houston-based company to do some video spots and develop material for Registration. This totally goes against what ABCD teaches – you use the Assets in your own backyard if you can. There should be a very clear and very strong argument to have to go fishing in another pond. So while I am glad that Unit 4 is moving forward with some improvements, I am wishing that Unit 4 would have considered local people first. Granted, I have no idea what the circumstances are – for all I know, we found resources which are working pro bono. Not very likely, but possible.

The discussion migrated to what is happening in East St. Louis, and the efforts of folks like Martin Wolske to encourage community involvement via internet connectivity and computer literacy; their version of CUWiki is actualized in http://www.metroeastdigital.org/. We then took a turn to The Corner, travelling down dark paths of what happens when people groups are marginalized and the difficulty of building bridges once those bridges have been burned. This related back to our own efforts to building trust within Champaign – so while the two examples of Baltimore and East St. Louis are a bit extreme, they are very poignant examples, and even very real for those in Champaign that traveled down to East St. Louis.

At some point, Pattsi mentioned Mike Pyatok in the context of building sustainable structures. For the life of me, I cannot associate that memory with anything else at the moment. It might have been related to my desire to build sustainable websites for local PTAs. Maybe.

We spent a good chunk of time also discussing the idea of taking this “Wednesdays at Houlihans” thing to the next level. There are a number of grassroots efforts to “do something” about community and Unit 4, and I would hate to see us become stuck in the rut of just talking and not really getting anything accomplished. The work with the John Street Watershed is an excellent, local, recent example of a small group of people clearly identifying a very real problem and taking appropriate steps to get it addressed satisfactorily. Pattsi has given me quite a rather large reading list and I am slowly making my way through it. She has also challenged me. The latest challenge is to set up a real Open Community Forum (one not run by Unit 4) by April. Chuck Jackson, Laura Bleill and I covered this ground last summer, so I feel all the more pressure to bring this thing to life. My biggest hangup (I think) is the need for a bona fide facilitator. Pattsi mentioned “Big.Small.All” as a possible resource for facilitators. She also mentioned Andrew Levy with the Regional Planning Commission (RPC). And maybe even Carol Ammons on the Champaign County Board. At least, in terms of who to talk to next. Lastly, she made the example of how students often can build trust and bridges faster due their complete lack of baggage; as such, maybe I could work with the College of Education to see if they would be willing to do a workshop as I already have contacts via the Rose & Taylor barbershop forums and I-STEM.

Did I miss anything?

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11 Responses to “Wednesday @ Houlihans: recap of Jan 4th and PTA tech invite for Jan 25th”

  1. pattsi petrie Says:

    If I may expand on the connection of mentioning Michael Pyatok, a very exciting architect whose practice is located in Oakland, CA. The main point of the connection has to do with a community meeting and even stretching the community’s collective imagination as to where to put a new high school building. When designing anything and especially housing for low-income families, Pyatok involves the potential occupants throughout design charrettes by giving the participants scaled monopoly-type houses, apartment buildings, stores, etc pieces that participants actually use to express their individual design ideas, how they might want a project to look and integrate into the surroundings. Imagine doing this at several identified locations on several weekends using large cardboard appliance boxes or whatever else one can find as materials.

    Here is some informational web sites about Pyatok and his work

    http://www.pyatok.com/newsletters/2008-04-Pyatok-Newsletter.html
    http://www.pyatok.com/news.html#n14 click on the pictures on the right side of the web page
    http://www.pyatok.com/pyatok.html
    http://www.pyatok.com/aboutus.html
    http://www.pyatok.com/
    http://www.washington.edu/research/showcase/1990c.html
    http://www.newvillage.net/Journal/Issue2/2newurbanism.html
    http://www.plannersnetwork.org/publications/2011_spring/pyatok.html look at the pictures

    Explanation of a charette http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charrette

