Leonard C. Burrello
Social Media Manager
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The whole concept of a “social fabric” is a very relevant one—both for us as people but also for us as educators. And it’s worth asking ourselves: How and to what extent do schools weave rather than rip the social fabrics of their local communities? And also: How do schools overcome the harmful effects of the premium our society places on hyper-individualism—particularly in light of heightened economic and social inequalities?
This all connects to Neil Postman’s (1996) urging that we think of schools as an end—rather than as a means—to making a living. In other words, he suggests that schools and educators should pursue their profession as a way to actually make a life—rather than simply making a living. Such an enterprise, he is careful to warn us, is not, of course, a walk in the park—“since our politicians rarely speak of it, our technology is indifferent to it, and our commerce despises it. Nevertheless, it is the weightiest and most important thing to write about” (x). In Postman’s view, schooling needs to be about creating a transcendent and honorable purpose so that education itself “becomes the central institution through which the young may find reasons for continuing to educate themselves” (xi).
But how do schools engage their communities to create a transcendent and honorable purpose for schooling? There is no short answer to that question—and certainly not one short enough to articulate in a single blog post—but it all starts with how we conceive of ourselves. With how we work to craft and define the purposes and values—the narratives—of our educational practices.
In 2012, Dena proposed a community dialogue promoting and prioritizing a future-driven mindset and pedagogical and administrative philosophy, one which asks teachers to consider their plans for their students, school, and community as far ahead as 2025. Right away, this re-frames our thought processes because it makes us look beyond short-term problems, short-term solutions, and short-term consequences. It begs the metaphysical question: What will be our reasons for living—and therefore our reasons for schooling—so far into the future? As we work to reconcile with what might well be increasing inequality, climate change, and social discord, how will our communities change, and how will we change to address their changing needs? How does our narrative change to reflect a changing world, and how can we change the most problematic aspects of both our individual and our collective narratives to tell a better story with a happier ending for our students, ourselves, and our communities?
For, as Postman (1996, 7) ultimately concludes: “[W]e are unceasing in creating histories and futures for ourselves through the medium of narrative. Without a narrative, life has no meaning. Without meaning, learning has no purpose. Without a purpose, schools are houses of detention, not attention.”
So what do you think? What’s the story you want to tell through your educational practices and policies? What does the story you’re telling right now look and sound like? What do you like and dislike about it? How do you want it to change?
Let us know in the comments below, and let’s do our best—our absolute best—to be the weavers of our nation’s social fabric rather than its rippers.
Brooks, David. 2019. “A Nation of Weavers.” New York Times, February 18, 2019.
Postman, Neil. 1996. The End of Education: Re-Defining the Value of School. New York: