Paths and Choices: Citizenship 5.1.1

The grassroots is the most powerful source of strength in a democratic system.  Small groups are effective not because the participants are professional or have excellent skills, but because more people can have the experience and practice of leadership in a wider variety of ways.  Historically this was done in a myriad of small communities and small schools across the nation.  In small schools almost everyone sang in the choir and played on sports teams and participated in the school play and was some sort of leader in a club or group.  With 25 or 50 or 75 students in the senior class, virtually no one could sit out.

Now because the population is clustered into large cities and huge schools that are supposed to provide economies of scale and the highest quality of performance, fewer and fewer individual adults or children have the opportunity to learn and develop unexpected skills and to participate in a wide range of experiences.  The competition is intense within and among schools and towns.  Only the best 10 out of the 500 boys in the high school can play on the varsity basketball team.  Only the best 150 students out of 1500 can play in the bands.

Perhaps more important, we no longer understand that sometimes we just help because we are needed – because everyone is needed.  In a giant system we are tempted to forget that everyone can do something and that everyone needs to be needed.

Phyllis Ballata

Without Words We Cannot Think

“80% of success is showing up.”  Woody Allen (b. 1935)


2 thoughts on “Living As Though There Is a Tomorrow #52

  1. Excellent point it also a disturbing one. The question then is: how can this trend be reversed when big schools are unavoidable because of economies of scale? A: there must be a concerted effort of parents, citizens, teachers–in other words, by people who care to develop leadership and participation opportunities for kids by alternate means. Grass roots has never been more important

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Many schools recognize this and create small schools inside of the big school. This way everyone is part of a group (75-100?) who all know each other and are known by all the teachers and helpers in their “school”. But this is usually in K-8. Most High Schools are usually not divided this way, although some are. This still leaves the 10 varsity BB players out of 500, but maybe 3-4-5 bands 🙂 Sports and winning seems to be unavoidable problems with the big schools. Other kinds of leadership and participation can happen in communities and in groups and churches. That is one of the reasons why helping kids learn to help in church is so important.


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