NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER'­S LAKEWOOD

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Gordon Brumm
Posts: 13
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2005 9:13 pm

NOT YOUR GRANDFATHERíS LAKEWOOD

Postby Gordon Brumm » Fri Apr 15, 2005 6:14 am

Lakewood Observer is part of an effort with the purpose, if I understand correctly, of making Lakewood a more creative and intellectually stimulating place to live. Achieving this purpose would be of great value in itself but would also serve to increase the cityís tax revenue.



Another approach to improving the cityís fortunes ñ a long-existing one -- is upgrading of the cityís housing stock. This is fine as far as it goes, but itís not sufficient to make Lakewood a distinctive attraction. Nor is laying out a collection of fine shops. Lakewood does not need more consumers, for this is the Information Age, and the persons we need to attract are those who are young (largely), creative and intellectually active and curious. With a critical mass of such residents, all the arrest will come.



What are the inherent advantages we can build on to make our city the intellectually and creatively exciting place that will attract such citizens?

For one thing, Lakewood is a small city. By saying it is a city we mean that it is large enough to be diverse and has that extra energy that takes us above the routine. Its being a small city means that we do not need to rely on the mass media for "communication" with one another.



Which brings up the second advantage. As we all know, Lakewood is a walking city, which means that it has the potential to be an interactive city, a city in which the citizens meet and talk and trade ideas.



Our task, then, is to build on these advantages by way of initiating specific projects. The function of the central group (the group I am talking to now, if I am not mistaken) will be mainly to act as a catalyst and a facilitator, for many of the projects must be undertaken, or at least supported by, established institutions.



REMOVING OUR LIGHT FROM UNDER THE BUSHEL. Before getting into substantive projects, letís note that the city can do a lot to gain greater advantage from programs already in existence:



Lakewood has created an off-leash dog park on its own property in the Rocky River reservation. Dog owners from places as distant as Strongsville, North Ridgeville and Avon Lake, as well as Rocky River and Fairview, are delighted to use the park. And what does the city get in return? Nothing. There must be some way in which the dog park can be used to advertise Lakewood and/or draw people in. At least the city could put up a sort of billboard on which local business could advertise at a nominal fee. (Health laws permitting, a dog-friendly coffee shop would be a great idea also.)



Lakewood has a miniature golf course, the Little Links, that must have been designed by Euclid. How many people know about this intriguing course, even within Lakewood?



I happened to read recently that Carol Heiss Jenkins, an Olympic gold medallist in skating, is affiliated with Winterhurst. How many people know this? How many people throughout the area know that Lakewood has such a skating rink?



The skateboard park will soon be in use, if it isnít already. Just as with the dog park, Little Links and Winterhurst, letís make people aware that itís here, and that itís here because Lakewood is the kind of city it is.

Now letís consider substantive ideas. Here is the list of those that come immediately to my mind:



LAKEWOOD RAMBLAS. This is perhaps the most obvious idea, and itís obviously not original with me. The name I have given it ñ "Ramblas" ñ comes from the famous pedestrian boulevard in Barcelona. The essence of the idea is to provide a place where people will come just for the sake of being there, to talk and to listen. Specifically, it might be like this: On Sunday afternoons in the summer, Detroit Avenue is cleared of cars, to form a pedestrian mall. All sorts of entertainers and groups are invited in ñ as for a Community Festival, but much better. For pure entertainment (especially for children), there are mimes, clowns and jugglers, as well as music groups of all kinds and dance groups. Actors from the Beck Center present scenes from well-known plays. There is a "Hyde Park Corner," where anyone can stand and talk anything he would like to anyone who will listen. Representatives from the city and civic organizations are available to explain what they do. And so on and so on.



PLAY-WRITING CONTEST. The Beck Center might sponsor a contest for one-act plays. The winners would of course be performed on stage.

MULTIPLY THE PHOENIX. The Phoenix coffee shop, it seems to me, has always been the embodiment of what this effort is all about. To paraphrase a well-known figure of some decades past, we need one, two, many Phoenixes. In addition to being merely a coffeehouse, the Phoenix (and its branches) might establish a lending library, dealing particularly with books on a subject I will get to below.



Some of the projects that come to my mind fall logically into the school systemís realm, perhaps in cooperation with the Library and/or other institutions. In my experience, the School Board and System are fine stewards of the taxpayersí money, but are somewhat challenged in he creativity and reflective thinking departments.. (Letís give them a chance to prove me wrong.) If cooperative ventures were offered, I think they would get on board. Here is what I have in mind:



"UNIVERSITY FOR YOUNG AMERICANS," REVIVED. The University for Young Americans was a program in which high school students from all over Greater Cleveland were brought in by faculty members for a dayís discussion of some topic of interest. In the morning they would break into discussion groups. After lunch the everyone would meet together to hear reports from the various groups. The program was sponsored by a group of businesses, and one of these businesses usually supplied the venue.

Judging from everything I could see, the University for Young Americans was a great success. The student participants appreciated the opportunity to trade views with, and to become acquainted with, different groups and different perspectives. Nevertheless, the program was discontinued some years ago ñ why, I donít know, but I presume it was because the businesses didnít want to support it any more. In any case, this kind of program could easily be sponsored by the Lakewood schools, perhaps in partnership with the Library, and I think it would attract a great deal of favorable notice. (Incidentally, I looked in the phone book and found the name of the programís administrator.)



ORAL HISTORY INSTRUCTION/CONTEST: Several years ago I initiated an oral history contest for Lakewood students, under the aegis of the "Thinking City" program. Students were asked to write up an oral history of individuals of their own choosing, and cash prizes were given for the winners. This ended after the second or third year due to lack of interest. In addition, I looked at some of the entries, and they were pretty poor. They were superficial and, despite specific instructions, in almost every case they made no effort to relate the individual lives of the subject to the historical events going on around them. This convinced me that itís not enough simply to ask students to do oral histories; they must first be guided in doing so.. For example, an adult might lead a small group of students in an interview, asking fruitful questions and eliciting fruitful questions from the students, after which the students would write up their reports on the interview. A program of this sort would be of great educational benefit ñ and great social and moral benefit as well -- especially if the subjects of the oral histories were selected from among Lakewoodís immigrant communities.



REASONING CURRICULUM IN THE SCHOOLS. (Might this be possible? Be still my heart!) One of the things students should learn in school, but donít -- and they certainly donít learn it anywhere else -- is the art of reasoning. Simply put, this means structuring our thought by putting it in the form of arguments (premises and conclusions), identifying issues to be resolved, making proper distinctions, avoiding fallacies, and the other steps that make our thinking clear and complete. Teachers, especially at the high school level, may claim to be teaching reasoning or its close relative, critical thinking, but they arenít. The reasoning process must be deliberately and carefully injected into the curriculum, just as any other subject is. But it doesnít need to be taught in classes specifically devoted to it, as math, history, etc. are, Rather, it can be taught incidentally as an aspect of, or an adjunct to, other subjects such as social studies and English (And even if it were taught in its own classes, it could should be taught incidentally in other classes as well.). Furthermore, there is this special consideration: In order to think in a reasoned way, students must SEE a controversy AS material to be structured in terms of arguments etc. This means, ideally, that they are acquainted with the reasoning process before they are explicitly introduced to the concepts of argument etc. (Just as pre-schoolers are introduced to the reading process by having adults read to them.) So it seems to me that the best program would be one that begins somewhere in late elementary school, where students slowly become acquainted with the reasoning process, and continues through high school as students gradually become acquainted with the relevant concepts and learn to structure their thought in more and more explicit ways.

The Lakewood school system could work out such a curriculum, trying out various approaches, arrangements and schedules in the classroom. Failing that, it could at least introduce the reasoning process into the classroom in a more modest way. To the extent that it gives reasoning a place, Lakewood would become a pioneer and a leader. I can think of nothing that would do more to attract the young, the innovative, the intellectually active and curious to our city.



LAKEWOOD OBSERVER, THE NEWSPAPER. Here I may be dealing with issues that have already been decided, but I would like to offer a few thoughts: I would like to see a paper that is in, but not totally of, the city of Lakewood. In other words, it would report on what is happening in Lakewood, but it would not hesitate to look at what is happening in the wider world. Furthermore, while observing the best journalistic standards in reporting the news, it would also enthusiastically analyze and evaluate. Here are some of the things it might cover:

-- Lakewoodís minority groups, including Muslim groups.

-- Proficiency tests, Advanced Placement classes, and tracking.

-- Ideas for our state reps (from readers and staff)

-- stories that other media ignore (e.g. Kofi Annanís recent proposals for revamping the

UN).

Etc. etc.



This brings up the problematic question that I alluded to in talking about the Phoenix. Is this newspaper ñ and this group ñ to have a political stance? The stance I would take is an in-your-face liberalism (or progressivism, as some would say), and I would guess that most of those in the group, maybe all, agree with me. Probably the best course, though, would be the usual one -- taking a nominally neutral stance while letting each writer and each group follow their own bent. Thus the paper could include columns excoriating the religious right, while making an effort to include columns by conservatives (as long as Kevin OíBrien isnít one of them). The Phoenix could build up a library of liberal authors (starting with Millís On Liberty, I would suggest). And so on.



Such are the thoughts of one person, from one point of view on the world. There are undoubtedly many other thoughts from many other minds, and it will be so sweet to see it all develop.



Gordon Brumm


Stan Austin
Contributor
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Postby Stan Austin » Fri Apr 15, 2005 6:54 am

Gordon--- Tremendous observations! They all deserve comment but in the interests of time at this hour let me pick out two thiings.

I heard a poet from Cleveland Hts. yesterday on WCPN describe her city as one that was centered on "Interests of the Mind." I sort of liked that phrase and thing it might encapsulate what a lot of us are tring to achieve.



