Sociology Colloquium Series featuring Mark Warren, PhD, Harvard University
Event Date: October 30, 2012 - 4 p.m.
Event Type: Open to public | Location: Wheatley, 4th floor, Room 22
Mark Warren, PhD, Harvard University
McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies
A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform
The persistent failure of public schooling in low-income communities constitutes one of our nation's most pressing civil rights and social justice issues. Many school reformers recognize that poverty, racism, and a lack of power held by these communities undermine children's education and development, but few know what to do about it. A Match on Dry Grass argues that community organizing represents a fresh and promising approach to school reform as part of a broader agenda to build power for low-income communities and address the profound social inequalities that affect the education of children. Based on a comprehensive national study, the book presents rich and compelling case studies of prominent organizing efforts in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, San Jose, and the Mississippi Delta. We show how organizing groups build the participation and leadership of parents and students so they can become powerful actors in school improvement efforts.
The book makes important contributions to the growing field of study of community organizing. It argues that successful community organizing does not result from the quick mobilization of individuals but rather through the deep cultural work of engaging people’s values and traditions as they are embedded historically in various communities. It also presents the most comprehensive discussion of the various traditions that have influenced modern organizing, from Saul Alinsky through the civil rights, feminist and immigrant movements. Rather than counterpose these traditions as is often done, the book demonstrates the essential similarities in community organizing efforts that succeed in building wide and deep participation by residents of low-income communities, even as it traces the important differences in the way groups engage communities.