In 2007, Benson, Harkavy, and Puckett offered a vision for democratic education that outlined both the failings and opportunities of Dewey's Dream - the educational vision of philosopher/psychologist John Dewey (1859-1952) to cultivate a tight integration between school and community.
Dewey's dream is that of the school as a social center - a functional organism within the community ecosystem. An organism that supports democratic engagement and the health of all citizens within it's network. Schools as centers of physical health and safety, social and emotional development, educational advancement, and community development.
Solving The Dewey Problem
As Benson, Harkavy, and Puckett are clear to point out, Dewey's ideas are not met without criticism. Most richly - the problem of how to rigorously and practically implement this rich vision of school and community partnership.
Many models continue to emerge within the broadest banner of the Community School movement, however debate still exists as to both how and why such educational programs might be developed.
The work of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, has pointed to one promising solution - to use University Schools of Education as partners with local schools to develop service-learning projects based on authentic community needs.
The University-Assisted Community School (UACS)
The UACS model, developed by Ira Harkavy and colleagues at UPenn's Netter Center for Community Partnerships, and emphasizes the needs and opportunities for Research Universities to connect with regional schools (K-16+) to support service-learning projects.
A Civic Ecology Approach
By utilizing the concept of civic ecology as a naturalized, applied study of prosocial problem-solving, UACS programs can uniquely engage students in both academic and social-emotional learning. At the University of Toliara in SW Madagascar, undergrads in both educational psychology and agricultural sciences are using this civic ecology approach to revitalize the commons of Betanimena Station.
University of Toliara Students at Betanimena Station, Madagascar.
These undergrads work with local secondary and middle school classrooms
to cultivate school gardens sustainable community development.
Civic Ecology >