Education in urban areas: the community as the classroom
Waite, James Martin
Parsons, Spencer W.
Master of Architecture
The present educational system can be characterized as emphasizing preparation -- to prepare the young for adult life -- and as being organized for institutional efficiency. The model for the present organization is one of mass production -- for education was subject to pressures from business and industrial groups to adopt their management practices in the early part of this century. The school system concentrates its resources (facilities and materials) and workers (teachers) in strategic locations, and brings children (raw materials) to these locations for processing on a regular and systematic basis. The present spatial organization of educational facilities -- a localized one -- is so organized to get the school as close to home as possible. The schools, supposedly, fit into some organization of the city. In a system with a 6-3-3 organization, the elementary school is thought to be the social and recreational center of the "neighborhood" unit and the junior high and high school fit into a "community" which is a more complex social area made up of two or more neighborhoods. Two consequences of the present organization of education are the lack of social mix and the separation of education from the rest of life. Children go to school for the most part with children from similar backgrounds. In a diverse and pluralistic society, interaction of diverse groups is essential for individual fulfillment. Education is separate or isolated from other significant aspects of our lives. The present system assumes that, for the most part, children learn only in school and not outside; it exposes students to a narrow range of other students, teachers, and experiences; and it, therefore, has little effect on students' lives. The task for the educational system is to organize the resources of the community -- its people, activities, and facilities into the educational process. This will require a new organization and a re-thinking of the distribution of educational facilities. The proposal, here, in the context of a polycentric organization of a metropolitan area, will be a spatial organization for an educational system which uses the whole community as its classroom. The proposal consists of two kinds of facilities: homebases and special learning centers. The homebase, which relates primarily to the residential distribution, should be seen (1) as an attempt to increase the availability of educational facilities, and (2) as providing a constant in an educational system in which students are moving throughout the city, and one which offers many options. The special learning centers are that part of the system which relates to the distribution of activities in commerce, government, industry, etc. They are (1) to serve as a bridge to the community to provide "real-life" contacts in specialized areas, (2) to bring people with special skills or knowledge into the educational system, (3) to provide continuing education for all people, and (4) provide special educational programs. The implications of this proposal are that education can become a generator of city form and activities, and that it can help to create "community," or establish common commitments and increase an individual's sense of relatedness, within the urban agglomeration.