Strong Towns Podcast
Episode 213

Steven Shultis on Urban Schools

Charles Marohn published on

Our friend and Strong Towns member Steven Shultis from Springfield, Massachusetts, joins Chuck this week to talk about his experience as a parent of children in an urban school system.

Get more on this subject from Steve's site at Rational Urbanism.

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  • Susan Dawson

    Rational Urbanism, indeed. We Americans speak of the dangers of the city, but an important reason for that perspective is that we are an extraordinarily paranoid culture, and that seems to be getting worse. We are obsessed with security; we don't talk about white "flight" for nothing. The suburbs are all about safety, about reducing risk, about avoiding the exaggerated threats implied in poverty and minority groups, and that has a lot to do with why our suburbs are so often boring. Creating an understanding that major cities are lively places to raise children will take more than blog articles, though at least the younger generations are coming to see that disorder does not necessarily mean danger. My wife and I bought a house on the north side of Chicago back before the neighborhood was discovered, when gang members were hanging out at a local street corner, when we had to regularly paint over graffiti on our garages, when the community was littered with slumlords. We had a drug dealer living next door for a while and people living under the L tracks in the alley. But we also had an energetic neighborhood organization, a solid housing stock, great transportation, good city services, and a high Walk Score before Walk Scores were invented. We never felt threatened. Over time more and more people decided it was worth taking the chance to live here.

  • jmax

    We drove down 91 a lot when we lived in New England, and always referred to the Springfield basketball as the "Eye of Sauron".

  • Beth Osborne

    I was cheering as I listened. My kids are in a "bad" school in Washington, DC, in a beautiful historic neighborhood that most people won't give a chance. The test scores are low because we have the highest homeless population and many at-risk children. But here is the nasty little secret, all of the interventions built into the school for at risk kids benefit those who aren't at risk. As a result, my kids are doing amazingly well. My first grader is reading at 5th grade level and the school lets her spend part of the day with the older kids. Here is the deal: if the kids from the wealthy schools went to our school, they would do better. If our kids went to the wealthy school, they would do worse. I could talk about this forever. FYI, the thing that has enticed the middle and upper classes into DCPS is pre-K in the public schools.