Get the spirit of connectivity with your community

Michael Alcorn, Hitting Home
Posted 8/16/12

By the time you read this, your children’s teachers will have been back at school and in meetings for two days, which means your children will be …

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Get the spirit of connectivity with your community


By the time you read this, your children’s teachers will have been back at school and in meetings for two days, which means your children will be headed back to school very soon. Ready, parents, all at once now: YIPPEE!

And, by now, you’ve probably heard a great deal about Jeffco’s good test scores, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about whatever your school is choosing to focus on this year, and, no doubt, you’ve heard a thing or two about the mill and bond issues on the ballot.

But this year, I would like to propose that you consider one other issue above all the rest going into the school year: connectedness.

I’ve written before that the ubiquitousness of media makes this generation of students simultaneously the most connected generation ever, and the least personally connected ever.

They instantly know when one of their friends changes boyfriends via a Facebook post, but can’t muster the gumption to ask an adult for directions.

I would be curious to see if anybody has done a study to see what this means in a school setting: Does this “distant connectedness” break down the normal social cohesiveness that defines a school culture? If so, what are the implications for schools?

One of the more important books I’ve read in the last 10 years is a geopolitical-strategy book called “The Pentagon’s New Map” by Thomas P.M. Barnett.

Barnett, who regularly consults for the Pentagon, goes into an intricate explication of his central thesis, which is “disconnectedness defines danger.”

What that means is that states, regions or tribes that are cut off from regular contact with the highly developed portions of the world are the states and regions that pose the greatest threat to the world around them.

Consider that al-Qaida grew and thrived in the largely abandoned and desolate regions of tribal Afghanistan, and you’ll understand.

It’s a fascinating thesis, and one worth understanding for anybody who has a lot of brain-space free to devote to geopolitics.

But I think it also has profound implications on a small scale. Consider what we know about the people behind the rash of mass shootings lately: These are not people engaged in the society around them.

People who disconnect like that miss sensing the common chords that bind us together as a society, and that is sad.

And in some extreme cases, that isolation causes people to lose their sense of compassion, their awareness of the motivations and contributions of the people they run across every day.

In this state, it becomes easy to twist small offenses into overarching problems that demand dramatic and violent action.

Next week, walking through the doors of every single school will be some child who is in the process of disconnecting.

For whatever reason, they are not plugged in to the social life of their school, nor do they have even the handful of companions that psychologists tell us provide safe haven for young people.

I’m not just talking about being unpopular; I’m talking about is something that goes a little beyond the not-so-trivial trivialities that make up a normal adolescence.

I’m talking about profound isolation.

But that isolation at school isn’t always definitive.

Many people plug in to community with their family, or with church groups, club sports or even performing groups.

All of that is great because people who belong to something tend to thrive.

Even if that “something” is as simple a unit as a mentor and a mentee, that human connection is often what launches the average into the realm of extraordinary.

So give a little thought to how you are going to “plug in” this year, even if your year is not defined by the school calendar.

I can’t tell you how to find your community, where you will feel valued — only you can do that.

But I can tell you, whether you’re a student, a teacher, a parent or a community member, the webs we forge between us have a way of reinforcing themselves over time.

Our connectedness becomes one of our most valuable assets.

And all it takes to start is making eye contact and saying a genuine “Hello.”


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