Building great schools is a big challenge.  Great schools can counter many of the crippling effects of poverty.  However, rebuilding orderly communities is a critical parallel activity that we must take on.  David Brooks recently argued that “Social repair requires sociological thinking,” and that “Building organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly rather than irresponsibly and, yes, sometimes using government to do so.”

Brooks points to research that suggests that social disorganization takes on a momentum of its own and “People who grow up in disrupted communities are more likely to lead disrupted lives as adults, magnifying disorder from one generation to the next.” This leads to disorganized neighborhoods that lack social capital.

The bottom line is that “social context is more powerful than we thought.”  Neighborhoods where half of the young men drop out breeds disruption and “People who grow up in disrupted communities are more likely to lead disrupted lives as adults.”

As many educators have been saying for decades, “It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies. The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.”  It’s important for conservative commentators like Dave Brooks to suggest that government has a role in the community development effort.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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