  2. Karen Says:

    I think an Open Community Forum would be a great idea. There seems to be a heavy focus by some on social justice initiatives in public schools and I am concerned about the potential for activism against ‘white’ people and the hostile environment that potentially fosters against ‘white’ people. The demographics of Unit 4 are such that now by a narrow margin do ‘white’ students ‘dominate.’ ‘Dominant’ culture. How about white culture? To be celebrated like any other culture. Diversity doesn’t inlcude white culture, right? Social justice teaches that white culture is problem, right? And, no I am not blinded by the privilege of my poor Polish immigrant farming roots who 3 generations later, based on hard work and merit produced the first generation of college-educated offspring. How about we start treating students as individuals. To define identity in a collective racial group manner is akin to stereotyping, profiling, etc. We’ve come full circle. Racism is the new black (no pun intended).

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    Pattsi, thanks for clarifying; and for the many examples. 🙂

    Karen. I have recently been reading a lot of books about social justice, and talking to a lot of folks about social justice, and thinking a lot about social justice. So before I even whip out the bibliography and the research, let’s just look at the words “social” and “justice”. Actually, we could concentrate on “justice” and that might be good enough. I might even be able to make this concise. 🙂

    Justice is not merely a disagreement with that which is wrong, but an active, strong drive to completely eliminate it altogether.

    True justice would not involve potential activism against any people group or culture. I would go so far as to make an analogy to religion (lower-case) and followers; not all who call upon the name of a supreme being are necessarily working within the scope of said being’s Will.

    You raise some of your concerns; now I am curious what is really at the root of what you are feeling. Feel free to email me privately (sacrophyte [at] gmail [dot] com) if you want to continue this interesting conversation, since we are going a bit off-topic. 🙂 But I would truly like to try to understand the basis for your fears, to see if I can walk in your shoes.

  4. pattsi petrie Says:

    Actually what Karen raises as a concern falls nicely under the research of Gary Orfield, which I have already shared with Charles. In addition, there is tons of social justice research done by urban planners.

  5. Karen Says:

    Yes, I would like to continue this discussion, but, I will state that there is nothing fear-based about where my opinion comes from. I know that’s what the proponents of social justice like to theorize, but, again, let’s ask what individuals think as opposed to assigning theorized (‘unconscious’) fears to persons based on a racial demograhpic. Most who promote social justice do not have the qualifications to ‘analyze’ people (in a validly clinical sense—it’s nice to play psychiatrist I guess, as it goes along some with the narrative of there being something pathological about ‘white’ people who aren’t ashamed of their culture—but, it’s sort of magical thinking to be able to conflate such generalized statements to fact sans any empirical validation, no?) Kind of oppressive to ingrain in black children through *spoken* expectation that they won’t perform as well as ‘other’ racial groups because of factors x,y,z, no? Yet at the same time, much complaint from community activists that the *dominant culture* doesn’t have the same (high) UNspoken expectations for black students. I don’t know. Can you have it both ways? Quite a privilege, if so.

    Thomas Sowell has an interesting perspective on ” ‘white’ flight. “

  6. Karen Says:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-11_24_05_TS.html

    Ooops. Forgot the link. Am I the only one that posts really incoherently because I am trying to do 3 other things at the same time?

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    I am glad we are continuing this discussion. I was able to find Sowell’s article via Google, but your link affirmed I was looking at the right one. As to being incoherent… no, trust me, I have seen much worse. 🙂 You should out the spam I have to clean out…..

    I fear I am going to respond too broadly, but let me take a shot at it and hopefully paint where I am at now. Like you, I have never been a big fan of “theory”. I think theory is great for establishing basic rulesets and general boundaries; I like to use the analogy of Music Theory – it is a great way to get started with music that makes sense, but the experts almost always broke the rules. In the current context, I have also seen “theory” misapplied to the “problem” of racial justice in our own community. In fact, I am going to say that I personally think UC2B is missing the mark as far as addressing the digital divide. There are some really sharp folks involved, but I have this feeling that the whole exercise has come out of academia. For starters, what problem is UC2B fixing? What issue has the target low-income neighborhoods specifically identified as what they are most concerned about? I have a hard time believing low-income residents are going to say “Oh, PLEASE, build us a big fat fiber-optic pipe so I can stream hi-definition movies in real-time!!” I appreciate the good intentions of UC2B, of wanting to increase computer literacy and bring the Information Age into homes of erstwhile job-seekers. But I don’t see that happening. Especially since the grant money that came in was only for laying the cables – not for the above-ground training which is crucial to the whole thing in the first place.

