Friday, June 13, 2008

A Central Question

Sometime around the second or third class this semester, a question began to form in my head. At a few points during the last four weeks, this question has partially surfaced and been discussed but never in such a way so as to eliminate it from my thoughts. The question, phrased poorly, goes something like this: What makes for good urban education?

We've spent a good deal of time in class, on our blogs, and on our websites discussing techniques and best practices for the urban educator. But, in thinking over many of the recommendations we have come up with, I find that they apply--in most instances--equally well to suburban or rural education. The discussions of best practices in this course have helped me to come to the understanding that, quite possibly, good teaching is good teaching, and it looks pretty similar whether it takes place in the inner city, suburbia, or elsewhere.

That said, however, I also have come to the conclusion that there is something that makes for good urban education, and that something is unique to the inner city environs. The articulation of this something might be poor, however, because it is something that, for the moment, I just tend to feel intuitively. The notion that something must be different arises out of my site visits in Newark where it was clear to me that even though most of the practices advocated by the teachers and administrators could be applied to any educational setting, the environment in an inner city is so different from other settings that it must play some role in the education received there. Another way of saying this might be that although the same practices apply in any educational setting, the nature of urban environments must have an affect on those practices that is unique. 

Ultimately, I think when we pose the question of what makes for a good urban education, we are posing a question that challenges our assumptions of what is possible in an urban environment. If we conclude that the same practices apply in any environment, then we admit that socioeconomic, geographical, and other outside factors should not inhibit good teaching. True, good teaching will have to adapt to these outside forces, but should not lean on them as crutches for its poor performance. What makes for a good urban education, then, is some combination of the standard of good practices with a knowledge of how urban environments might affect an educator's ability to implement those practices, and the good urban educator, I think, is one who has navigated that problem and introduced good, sound practices that work with--and not against--the urban setting.

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