Tuesday, April 22, 2008

East Lake Solutions

One of the big pushes in society today is to "change the culture" in areas in which we are failing. I see this most prevalently at school, where an unnamed system administrator recently informed the folks at my school that we have to come up with a 'better school culture' without really expounding on what that means.

I've heard this sort of thing for a while. The program I was in that trained me for teaching this year had a lot of focus on culture as in: "high expectations," "big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs)," and working your ass off despite all the obstacles put in front of you by a culture that does not reward or value educational acheivement. Bill Cosby got in a lot of trouble in recent years for decrying cultural attitudes that he percieved to be holding back African-American populations. We spend endless hours discussing the "culture wars." The city of New Orleans markets parts of its culture in exchange for tourist dollars. Catholics and other religious leaders speak often (or did until recently) of a "culture of life."

So, as the book says: "Culture Matters," and there are many interesting takes on how to go about understanding and changing cultures.

But you can talk the talk, if you don't walk the walk you're just a pundit. There are some success stories, and many many failures for those who have tried to do just that. Finding the success stories is a big deal, because when it works, it works well.

That's why I was glad to see the MSM giving some love to one of the ATL's success stories today. Go and check out some of the write up on East Lake in Atlanta and how things can go right.

It is an especially important read for folks in New Orleans, as this city continues on the path to rebuilding and renewal. Many of the old urban developments are coming down right now, amid high drama. Many other neighborhoods are looking for ways to revitalize and get away from the crime ridden streets of past and present.

I'm not saying that this model is perfect. Golf will not save every neighborhood and fix every problem. But it is the outside-the-box thinking coupled with a willingness to cross cultural boundaries that made East Lake a success story, even if it did happen in Atlanta.

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