Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Root Shock" Why the School Closings of Today Resemble the Urban Renewal of the Past

Several years ago, a Mindy Thompson Fullilove wrote a book called "Root Shock" on how the destruction of neighborhoods through urban renewal had a devastating effect on millions of low and moderate income people in America's cities in the post World War II era Here is the description of her book:"They called it progress. But for the people whose homes and districts were bulldozed, the urban renewal projects that swept America starting in 1949 were nothing short of assault. Vibrant city blocks—places rich in history—were reduced to garbage-strewn vacant lots. When a neighborhood is destroyed its inhabitants suffer “root shock”: a traumatic stress reaction related to the destruction of one’s emotional ecosystem. The ripple effects of root shock have an impact on entire communities that can last for decades".
Today, the same process is being repeated through school closings. Thousands of schools which have served neighborhoods for generations have been closed in cities all over the US, leading to mass firings of teachers and staff who grew up in or lived in those communities and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families. In some cities, the result has been exposing young people to greater risk of violence; in others, the process has promoted gentrification. But the disruptive consequences of this policy have been enormous and totally ignored by policy makers who have ironically claimed this strategy is promoting education equity
I will say this. Destroying neighborhood institutions and the historic memory invested in them is a form of psychic violence that should not be underestimated. School closings, and displacement of the people who worked in them are wreaking havoc with the lives of people who need stability, continuity and support more than continuous upheaval,


Unknown said...

This was very much an issue in rural communities as they closed community schools and replaced them with county schools.

Joe Nathan said...

I agree that rural school consolidation often was not a good thing. Do you have a study on how many urban neighborhood schools have been closed in the last 5 years?

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