Counting Out More Social Capital

10 10 2006

So – maybe diversity is more what’s WRONG with public school, than its raison d’être?

Seems all of Professor Putman’s work on “social capital” relates to earlier discussion about what works in home education and schooling to create good citizens. Here is the shocking yet apparently scholarly claim that connections and community are NOT created by social diversity, as insisted in the court-ordered rezoning schemes under which I was schooled in the 70s.

In this alternate reality, connections and community are mindful tools to rise above the destructive chaos and distrust bred BY demographic diversity, tools to accommodate and overcome its problems?

How many times have you heard the “S” word (socialization) evoked as Big School’s sole remaining claim to sovereignty?

Maybe the concept of “social capital” is the root of that tenacious weed, since social capital in our culture depends on the same relevance and relationships being recognized as education success factors — if so, could we cut through the rhetoric, stop thinking of school as public education and see schools more cynically but clearly, as the “social capital centers” they really are?

Hmmm, our school accountability measures would have to be dramatically different . .

Better Together book cover . but this view could also take some of the hype and pressure off School as responsible for “fixing” all social, cultural and economic problems:

“We must learn to view the world through a social capital lens,” said Lew Feldstein of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and co-chair of the Saguaro Seminar. “We need to look at front porches as crime fighting tools, treat picnics as public health efforts and see

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Construct New “Us”– or Hell on Earth

10 10 2006

UPDATE from author’s site:
“The 10/8/06 Financial Times had two misleading articles on this research ‘Study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity’. . . they painted a highly distorted view of our research. For a thoughtful rejoinder, read Financial Time’s editorial on this topic, ‘No Veil on Debate’, 10/10/06.”
From that editorial: “There is overwhelming evidence from around the world that extremists benefit when mainstream politicians refuse to address subjects of public concern…The debate on how to address it, in every country where different communities seek to live happily side-by-side, must continue.”

Nance has been reading the Financial Times and maybe I should follow her example:

. . .A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University’s Robert Putnam, one of the world’s most influential political scientists. His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.

This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it “would have been irresponsible to publish without that”.

The core message of the research was that, “in the presence of diversity, we hunker down”, he said. “We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”

Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in

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