Next week marks a big week for several school districts in my path of life. My curiosity is piqued as to how the levys will turn out for Ridgemont, Arlington and Olentangy. Big-O because if it fails, the chances of husband getting that job go from slim to nil; Ridgemont because, well, I have hometown allegiance. And Arlington because I drive through there on a regular basis and their signage had me baffled. There seems to be equal numbers of pro and nay-saying signs on Main Street, so it could be quite a run. I’m a sucker for a good competition.
The Courier did a piece on the A-town
feud, which I skimmed in my curiosity (the vote no signs really had me wondering what was behind the opposition – there were at least 3 bullet points on a single sign). Because I have zero ties to Arlington, other than a mutual sharing of St. Rt. 68 about once every other week, I’m not overly concerned with the outcome. But the article really got me thinking about the role and the importance of the building structure in education. (I told you! I’m on a streak
One argument of the opponents is that the new building campaign “isn’t education, it’s real estate.” It rang familiar to the conversation that I frequently heard in the church world concerning building campaigns. Honestly, I’ve never thought about buildings in the educational context before, but when you reframe the question, it made me think.
On the one hand, if I lived in R’mont district, I’d vote for it. When I was in college, a wise older man I worked with told me “I’ve never voted against education” and I thought at was admirable. I try to live by the same philosophy – that though it may cost money, a solid education for the kids in my community (not just “my” kids, but those I share streets and stores and economy and newspaper routes with) is important. **Full disclosure: I did vote against the LB levy right after we moved here. They JUST built a new school. While I want to support education to the utmost extent, I also want some fiscal conservatism by my board. I won’t write a blank check every time they ask… but I voted for the follow up, non-building renewal levy. Tit-tat.
Now, I know nothing about the condition of the Arlington school. So any further comments aren’t personal in any sense… but I’m starting to think that there are a few deeper fundamental questions that should be asked regarding building campaigns.
Right now it seems the cool thing to do in the educational world. The article even cited that all the surrounding districts are in the midst of building campaigns. I just don’t think schools should be focused on keeping up with the Jones’. Husband claims that schools need to do this to try to draw kids from other districts, to “remain competitive” (ah, such the republican). But in the church world we call this Sheep Stealing. Why are we concerned with kids who are already getting what they need at a different place? Shouldn’t we turn our sights onto the kids within our own system and providing them what they need to learn and grow and develop? Perhaps that might be a safer structure with greater capacity for evolving technology. Or perhaps it’s more teachers to lower the classroom ratio. Or books. But getting the kids from down the road simply shouldn’t be an aim. If we’re that concerned with the kids across the county, perhaps we should give that district what they need in order to provide for the kids. Missionary schooling. Now that’s an original thought.
Then there’s the impact of environment on learning. Can we learn the same in a pole barn as in a state-of-the-art facility? I just mentioned that I’m not one to notice nature, and that statement could probably be expanded to say I generally don’t notice much about my surroundings at all in terms of quality. But I do recognize size. I absolutely hate exceptionally large spaces for small groups of people. I feel naked. A packed house is much preferred – the energy builds, synergy forms, something just happens. Or maybe I’m just a touchy-feely person who likes to “get a little closer.”
But enough about me, back to the question. What is really required to learn? I just read about how kids in some other nordic country (this post is running waaaaaay too long, I’m not going to look up the Time article now, you can do it yourself) spend most of their time outdoors with their coursework, doing geometry with sticks and stones. And they’re nearly as smart as China.
So, what I’m really asking is: is a new building the answer? Are we asking the right questions about what a district needs vs what would be nice to brag about? Is it simply the next step? Proof of a growing, thriving, successful organization? Again, I’m hearing echos of a familiar conversation in the church world of building campaigns equating to “doing something right.” (**Not all building campaigns are wrong or bad; I just can’t say that all of them are as necessary as we might believe). But rather than doing it in the name of God, we do it in the name of our children’s future. But is it always about either (both) of those things? Couldn’t there be just a little bit of Tower of Babel in there somewhere? Look what we can build…
Again, I don’t know anything about Arlington’s district or need. I don’t know how voters should lean (fortunately the chances of someone in the district reading this are extraordinarily low). But never before had I broadened my opinions of building campaigns and what they mean to the people who want them, or why.
Just something new for me to think about at 3am.