15. Center of a Community

Every community should have a school. Traditionally, schools have been a critical part of every community because it’s a place for kids to learn, focusing on K-12 education.
But is that the best we can do? Is it possible to have the physical schools function as more than just a education center for K-12 students? Is it possible to make physical schools an education center for everyone, regardless of age?
In this chapter, I want to explore a few ideas that might be slightly unconventional to traditional schools, but might create a significant amount of value to communities. I want to explore re-imagining schools as a place not just for students of younger ages, but for all students, young and old. I want to explore ideas of how schools could develop a stronger community and make it safer as well.
Therefore, this chapter explores 3 ideas:
  1. 1.
    Schools should also be a place of education for adults.
  2. 2.
    Schools can make a community stronger.
  3. 3.
    Schools can make a community safer.

1. Schools should also be a place of education for adults

After high school, the only place you would see a large amount of adults gathering to study are either in colleges or universities. Maybe a couple libraries, but they are probably studying at a college or university and just looking for a change of environment.
Why do we not see more education targeted towards adults? There are gradually more self development courses in the market, quick workshops where everyone sits in an audience and listens to a lecturer. There are online classes where everyone sits alone at home or wherever, staring and interacting with their computer. But what about education for adults where they come together and just share and interact with each other? The problem is actually quite simple. There is no place for it.
I used to run events and I stopped them after running them for a year. One of the main reasons was because it was hard to find a consistent location that was not expensive. Because of the costs, events either require sponsors or they include a business aspect to it, typically in the form of tickets. In general, this creates an overhead to gatherings because the organizer, who just wants to share ideas and concepts, is met with the challenge of balancing out costs. Is there any type of space that can be used to teach and share without having to think about costs?
I would argue that schools are a perfect space. Physical schools are currently not being fully utilized. School days typically start around 8-9am and end around 5-6pm. That is approximately 9 hours. What about the rest of the hours? Sure, there might be special events once in awhile, like a sports game or a play, but most classrooms are probably off limits by then.
There are maintenance and electricity costs to deal with, especially in the winter, and that would take some administrative effort to straighten out. The fees could be generally collected through sponsorship, donations, or it leverages an app that calculates and splits the costs to the participants, which will generally be significantly lower than renting a space elsewhere.
Schools are a staple in every community. It’s a critical building in every modern society that we know of today and it’s typically a larger area with lots of different types of spaces available. It’s also typically central to the community in terms of travel distance and convenience. Schools are the obvious choice for gathering and for learning for all ages. Not only will it be a great place for people in the community to come together to share ideas and skills, it is also an amazing place to develop the different attributes of the Core Philosophy for everybody.
One category of education for adults that might be very important is parenthood education. Most families are having kids for the first time and most parenthood knowledge is passed down instead of systematically studied. To provide the best environment for children, we need to have adults who are knowledgable about how children learn and continue to learn themselves so they can be the best role models they can be.

2. Schools can make a community stronger.

In big cities, we suffer from loneliness because often times, we cannot build a connection with anybody. We don’t recognize the people we walk past on the streets everyday, we don’t hang out with the people we work with, and we don’t really know the people who open stores around our block. Heck, we barely know the neighbor who lives directly across the hall, 2 meters away.
What most of us realize once we go into the real world is that real friends are hard to make. The reason is because we don’t spend enough time with these new friends. Our friends from school and college were all people we met every day for over 1000 days of our lives. That’s a lot of time that we spend together! And most importantly, it is consistent. Imagine trying to do that once we are in the real world. Where do we go everyday? What do we do? Why isn’t there a space where people can just congregate?
There actually is one. Church. Why are church communities so strong? It’s because there is a consistent group of people that show up and if you see each other consistently, you build trust. I believe that is why my grandparents are stuck devout Christians. Not only did they grow up in a christian community, the community that they are a part of is everything to them. If they ever find themselves disagreeing with christian teachings or christian values that the larger christian community believes in, they could be potentially ostracized from the most important people they know outside of their family. The weekly consistency of meeting up is what makes church and religion so powerful. It is a means of connecting with others and developing a real sense of community.
In a world where religion is not the uniting force it once was and with atheism on the rise, the school can become the new community glue. No one will argue against education or assert that education is bad. Idealogically, it is the perfect space for allowing people in the community to consistently congregate.
Imagine a school that serves as a place of gathering for the community. It’s the local college, the YMCA, the park, the church, all put in one! During the day, the space is mostly allocated for the children enrolled in the school, but during after school hours, the space can be re-purposed for other community focused events to bring people together.
There can be community classes that includes volunteer teachers from the community. There can be community games where you get to play with others. As more trust is built, the community becomes stronger because now, the people in your community are real people. They are no longer just a name or a statistic. They are actual faces, people that you have personally met. Real connections create a safety net where the community is more willing to help each other out in cases of emergencies and to support each other in the good and the bad times. It’s an extended family. It’s a stronger community.

3. Schools can make a community safer.

Not only can schools help develop a stronger community, it can make it safer too. When building a stronger community, community members are required to build connections and relationships with others in the community. The more you get to know the people around you, the safer the community gets in general.
This is because these connections in the community builds trust and most importantly, facial recognition. A safe community is one where people largely recognize who is part of the community. Smaller towns with community organizations have both a strong and a safe community because the members of the community recognize each other and each other’s children. They speak up and protect each other when something bad happens. They recognize when there is an outsider causing trouble. They know that it’s okay to stick their nose into the situations because they know it is their business, removing the chances of the bystander effect, where people watch a situation unfold from afar without helping because they are afraid of being pulled into a mess, or even worst, a scam, and creating extra problems and headaches in the future.
Speaking of safety, there can be concerns on the safety of the school once adults are allowed in. One concern would be security. What if random people come in? What if they are dangerous? Although there is a lot of value with allowing adults into schools, it is safe to say that a very strong security program will need to be in place 24/7. Simple procedures like registering to be part of a member of the school community is a basic requirement. Anyone entering the campus will need to swipe in via a facial recognition system. Cameras will be everywhere around school to record everything that happens.
Many western countries will then have an issue with privacy. In this case, schools are a place where security and safety can be prioritized over privacy. Therefore, there should be very obvious rules about what can and cannot be done within the bounds of the school.
In the end, learning never stops, regardless of whether you are young or old. Schools provides a space that helps build relationships and connections with others so that members of the community trusts each other, creating a safer environment for all. The resulting stronger and safer community creates a better environment for children’s education, where they can be more independent within the community, and with better role models.