Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Schools (and communities) must confront root causes of violence

The feature editorial in today's Chicago SunTimes is headlined with "Schools must confront root causes of violence". I added the (and communities) part because I don't think schools can solve this problem without strategic involvement of businesses, universities, faith groups, and others who live in regions of the city and suburbs where there is little or now poverty.

I use maps like this one of a congressional district to show how people from the West suburbs of the Chicago region pass through poverty neighborhoods every day as they take the Expressway, or the Metra Train, to and from work in the LOOP. With a little coaching many of these people could be leaders, volunteers and/or donors helping non-school tutor/mentor programs create social capital that expands the ability of people in high poverty communities to combat poverty.

You can read how important these social and emotional supports are if you browse some of the white papers on the web site of the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools.

However as you read that SunTimes articles this week, I encourage you to visit the 2006 report titled The Essential Supports for School Improvement, published by the Consortium on Chicago School Research. Read page 35, where the authors say "Increasingly, social capital is viewed as a critical element in combating poverty."

Read how they define "Bridging Social Capital". They say "Bridging social capital accrues in disadvantaged communities as residents have opportunities to engage with external individuals and organizations. Bridging social capital permits job seekers in low-income communities to benefit, for example, from acquaintances with individuals outside of their community who can facilitate introduction to potential employers. Similarly, tutoring and mentoring programs organized by churches (or businesses) can bring middle class residents into extended relationships with their families."

Take a look at the Cabrini Connections web site. Look at the diversity of different volunteers we show in the photos on the site. These people were connected with kids in the Cabrini Green neighborhood as a result of the actions of the people who created this organization, and who provide dollars for it to operate.

Programs like Cabrini Connections are needed in many parts of the Chicago region. In the Chicago Program Links you can find web sites of many other organizations serving youth in other areas. Each of these needs volunteers and donors.

Schools should not be held responsible for building and sustaining non-school tutor/mentor programs. This should be the role of businesses, churches, universities and philanthropy organizations. It takes a village to raise a child means everyone in the village should share some of the responsibility, not just the schools or the families.

The strategy for supporting a network of such program is a marketing challenge, not an education or social service challenge. Who better to lead such strategies than our business schools, or volunteers from our Fortune 500 corporations.

No comments: