Phila. schools are overdue for more holistic approach

“Public schools are not free-floating, self-contained cities cut off from human civilization. They are rooted in communities and neighborhoods. They are supported not only by teachers and principals, but also by parents, businesspeople, counselors and clergy.


No one understands this better than Geoffrey Canada. In 1991, he started the Harlem Children’s Zone, a network of educational and social-service programs aimed at reducing poverty in Harlem. The program, which has been featured on Oprah and 60 Minutes, is groundbreaking because it takes a holistic approach to education.”


This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Phila. schools are overdue for more holistic approach”.  Please respond by clicking on the comment button below.


Thanks for reading.


–Christopher Paslay

12 thoughts on “Phila. schools are overdue for more holistic approach

  1. Great idea. Now we need someone to champion this and make it happen. No more talk–let’s see some productive responses to the real problems where EVERYONE is accountable and pulls their weight. Mr. Canada has shown the way and proven his idea with hard results. We have a model to follow. Who will get on board??
    Please continue to write about this program in a “series” so we can have it in front of us continually. Thanks for your concern and effort to make a difference. Mr. Canada stopped the “blame game” and taught people to help themselves.

  2. After reading your piece in today’s Inquirer, I was convinced that you had been eavesdropping on my last department meeting. As a speech-language pathologist working in a neighboring school district, we have been urging our district to place a greater emphasis on developing young children’s language skills. You rightly note that the achievement gap begins before children even enter school. Without the prereadiness reading skills, all the phonological drilling done in kindergarten will not help children to read if they don’t know what the words they are reading mean. Some states such as NJ have required preschool for four year olds. PA needs to adopt this as well. I am excited to learn about the success of this holistic approach. I will be bringing your article to my next department meeting.

  3. Nancy,

    I’m glad you got something out of the article. Communication and language skills are everything. Teachers, principals and parents must come together to foster these skills at an early age. Good luck at your next department meeting.

    –Christopher Paslay

  4. Mr. Paslay,

    Once again I thoroughly agree with your approach to educating our children.

    I look forward to your next posting and hope to see a commentary in the Inquirer regarding the above topic soon.

    Keep up the fight!

  5. You should come in my head start classroom and hear the lack of language skills…are parents talking to their children? I always felt that talking was part of everyday life but my students each year are making less and less sense when speaking or answering a question…they lack exposure to language and I fear for their future…we must do more but how if the parents themsevles do not communicate effectively?

  6. Ellen,

    These are good questions. Somehow we must find a way to reach the parents and put an end to this unfortunate cycle.


  7. Chris – I agree with you and want to create a children’s zone for Philadelphia. Have you heard of anyone starting that work?

    • I haven’t heard of anyone trying to start a Children’s Zone here. I think the district is spending all its energy on Imagine 2014.


  8. I need to find organizations in philly who are working with single moms from 0 to three years old – the way the baby college in the harlem children’s zone is set up. -ie the 9 week parenting course. I have girls who really need this now…
    Is anyone doing this? and is anyone who is doing this now — interested in going with me to get a training in geoffrey canada’s model?

    we would need 6 – 12 people to attend the training.

    • hello emily and all, i’m VERY interested in any efforts to duplicate the harlem children’s zone in philadelphia. there is a conference in new york, november 9th, that does require a group of at least 4 people. does anyone want to go?

  9. Jillian,

    Can you tell us more about this conference in New York? If it’s related to HCZ, I’d like to advertise it here at Chalk and Talk. Holistic education is the future, especially in urban areas. In the 21st century, schools can’t do it alone. I know there are groups out there that say we are just making excuses (usually non-teachers), but Geoffrey Canada has the right idea when he strives to link community and social services to education.

    Chris Paslay

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