Community Conversations: what next?

Last month I attended a Community Conversation on Healing; some of you were there so feel free to comment. 🙂 The organizers have generated a brief summary and asks for help in taking the next step:

Community Conversations 3 Harvest


As mentioned previously, the topic is a hard sell, but when I dig into it I very much feel this is crucial in a larger scope. Adding to that challenge is an expectation that some kind of healing will come out of said Conversation. I am not quite certain that happened, per se, but I do think it was a good first step. Hence the “what next?” I think the attached document attempts to answer that question. And one of the acknowledged shortcomings of this particular approach is that no specific action items were identified before folks walked out the room – there is no accountability to take any future steps. On the one hand, it is quite uncomfortable to be held accountable (anyone not find this true?), on the other hand a Conversation cannot simply be check-in for a feel-good appointment. That is my personal feeling about it.


Since I am a “doer”, I look through the summary trying to find things I can do. And this is very difficult. “Find ways to help/educate people about how to address their issue”; “So much of the crime in our community is youth-driven; focus on listening to them”; “We need to achieve something concrete as a community to prove that we can make change”. And my favorite “Build community within schools”


I think we are kind of already doing this on individual, small scales. Is that enough? I have this gut feeling we need something more, but what? Perhaps a solid sense of direction for the people of the community, but then (and this is critical) a commitment on the part of the authorities (whomever they might be) to take this whole thing seriously and be willing to engage in the inefficiencies of working out relationships.


Your turn.


10 Responses to “Community Conversations: what next?”

  1. pattsi Says:

    I, too, attended. Engaging conversations, lots of noise in the room, and as you pointed out no next steps. So allow me to toss something out for folks to “chew on.” As I sat and listed last evening to the discussion during the CC Communiy Justice TF where Julia Rietz, Randy Rosenblum, and Joe Gordon described in detail the processes and procedures for this county’s criminal justice system, I reflect on a comment made by Julan Rappaport, a TF member, during the first meeting–how a individual enters the system, pretty much determines how they will come out. He bases his comments on a two-years JD court program that he and his students ran as a study, Julian is an emeritus professor of psychology, UIUC. As I listened to the process and procedure descriptions last night, I realized that this just might be a key place for change and improvements. So I am interested in hearing from others as to how we as a community can change how JD enter the criminal justice system to improve their chances as they leave it. Further, what can we as a community do to reduce the chances of even entering the system?

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    G. David just sent me the following link, which I think is excellent discussion fodder for your question, Pattsi:

    From what I have read, address the issue before JD even becomes an issue and you save exponentially in terms of smaller jails, less crime, more graduates, more skilled workers. Overall, a better society. I have also read reports that correlate 3rd-grade literacy with the correctional system, and if those correlations are accurate, it seems a sure no-brainer win is to focus on 3rd-grade literacy. Which doesn’t start in 3rd grade, mind you. 🙂

  3. pattsi Says:

    Since school starting is just around the corner, I can not resist posting the following. 🙂

  4. Karen Says:

    From your July 10th blog entry:
    ‘If only we could learn from our kids. If only we valued things like conflict resolution, cultural differences and basic, raw respect.’

    What age kids were you referring to?

    If only everybody would demand (through expectation and example) these things of kids once they’re past the ‘natural innocence’ stage.

    What happens though when some things characterized as ‘cultural differences’ are (self-)destructive?

    The documentary ‘The Interrupters’ featured the interesting ideas of Gary Slutkin. ‘He was convinced that longer sentences and more police officers had made little difference. “Punishment doesn’t drive behavior,” he told me. “Copying and modeling and the social expectations of your peers is what drives your behavior.”’ ‘In the short run, he’s just trying to halt the spread of violence. In the long run, though, he says he hopes to alter behavior and what’s considered socially acceptable.’

    Who the messenger is needs to ‘resonate.’ But, the message sent is very important for effecting change as well, and some of the social justice stuff really concerns me in that regard.

  5. Karen Says:

    The link from G. David. Disparate impact is assumed to be discrimination? How do you ‘reconcile’ disparate impact provisions (Title VII/Civil Rights Act) with the equal protection clause (of the Constitution)? Disparate impact provisions are intentionally discriminatory. Maybe with all of the Civil Rights complaints being filed per that link, the Supreme Court will finally have to render a head-on opinion WRT whether or not disparate impact provisions are constitutional.

