I’m currently blogging my way through the Reclaiming Our Neighbourhoods experiment exploring what it means to follow Jesus when our neighbourhoods are experieincing gentrification. You can read Week Two here.
This week we explored how improvement in the area of education contribute to gentrification.
A teacher who has taught at a secondary school in Hackney for over 2o years came to share with us her expereince of teaching, how education has changed and how the student demographics have changed over the years in Hackney. It was really nice to hear her story and hear firsthand from someone who has been impacted by the changes directly instead of reading facts divorced from stories.
What struck me most was how education has historically been the realm of the privileged. For example one came from a poor background, chances are that they were not able to go to school as they had to work to bring home money for the family.
If an area sees an improved education system, chances are that the area experiences gentrification. For example, if there’s a good school in the area, property values rise by 10%. With good schools in the area, demand for housing goes through the roof with only those who have the money to keep up with rising property values and rents being able to benefit from good schools. As a result, those from poorer economic backgrounds don’t get to benefit from improvements in the education system. Seems like nothing changes.
It leaves me with the question of how do I facilitate learning environments where everyone can participate. At my present stage in life, one of the biggest learning environment I am connected to involves taking my daughter to playgroups. While my daughter may not be educated, she is nevertheless learning new skills and more about the world in these playgroups. I take my daughter to all sorts of playgroups ranging to those run at children centres to gentrifying cafes that run playgroups where one has to pay in order to participate. Upon reflection, it appears that those who go to the local children centres are more racially diverse and generally comes from lower economic backgrounds while those who attend playgroups held at cafes are generally white middle class.
I have my work cut out for this week. I am going to try to invite my friends with children to come with me and my daughter to different playgroups and help expose the different learning opportunities that are available for the little ones.