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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Back to school #2: education unions should create multifaceted public education "meeting halls" comparable to AIA chapter "architecture centers"

In talking with a friend who is a teacher and had been active in her teacher's union, we got to talking about "labor" and "management" and the difficulty of engaging "the community" on education matters in a neutral setting.

While depending on how it would be organized it could be neutral or not, I came up with an idea for teacher's unions to create multi-faceted "community education centers" modelled after the "architecture centers" that have been set up in many US cities as "chapter houses" for the local affiliate of the American Institute of Architects.

AIA Bookstore and Design Center, Philadelphia. Review by Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer.

Typically these centers have exhibit halls, meeting rooms for lectures and presentations, and a bookstore, as well as chapter offices, sometimes a library, etc.

Other examples of multi-faceted centers with some of these functions are the Red Emmas Bookstore and Cafe in Baltimore, the way that Teaching for Change had run the bookstore in Busboys & Poets, a cafe with meeting/presentation space (now the book operation is run by a local bookstore), the Book Table, a wild "bookstore" in Logan, Utah that has a large bookstore with a big toy section too, a big section for teachers (a "teacher store"), a large musical instrument sales and rental operati, and art and craft supplies, and the old Provisions Library, which when it was in DC, was a membership library with a focused collection on progressive topics.

Classroom, Honolulu Center for Architecture.

I was thinking local teacher's unions could set up similar kinds of centers, with exhibit and meeting areas, and a regular program of lectures and meetings on education topics, complemented by:

- cafe (which could be the face of a culinary teaching program)
- teacher store
- retail book store focused on education, children, and family topics with the depth and creativity of the range of books carried by the former Teaching for Change operation or Red Emmas
- lending library and reading room for "members"
- educational toy store
- an ATM sponsored by a teachers credit union
- classrooms suitable for professional education/continuing education instruction
- space for organizations active on education related issues

Red Emmas, Baltimore.

The idea is creating a multi-function “union hall/mixed use space” supporting K-12 education engagement between teachers, stakeholders, and citizens, as a focal point for teacher and community organizing on local educational matters—a place to put forward and draw attention to the union position (which hopefully would be pro-education, not merely pro-teacher), but also to be able to discuss community education matters in an engaged, thoughtful fashion.

I guess this has been on my mind for a long time because of how the DC teachers union has been so bad at articulating a position on educational improvement counter to the narrative put out by Michelle Rhee, and the lack of a space for a community to organize around education topics and issues.

Other models
  • Union Halls. Many unions have offices/meeting halls. Typically there is not public access. No programming focused on communicating the union/profession message to the broader public. Police union “lodges” often have bars.
  • Social halls/fraternal organizations.  Used to be ethnic specific, like the German American Society. The tradition continues through “fraternal organizations” like the Elks and Moose, which have “private bars and function halls”. Sometime these facilities are open to the public, especially in the face of membership declines and the need to raise money to maintain owned buildings.
  • American Legion/VFW membership halls. For people with military ties. Often have bars, and limited public access.
  • Art museum libraries. Some art museums have libraries and reading rooms with special access for members. Phillips Gallery in DC has such a program.
  • Community Writing Center, Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City. The community college has a writing assistance program targeting youth and adults who are not SLCC students, in space on the SLC Central Library campus.
  • Mestizo Coffeehouse and Gallery, Salt Lake City. This nonprofit coffeehouse and art gallery also serves as a presentation space, and offers free use of meeting spaces to community nonprofits. 
  • Nonprofit Centers Network. This is an organization that links nonprofit co-location spaces across the US. 

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At 10:02 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Regardless of the merits of their arguments, I've never seen a teachers union care about education -- or the UAW care about the mobility.

(basic public choice theory)

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Last fall I wrote about a washing machine as an element of a program in Western Virginia in a poor community, and when I mentioned it to my friend, she said her school does the same thing. However these were both situations where they would wash a student's clothes, but not a family's clothes. So that's very interesting.

2. But absolutely yes, a union is about economism mostly, maximizing wages and minimizing work. That being said many/most teachers" care about these issues and lament there not being a space to discuss and grapple with them.

As I said in the post, I have been shocked for years at how inchoate the WTU has been vis a vis the Rhee narrative of school reform. (That particular union has other problems too.)

But from the standpoint of getting your message out, just as the AIA chapters do, this kind of ed center would be a great pr move.

But like the idea of the innovative mayor, I am not gonna hold my breath on the creation of such centers...

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: Ed Center

(Which is a great idea, BTW)

You can analogize from sports facilities or playgrounds, which are being used 2x (by community and by school).

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I'm too broke, or I'd get her subscriptions to Radical Teacher, Rethinking Schools, and Education Week, and Chicago Catalyst, the latter published by Chicago Reporter, and devoted to school reform.

... the idea isn't a lot different from how I wish that Eastern Market was central to and an anchor of the local food system, and how it could become a "food hub" by having a demonstration kitchen, the office for the city's "Food Council," RDs providing nutrition counseling, in association with the city's food programs (WIC, food stamps, etc.).

But also talks by authors, cooking demonstrations by cookbook authors, farmers, etc.

The big thing for me is facilitating connection, not unlike that "Democracy House" concept.

2. wrt co-location, Arlington at the TJ Middle School and Community Center, and Balt. County where there has been a more than 50 year MOU for sharing-funding-building facilities jointly with the school system and the parks and rec. department, are also models.

+ I swear I came across an article that said that the school libraries in Helsinki are actually run by the main library system, but I haven't been able to find it again.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Toy and book store in Tacoma Washington:


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