October 3, 2010

Building a Better Community

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with education reform. It’s everywhere in the media, from the recent Education Nation summit in New York this past week, to the premiere of the new documentary Waiting for Superman. It is widely understood that the American public education system is failing, and that it is lacking the innovation and energy of our international counterparts. What remains unknown is the best way to fix it. Many policy makers and teachers would like to think that “smaller is better,” hence why urban schools are falling behind their suburban peers. However, Brockton High School, just 2.5 miles down the road from Stonehill, is an image of success.

A recent NY Times article highlighted the success at Brockton High whom with more than 4,100 students, nearly twice the size of Stonehill’s student population, has proved itself to be a model for large high schools. As a Stonehill student, I’m constantly encouraged to go “into the streets” and assist the many non-profits that help Brockton residents. However, I find sometimes that the message can be condescending and have a bit of a “savior complex” attached to it. I’m not saying that the efforts of Stonehill students are not noble or worthy of praise, because they are. However, can one help a situation that they don’t feel connected to? How can you truly help someone without understanding their strengths and recognizing what they have, as opposed to what they lack? If we can recognize that, then by bringing our own talents we can truly assist an organization, a community, or even a child.

Perhaps, this is what the administrators and teachers at Brockton HS have realized in order to prepare their students for academic success. Perhaps, they were finally able to understand that the key to helping students achieve is to understand their background and to not pity their circumstances, but to complement their abilities with their own. Clearly, the quality of the Brockton HS educators is outstanding. Through identifying and addressing the academic as well as social needs of each student, we can create change. In addition, if we can understand the needs of a community and truly go “into the streets,” we will create a more “just and compassionate world.”