  6. Karen Says:

    @ 3rd grade literacy. In Pedagogy of Freedom, Freire writes:

    “To teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge.”

    Aren’t we opressing students by NOT transferring knowledge when it comes to reading? I would probably be disenfranchised by the end of elementary school if I had been promoted up there without being able to read at grade level. Students are, ironically, being crushed by the weight of their empty knowledge banks when it comes to reading. What is the excuse? reason? for not ensuring that kids read at grade level? This can’t be accomplished across a school year for all students starting in K/1st grade? Didn’t it used to be? What else is so important (to teach) that we do not ensure this? 1st grade lack of a turkey day project probably doesn’t correlate with likelihood of incarceration at age 30. I know it’s fun, creative, etc., but…

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen, you make some great points and I cannot address them all right now. The whole thing with reading really perplexes me as well. In the State School code says:

    (b) School districts shall not promote students to the next higher grade level based upon age or any other social reasons not related to the academic performance of the students. On or before September 1, 1998, school boards shall adopt and enforce a policy on promotion as they deem necessary to ensure that students meet local goals and objectives and can perform at the expected grade level prior to promotion. Decisions to promote or retain students in any classes shall be based on successful completion of the curriculum, attendance, performance based on Illinois Goals and Assessment Program tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or other testing or any other criteria established by the school board. Students determined by the local district to not qualify for promotion to the next higher grade shall be provided remedial assistance, which may include, but shall not be limited to, a summer bridge program of no less than 90 hours, tutorial sessions, increased or concentrated instructional time, modifications to instructional materials, and retention in grade.

    ref: ILCS 5/10-20.9a

    However it seems to me that, typically, children matriculate up through the levels regardless. I am aware that some children are indeed held back (which I learned from my research with the Kindergarten School Assignment program), but I am told that is based primarily on parental consent. Our system is set up to take kids from grade K to grade 9 no matter what.

    The one and only Unit 4 Board Policy that references this State Code is 725.01 ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT – Grading, which does not have much to do with retention or promotion directly (indirectly via grading).

    The last bullet says:

    “Grading will be based on improvement, achievement, capability of the student, and the professional judgment of the teacher.”

    Makes me wonder, if a child cannot read 3rd grade books by the end of 3rd grade, what factors move that child to 4th grade?

    Interesting how you use Paulo’s words against himself – you are not a huge fan, are you? =) After reading some of Freire and Horton, I get the impression that their purpose is to create a deliberative society that can fully partake in democracy. Their particular solution seems to be that a child (and most people for that matter) readily pursue that which they are passionate about, so why not feed and channel that desire? Transferring knowledge is a tricky one; in my profession, knowledge transfer is a huge thing. But it cannot stand alone – without being fortified and reinforced by some kind of hands-on application, it is a complete waste of time. I also teach at Parkland, and I try to mix things up since some students learn better by rote memorization and raw knowledge transfer, whereas other students thrive more by flying by the seat of their pants and learning from mistakes they make. From my point of view, it is “oppressive” to insist that all children (“empty knowledge banks”) be forced to learn in one style. We are all very different. What if the teacher is a horrible medium of such transfer? =)

    Thank you for this dialog, I find it helpful.

  8. charlesdschultz Says:

    About Diane Ravitch: she spends most of her article bashing someone who bashes education (in her words). Is she an opinion vigilante? =) In other circles, we say “the kettle is calling the pot black”.

    However, I do take to heart her main point – public education overall is not really doing any worse than it ever was, and in fact it does a pretty darn good job for a large number of folks. It’s just that there are some that are falling through the cracks. And then we have the media spin, from Rhee’s “Students First” to the milieu of newspapers, blogs and opinionbots.

    Which is why I think it is important to readily acknowledge the positive while trying to keep an eye on the challenges. People are working hard and for the most part, doing it well. That’s great. Keep it up! *high five* But let us also see not everything is perfect. And hey, if you and I both agree on something that could use some help, let’s work together to make a good thing even better!

    And this should come as no surprise, but I really like Ravitch’s emphasis on building community (she calls it “culture”). I am more and more convinced that this is where it’s at.

  9. pattsi Says:

    Hum-m-m-m, does she not make her points with facts and figure against those made by Rhee? The point of the article is a counte to Rhee’s theses and arguments, which Ravitch does not feel have merit. And which one tends to love publicity thus possibly more willing to shot from hip with “news lines”?

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