During the first week in June we will look at ways that communities protect and use their natural environment as a part of their economic and community development strategy. I define this environment not just as trees, streams, and mountains but also "place." Literally where they are located. Some places lament that they are not close to the ocean or the mountains but they fail to see what they have. We will take a look at all of that next week.
People who love music are in luck; you may find it close to home. USA Weekend featured the 10 best places to hear America's music. One of those places may be close to home. The familiar places like Detroit and Los Angeles are listed but also Bean Blossom, IN and Clarksdale, MS for bluegrass and blues respectively. Throw in Nashville, Austin, and Virginia's Crooked Road and you can have your pick. Many smaller towns like mine, Charlottesville, VA, are becoming popular music venues--local and national. There are festivals galore that capture your imagination like the Hot Dogs and Hot Rods on 66 Festival in Clinton, OK. In my other home town of Orkney Springs, VA we have the Bishop's Blue Grass Festival on July 4th. Also think about music museums like the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale or the National Music Museum in South Dakota. The opportunities abound.If you are worried, as we all are, about gas prices think about the vacation opportunities closer to home and include music in your choice.
I am especially interested in places that have blended their culture with their past. A shining example is in Bethel Woods, New York and the museum to remember the Woodstock Music Festival. The festival moved from Woodstock to Yasger's Farm in nearby New Bethel because of the crowds. It became a cultural event of huge proportions and still is considered such. While the site itself is marked, Bethel Woods has captured the essence of the feeling and the history in the new museum that will open June 2. With large investments by a local boy, Allen Gerry, made good, the museum and arts center are intended to give this rural area the edge. I suspect it will. I have always wondered what it was like to be at Woodstock and I will finally get to find out. If Woodstock is not your thing, there are many other things to do in the area including arts festivals, wineries, and historic sites of all sorts.
Since Memorial Day starts the beginning of the summer season, I want to spend this week featuring places and attractions that you might want to visit. One of the places on the list this week of must sees this summer is Gettysburg. The battlefield is ingrained in our history because of the huge loss of life on both sides (10,000) but also because of the words spoken there that helped heal our nation. June 19 begins the Gettysburg Festival of Brass Bands which adds another attraction to the trip. Nearby Hersey, PA, with its lamppost "kisses", amusement park, and Crayola museum make this trip fun and interesting for all.
People are going to be stingy with their travel dollars this summer.
According to a Rand McNally survey 66 percent of Americans planning road trips this summer changed their plans because of gas prices. This is going to hurt tourism across the board. Places that benefit from European and Asian tourists with money to spend like Washington, DC, and New York City will continue to do fine. Over the next few days we will give you a few places definitely worth the drive.
Today is the day we honor our military dead. While many families, churches, and communities have made it memorial day writ large, it was created as a time to pause, reflect, and remember those we lost in military service. And there are lots to remember. If you include all the wars since the Civil War, the estimate is more than 600,000 by action alone. Others died through friendly fire and non-combat accidents. In other words we have a lot to remember. Most families have been touched in some way. The Civil War was a horror all to itself with 563,000 lost. So today let's remember all these men and women who have made life as we know it possible. They were brave, they went hoping for the best in themselves and others, and they did their best. We lost them as people, parents, and citizens. Our best memorial to them is to do our best for them and for the country they fought and died for in some foreign land. We have got to take up the slack here. We also should let this day serve as a reminder that war is about people. While sometimes it is inevitable and necessary, it it must be the course of last resort. I believe as Colin Powell does:
"War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support. " - Colin Powell
The third grade reading scores should be out for your school district by now. They are usually reported by school so you should have no problem getting a good picture. Call you district office or look on the website. Sometimes they are posted. My assertion is that third grade percentages of children not reading at grade level mirror the dropout percentages nine years later. That is if you are struggling with reading in the third grade your ability to learn math, history--you name it--down the road is compromised. So...the challenge is to work with students early to improve their skills and get them on the path to success. Do not assume that the problem will correct itself on its own. Iowa City did a parents' guide to the scores that may be helpful to those of you in other states. As Colorado found this year, things did not get any better. Other states are seeing moderate increases. Find out about your students in your district.
One of the premises of the Learning to Finish campaign is to involve the whole community in addressing the problem of high school dropouts. Why? Because as many of you have heard me say, "it is the community issue that comes to school." Schools cannot fix the problem alone. In places where the community has engaged as a full partner in the learning not just the funding of children, good things happen. Just yesterday I spoke to someone in Richmond, IN, about their new Third Grade Reading Academy that will be launched this summer. Based on some data that I gave in a speech to an education summit last fall, they decided to act. Now many people in the community are invested in and committed to getting third graders reading at grade level. The school system is one partner but there are many more.
The education of children and schools in general create learning opportunities in communities for all concerned. The involvement of the community in teaching and preparing young people builds social capital and linkages to the community. Using resources available in the community to teach--manufacturing plants, chemical plants, historic buildings, museums--bring to bear the best that we have and send a message to young people. Keeping schools in communities as the Rural Trust and others advocate anchors communities in multiple ways.
As neighborhood and rural schools are closed, there is always the question of what to do with the building and often the furnishings. Schools have been retrofitted to be senior centers, community centers, arts facilities, museums, and most things in between. But the most important use may be preserving the history of the school, the community, and the historical timeline. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and others know this and are working with communities to preserve history. Pennsylvania has been a leader in this effort. The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities has developed some important resources that could help you and your community take a new look at what might seem on first glance outdated facilities. Perhaps the one shining example of preserving a school for posterity's sake is Central High School in Little Rock. The scene of the ugly aspects of racial integration, Central High School is now part of the parks system and open to the public. We can all see where history and the nine student heroes were made. I met several of the African American adults who as students who made the long journey into the school several years ago in Little Rock. The presence of this school helps all of us remember what might have been were it not for their bravery.
We will talk about what closing schools does to neighborhoods in a future blog.
In Smart Communities one of my favorite examples of a community using its assets is Harlem and the work of the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC). It is a wonderful story of revival and investment that reinforces that assets often abound unnoticed. Under the leadership of the Reverend Calvin Butts ADC has channeled millions of dollars into Harlem. Now there are other plans for Harlem instigated by the city. According to a Time magazine article, plans are to redevelop 125th Street and according to some residents erode Harlem's culture and flavor. This a very interesting story that goes far beyond gentrification and development to preservation of culture and history at the expense of change. The question is who is right or mostly right? The story of the revitalization of downtown Asheville that I also wrote about in Smart Communities would not have been so successful if the powers that be had had their way. Citizens were actually right in opposing the plan to tear down 11 acres in downtown Asheville including the priceless art deco buildings. So how do we decide?
Today's New York Times list endangered historical and cultural sites for 2008--any in your town?