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The Big Answer


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The Culture Of Renewal, Part 1: Characteristics of the community renewal movement

an article in National Civic Review by Richard Louv

(our site's article review)

Putting his finger on the pulse of the community renewal movement, Richard Louv finds life after the national community stagnation Americans have experienced since the 60s. Various companies are reconnecting to community, education and childcare and becoming more profitable. Also, “. . . many churches and synagogues are deciding to create support systems for parents and children, and experiencing a dramatic upsurge in membership. . . . From coast to coast, schools and neighborhoods and cities are tapping the capacity of ordinary citizens to reverse the slide toward crime and disintegration.”

(Note: Church attendance in developed countries has gradually declined. Research has attributed this decline to boredom during services, incompatibility of belief systems and lack of motivation. One study published in the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, however, argues that at least in America, church attendance since the 1990s has remained stable at 25%. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_attendance. So one can understand why some churches create support systems for parents and children to increase membership! America has lots more church-goers than most developed countries.)

Church attendance in developed countries has gradually declined
Church attendance in developed countries has gradually declined

“Transitory [community] renewal, focused on the self or on a narrow interest group, is neither lasting nor fulfilling. The cultural and political mistake of the ‘70s and ‘80s was the assumption that institutional or personal renewal could be accomplished without connection to community or to the next generation.” He reports instances of using the power of small claims courts to sue the owners of crack houses—this new strategy actually works. Safe Streets Now! is a nonprofit organization that helps people use this strategy in their own neighborhoods. By 1996 it had closed down 485 crack houses, liquor stores and motels serving crime and vice. The key to success is collective action, since small claims courts are limited to imposing $5,000 fines per person. Twenty people, however, can collect $100,000 in fines which is enough to make property owners sit up and take notice.

Another community renewal activity is the baby-sitting co-op. People barter with points, not money, so that the childcare is free. This takes care of the economic side of childcare, but are one’s randomly settled neighbors good childcare providers? That’s the weak link here, obviously.

Using visionary town plans, grandmothers may be available for baby-sitting and other household assistance
Using visionary town plans, grandmothers may be available for baby-sitting and other household assistance

Another aspect of renewal relates to structural innovations: “The visionary town plans of developers and architects Peter Calthorpe, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk allow each single-family house to have a garage apartment or cottage at the rear of its lot. ‘Grandmothers may be available for baby-sitting and other household assistance, but without the frictions of sharing the children’s living quarters 24 hours a day.’” (Think MC. See Why Register for an MC?.)

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

He discusses online parenting forums. The strength here is the amount of and the immediacy of the information received, while the obvious weakness is the quality of much of it. It’s important to remember that much of the science of relationships, communication and parenting has been perfected to the degree that a consistent and comprehensive guiding light now exists about what works and what produces the healthiest kids, such as Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs.

In this light, he advocates using Web pages that show people how to start parent support groups or parent education courses in their churches or preschools—obviously people will benefit in direct proportion to the quality of the knowledge.

(www.askdrsears.com is a good site for info, when the site works right, and The Baby Book is great for the most detailed instructions on how to raise kids, including medical problems. There’s a vast array of issues with solid answers that have been helpful to millions of parents over the years. It can be highly recommended for its wisdom and helpful knowledge in dealing with most of these issues. Ignore his discipline answers, mostly, and ignore his silly statement that the goal of parenting is obedience. Good parenting has no such goals!)