Ask Dr. Blank: How do we assure that schools, after-school programs and community-based settings are dynamic places that surround children with opportunities to be connected and exposed to the world and not isolated and segregated from it?
As your question indicates, after-school programs offer a fabulous opportunity to serve as dynamic centers that can extend children’s experiences well beyond the traditional curricula. But they can only do this if the teachers and the programs are provided with adequate support on a range of dimensions (salaries, training, resources, respect, etc.) Unfortunately the past 15 years have been marked by almost diametrically opposed conditions. Budgets have been cut, teachers have been relentlessly criticized, and resources have been eliminated, and so on. All this has been happening with formal schools that are mandated to exist and so must receive some funding—albeit far below what is needed. After school services are not required to receive any support. They are seen as “extras.” That’s why many after school programs are private with parents paying for the services. It is great to ponder what could and should be done to use both the school and the after school hours to enrich our children’s lives. That does not mean we are confined to the current unfavorable climate. A hallmark of our society is the way in which situations can change very quickly. Hopefully, that will happen in education and we will then be able to introduce the programs that will achieve the wonderful goals you have cited.
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