05 September 2006

School as Cathedral

I dropped my son off at P.S. 29 in Brooklyn for his first day at Kindergarten. Approaching the monolithic buidling, I was reminded of my childhood elementary school, which took up an entire city block, when you took the playgrounds and all into account. It was a school with a capital "S."

P.S. 29 is a grand old, blocky brick building that rises about six stories up. It was built at a time when civic leaders obviously regarded schools as being as important as churches, and assigned them appropriately impressive, permanent-feeling architecture. They were not faceless buildings, made on the cheap and sandwiched between other structures. They stood alone, air on all sides, so that the surrounding neighborhood could gaze upon then from all sides and see them more than a block away. Their presence said, "I'm important. I'm a hub of the neighborhood. What goes on in here is significant."

It's healthy, I think, for kids to go to such buildings, and for parents to visit them. You can't help but take the place seriously, and be proud to go there.

I visited my old elementary school recently. It's been converted into condos. Funny, because that's been happening to churches a lot, too.

1 comment:

kurt said...

I guess after decades of suburban expansion, Americans look at schools as temporary things meant to deteriorate along with the local shopping center, and that the families that first moved in expect to be long gone by then.

The good news is that the building is not as important as the people in it, and I think you can still find good teachers, even here in NYC.