The Toronto Globe and Mail ran an article today headlined ‘Parent academy’ offers dividends to children.
It focuses on a new effort in Toronto that has this as its goal:
“In effect, schools would become de facto community centres for whole families, offering programs to help parents with their most pressing needs – from finding work and getting fit to understanding Facebook and navigating the school system.”
It sounds good. My concern, though, is that — based on what the article says — they’re basing what they do on responses to written surveys instead of upon individual conversations. Written surveys are never good barometers of genuine interest, nor can they be used to identify potential leaders who have energy to “carry the ball” and who have a “following” in the community.
Community organizers know that writtens surveys are good for one thing — to be excuses to initiate conversations with people. The real “meat” occurs in the listening and talking.
Without that kind of interaction, whatever is created can become a typical social service program where well-intentioned school staff provide services to parents, which might or might not be their priority community concerns. Leaders are not developed, and it can easily peter out.
However, I certainly know enough to recognized that the article might not be giving an accurate impression of the parent academy, and the school district might very well be using other tactics to connect to parents besides a written survey.