Scholarly and Practitioner Synthesis

My research found that school choice– which often necessitates students leave the place where  they live to attend school– can negatively impact urban places because it erodes geographically defined communities, which have unique power to “protect the potential” of their children (2020, Love, pg. 79). Students benefit from a cohesive community with the power to protect them, and schools have traditionally served as sites of shared experiences to bring geographic communities together (Tiekan, 2014, pg. 82). In the face of new challenges presented by, for example, the 750 different schooling options for New York City’s children, scholars and practitioners are looking for the best way to support children using theories grounded in place attachment framework, and applying these ideas by offering new kinds of shared experiences to connect geographic communities and help them accrue influence (“How Far Do NYC Students Travel,” 2018).   

The place where a child grows is important because, as Griffin Phillippo states in a study on “The Social Geography of Choice,” a “geographic space” is “socially constructed and socially constructive” and “imbued with power” (2016). These social relations have ”spatial form,” and are  consequential to the children of a community and the community itself (Phillippo, 2016). In a study about what makes place attachment empowering, rather than entrapping, in after school programs Langager and Spencer-Cavaliere found that “urban youths considered opportunities to learn, to be autonomous, to feel physically and emotionally safe and to develop relationships with adults and peers as important programme characteristics” and as schools are no longer located in the same place students spend the second half of their days, I believe their findings can be applied to community projects with the same offerings and goals (2014).  Adults and peers in the neighborhoods children return to have unique capability offer positive experiences close to home.

Langager and Spencer-Cavaliere summarizes that a “good place” offers students “(a) opportunities to do, (b) opportunities to connect and (c) opportunities to be” (2014). Good places, where communities have the power to protect the potential of their children, occur when cohesive. While coming-together has previously happened within schools, forums and community outreach from Bronx Community Vision, and growth and leadership options from New Settlement Apartments are bringing Bronx residents together.  BCV grounds their efforts to facilitate conversations between community members through forums in the statement “Nothing about us, without us, is for us,” to remind fellows of the power of participatory democracy (“Our Policy Platform,” 2015). New Settlement apartments offers a 28,000 sq. foot building for young people to go from learners to leaders through many experiences, as well as full family programs that “celebrate the inherent dignity and potential of individuals and families” (“ABOUT,” 2020). Both seek to attach, positively, community members to their spaces and their children, and to create a village where children are supported by people who are interconnected by experience and conversation. 

Where a person grows up in where they learn; about their place in the world, about the people in their world, about what they are capable of. While schooling in America has previously been connected to place, as that deteriorates in urban spaces like the Bronx, a new era of geographic community building through organizing shared experiences between neighbors reminds us of philosopher John Dewey’s knowledge that the most important moments of democracy occur close to our homes (Dewey, 2016, pg. 224). Organizers and community members must be cognizant of the power of place.  A study on “Advancing the science of community-level interventions” compiled by Chicago researchers, found effective community health initiatives to be with, of, and for a community (Trickett, 2011). They quote John Dewey as a reminder to avoid “‘the most pervasive fallacy of philosophic thinking… the neglect of context’” and instead always focus on an “integrative,” place specific, and inclusive approach (Trickett, 2011). As community becomes harder to define, context is most important to a place organizing for its children, with its children, and for the power of all.