Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Josh Starr's book club is a model for cities

Image of Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr's first televised book club from MCPS.

(Yes, I know that DC Councilmember Tommy Wells has a book club too.)

For years I've suggested in the "one city reads the same book" programs that books about urban design-placemaking need to be read, something like Roberta Gratz's Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown--I recommend this book a lot as the "if you're only going to read one book, read this one" because it is comparatively easy to grasp and covers a lot of ground when it comes to urban revitalization--so that more residents would become more familiar with how cities ought to be functioning, what the problems are, what best practices are, etc., instead of asserting how things should be done without having the right paradigms in place.

For a counter-perspective, see "Agenda 21: plot or paranoia" from the Richmond Times-Dispatch), which discusses various anti-planning efforts in the Richmond area, out of a belief that sustainable development is a plot by the United Nations to control the world.

So I am super-impressed by Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Josh Starr's book club, where he has listed books that have influenced his beliefs and approaches to K-12 education, and has organized a reading club so to speak, which is televised on the school system's educational tv channel. See "Schools chief's novel methods: Montgomery superintendent's first book club reveals his philosophy and personality" from the Washington Post.

This is important for two reasons:

1. If we do believe in substantive democracy, participatory democracy, empowered participation and civic engagement, then we have to build capacity development opportunities in order to realize it. (Related to yesterday's entry regarding the point that to build an engaged populace, people have to have opportunities to be engaged and shape their world.) This is one such activity.

2. Agency leaders and elected officials need to set the tone of their efforts as being knowledge-based, rather than half-as***.

I mention this because of DC Governance, and how many agencies don't seem to have a coherent and best practice approach to what they do in terms of how they operate--that's especially true of the so-called reform effort in DC Public Schools.

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