Secondly, your wish for instruction in reasoning at the high school level is very important especially in the face of increasing time commitments to mind numbing proficiency tests and the Visigoths hammering at the cultural door.



With that in mind, maybe we can have a column reserved for high school students on ---whatever--- just to get them in the loop. We have to get the next generation ready to step in to the leadership positions.



I'll have more comments later on.



Stan


Stephen Gross
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2005 1:13 pm
Location: Lakewood

Re: NOT YOUR GRANDFATHERíS LAKEWOOD

Postby Stephen Gross » Fri Apr 22, 2005 11:58 am

[quote]Another approach to improving the cityís fortunes ñ a long-existing one -- is upgrading of the cityís housing stock. This is fine as far as it goes, but itís not sufficient to make Lakewood a distinctive attraction. Nor is laying out a collection of fine shops. Lakewood does not need more consumers, for this is the Information Age, and the persons we need to attract are those who are young (largely), creative and intellectually active and curious. With a critical mass of such residents, all the arrest will come. [/quote]



I think you've hit on two separate but important issues: housing stock, and (dare I say) human stock. Can we work on connecting those two? What kind of homes do people actually want?



Quick idea for an article / series of articles: Research on what people actually want out of their homes. Who's moved into Lakewood? Who hasn't? Why didn't they? I personally know two people who considered buying homes in Lakewood but didn't. We need to find out why!



[quote]What are the inherent advantages we can build on to make our city the intellectually and creatively exciting place that will attract such citizens? [/quote]



Another good point. This paper needs to seriously ask what the existing, inherent advantages are present in Lakewood. In the same way that the city of Cleveland is trying to capitalize on its lakefront, we need to ask ourselves what are the underutilized inherent advantages.



[quote]Which brings up the second advantage. As we all know, Lakewood is a walking city, which means that it has the potential to be an interactive city, a city in which the citizens meet and talk and trade ideas. [/quote]



Is it? I'm skeptical about this. *Parts* of Lakewood are pedestrian friendly, but I still find myself driving all over to get anywhere. I've seen "real" walking cities--Paris, New York--and they blow Lakewood out of the water in terms of pedestrian friendliness.



[quote]Lakewood has created an off-leash dog park on its own property in the Rocky River reservation. Dog owners from places as distant as Strongsville, North Ridgeville and Avon Lake, as well as Rocky River and Fairview, are delighted to use the park. And what does the city get in return? Nothing. There must be some way in which the dog park can be used to advertise Lakewood and/or draw people in. At least the city could put up a sort of billboard on which local business could advertise at a nominal fee. (Health laws permitting, a dog-friendly coffee shop would be a great idea also.) [/quote]



Excellent idea!



[quote]Lakewood has a miniature golf course, the Little Links, that must have been designed by Euclid. How many people know about this intriguing course, even within Lakewood? [/quote]



I had no idea! Where is it?



[quote][b]LAKEWOOD RAMBLAS.[/b] This is perhaps the most obvious idea, and itís obviously not original with me. The name I have given it ñ "Ramblas" ñ comes from the famous pedestrian boulevard in Barcelona. The essence of the idea is to provide a place where people will come just for the sake of being there, to talk and to listen. Specifically, it might be like this: On Sunday afternoons in the summer, Detroit Avenue is cleared of cars, to form a pedestrian mall. All sorts of entertainers and groups are invited in ñ as for a Community Festival, but much better. For pure entertainment (especially for children), there are mimes, clowns and jugglers, as well as music groups of all kinds and dance groups. Actors from the Beck Center present scenes from well-known plays. There is a "Hyde Park Corner," where anyone can stand and talk anything he would like to anyone who will listen. Representatives from the city and civic organizations are available to explain what they do. And so on and so on. [/quote]



Can we extend the non-driving portion to a permanent section of road? For instance, I grew up in Williamsburg, VA, where a central portion of the town is off-limits to cars. The practical result is a bustling urban center filled with WALKING people, shops, cultural activities.



--Steve


"Allow myself to introduce... myself."
Kenneth Warren
Posts: 489
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2005 7:17 pm

Postby Kenneth Warren » Fri Apr 22, 2005 7:41 pm

Steve:



I appreciate your jumping into the broad thematics of the discourse here.



Walking is a key transformational component now registering in a number of projects across the city.



Your critical eye is delivering points of comparisons concering walkability with other world class cities.



Lakewood is friendlier than your average burb. That's not enough to bake the cake, as you suggest.



Take a look at Americaís Most Walkable Cities:

http://www.gartenberg.com/planblog/index.php?p=244



What can Lakewood do to make the list? That's a story in itself.



Next step - Scan the city for what is going on - from the Healthy City Initiative to the Main Steet Initiative.



Bring your sense of metrics and organization to how people in these initiatives might make actual changes in space for waking and biking.



The Lakewood Observer should develop a coherent roll-out of probes, thrusts and sources to properly instigate, integrate and report on this fundamental matter of urban ecology.





Kenneth Warren



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