    But I digress. Sorry. I use this as an example of a entity with high social capital projecting a problem (and thus a solution) unto those with lower social capital. In my mind, this is the theory of the dominant culture trying to fix the problem and “injustice” of the digital divide. Whatever that is.

    For me, I do not even know what White culture is. Do I even know what Black culture really is? America has so many roots back to various parts of Europe, not to mention Native Americans and lots of other places all over the planet. What I do see is a group of people that oppress, brutalize and disenfranchise other groups. I see this as wrong, and this is the injustice which I work against.

    So, Karen, I think the “identity” is important. I know for myself, there is a lot I assume and inherit because I am upper-middle-class white. But I don’t know exactly what that entails. I am confused.

  8. Chuck Jackson Says:

    In my thinking the “problem” is all about who we hear from? Are there self-identified members of ALL subgroups involved in the discussion? Can each person truly speak for him or herself? I see real problems of access for African Americans, Latinos and others who I don’t see represented here on the blog, at BOE meetings, at community forums, etc. I don’t want to speak for others, but I sure do want to make sure I hear from all – and I don’t only mean those who want to be heard. WHY are there groups that are under-repesented? It is worth it to me to go find those people and try to provide a mechanism, a place, a format that does indeed work for them to speak their mind.

  9. pattsi petrie Says:

    Just a thought about theory–Maybe a better view might be that there is so little bridging of theory and practice. 🙂 Several books written by Donald Schon cover this topic nicely–Theory in Practice, Reflective Practitioner, and Educating the Reflective Practitioner.
    If you want to learn a bit more about Schon and the books, here are some sources

    http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-schon.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Sch%C3%B6n

    http://nearfuturelaboratory.com/pasta-and-vinegar/2009/09/01/the-reflective-practitioner-by-donald-schon/

  10. Karen Says:

    ‘What I do see is a group of people that oppress, brutalize and disenfranchise other groups.’

    Which specific examples come to mind when you say that?

    ‘ I think the “identity” is important. I know for myself, there is a lot I assume and inherit because I am upper-middle-class white. But I don’t know exactly what that entails. I am confused.’

    I want to respond to this, but, don’t know how to put it into (coherent) words at the moment.

  11. charlesdschultz Says:

    Oppression
    Those that are felons are oppressed because not only has the “System” nurtured bad social skills in a horrible prison setting, but fails to properly transition what is potentially a hard-working segment of society back into the mainstream workforce.
    Those that are homeless and/or unemployed face a system of declining public aid, whether it be career-oriented education, welfare, or otherwise.
    Local migrant workers fight not only language barriers but Federal Policies (ie, cracking down on missing, bad, illegal papers) that makes their living all the more difficult.

    Brutality
    Kiwane Carrington
    Calvin Miller
    Gary McFarland
    I would even throw in Occupy Wall Street – and this touches on all three areas, IMO

    Disenfranchised
    Via a litany of policies and bureaucracy, we make it harder and harder for certain folks to vote. Most distressing are rumors of removing the right to vote from felons. Mark Sheldon even wrote an article about how “modernization” can make it difficult for students to vote. With all our good intentions and keen eye for technology, we forget the darker shades of humanity (I am not talking about skin pigmentation, but rather the ramifications of simply being human).

    In terms of making a reply, I again offer my email address (sacrophyte [at] gmail [dot] com) if you want to hash out incoherent thoughts. 🙂 But keeping it here is not a problem for me, either.


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