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Fresh of its self-ownage, CapCon confused by what constitutes a community

by: Eric B.

Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 13:28:23 PM EST

I got an e-mail this week from the former superintendent of a local school district thanking me for a column I wrote last week in which I pointed out that the district he stewarded was able to pass an athletic facilities bond because he'd essentially done retail politicking. He identified as a key voting constituency people who lived in the community and who graduated from the district and who felt enough kinship that they showed up for every home football game and rooted for the team while standing along a fence. He talked to them, played on their sense of community ownership to get the bond passed, and eventually that's just what happened.

This is a very real relationship that exists out here in the sticks. You grow up in a school district, attend it, play on its athletic teams, and after you graduate go back for Friday night football. The city of Mt. Pleasant doesn't have its own football team, but it has a proxy in the high school football team (not the district from the first paragraph). People are taught the importance of loyalty to community first by teaching them loyalty to the school district that shepherded them from childhood into adulthood.

The problem with the education reform bills under consideration in the Legislature is that they send a very different message to children. They are no longer expected to learn loyalty to place. They are encourged to first and foremost look out for themselves. School becomes not a place to learn about things, including how to socialize with people you'd otherwise never meet, but a shmorgasbord where the only loyalty you have is to yourself. Like math from your local school? Go ahead and take it. Prefer to read about history on the Internet? Sit on your couch and take that class. Music at the local community college? Sign up ... class is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon until 1 p.m.

Now, it's true that most kids won't do that. Most kids are likely to just attend the public school where they live. The problem is that this isn't the message sent by this legislation. This legislation sends the message that people who want to succeed will first and foremost think of themselves rather than being part of something larger than themselves. That, in turn, doesn't destroy communities. It does something worse. It destroys the concept of community.

Eric B. :: Fresh of its self-ownage, CapCon confused by what constitutes a community
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it's called hyperindividualization
And it's supposed to make us unthinking, easily manipulated and complacent consumers and workers. Communities can be dangerous because they can see that a lot of our problems like low pay and high tuition are really social issues, not just one person's problem. When that happens you get movements--what used to be call unions--and that's bad for business.

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