Sunday, February 19, 2006

Aaron Schutz

I'm looking forward to the dialogues on this blog. Too often, we send academic papers out for publication and then never hear another word about them. I'm hoping this will be a venue for teasing out the tensions of our ideas as well as for arguing through our areas of agreement and disagreement.

I teach philosophy of education, community organizing, and community education, among a smattering of other things, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Our foundations department is, I think, unique in the nation in that many of our students are not planning to be teachers, but instead are envisioning work in a range of non-profit and government positions addressing community issues. One of the issues I'd like to explore is how this different focus allows my department to approach questions about the relationship between schools and communities somewhat differently than more traditional "teaching" focused programs.

I've been working on a range of different topics, recently. At some point I'd like to present what I am thinking about on these issues and see what other people have to say about them.

These projects include:

--An extensive review of the literature on community-school relations in impoverished urban areas. This review focuses on the extent to which different models for fostering school-community interaction are actually able produce even slightly equal relationships between school and community people.

--A wide-ranging, interdisciplinary examination of differences in the cultural practices of the middle and working classes. Unlike much of the work in this area, this project is less focused on "theory", per se, instead bringing together the historical and empirical evidence available on how this split between classes emerged in the last half of the 19th century, and on the current status of these differences today. My aim is to show how the pervasive middle-class culture of academia has almost completely blinded us to forms of democratic empowerment more relevant to the conditions of working class life.

--An analysis of an effort to teach skills for collective social action to inner-city high school students. This last semester, myself and about ten graduate students each facilitated a small group of students, trying to help each group to develop their own social action project. This semester, a colleague of mine and I are working with this group of graduate students to analyze the detailed fieldnotes collected from each meeting of each group, among other data. This is very much an exploratory effort, since there is little or nothing (that I know of) in the literature that discusses, in detail, how one successfuly fosters such efforts (or even on what "success" might look like).

I also have a range of other issues I'd like to put out there for general discussion.