Generalist Practice Blog Post 2: Challenge and positive impact in Allentown, PA

Choosing one of these three communities from your readings (Allentown, PA [Morse], post-Katrina New Orleans evacuees [Cortes], or Harmony Elementary in CA [Cortes]), describe one way the community was challenged as cited by the text and two ways the struggle positively impacted its growth.

Good morning!

I’m blogging from home instead of my classroom because I have a kiddo who has finally succumbed to the crud, whatever it might be. His chubby cheeks are flushed with fever, but he seems content to lie on the couch beside me and watch PBS Kids this morning.

Let’s talk about the community of Allentown, PA today and their struggle for relevance and viability.

Post-World War 2 Rust Belt was drastically impacted when the U.S. decided it just didn’t need as much steel as it had been using. We saw the steady decline over the decades and then the sharp drop-off during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 when the U.S. government had to bail out the Detroit auto industry. Detroit still hasn’t recovered, but they’re working on it. That’s another commentary for another time.

Few Rust Belt communities were spared this setback, but how they handled it is the topic of this post. The text contrasts Allentown, PA and Youngstown, OH.

When faced with this financial setback of declining demand in the steel industry, Allentown was set up respond positively to the changes. Lehigh University, local businesses, non-profits, and local government were all set up with overlaps to help with a positive response and an actual tightening of the community knitwork. Local communications companies were regularly updating themselves  to stay technologically relevant in the wake of a major change. Because of the overlaps in place, these changes that became necessary were feasible.

The community had been purposefully diversified to maintain a wealth of knowledge coming from several areas. When push came to shove, they were all able to come together and form their own think tank to tackle the problems. They supported one another, learned from one another, and used their collective intelligence to overcome the issues that came with the decline in their livelihood.

Youngstown, on the other hand, fought with their government. They pushed back against new ideas, businesses, and companies that might want to come in and revive the area. They suffered as a result.

I know a LOT of people from Youngstown. I lived near Boulder County, Colorado for six years, and there was a pocket of folks from Y-Town who worked with my non-profit. It was apparent to me that they had suffered in some capacity. They were all edgy, vulgar, and had a desperate air about them. I loved them because they were so raw and real as people. Reading about the issues in Youngstown clarifies for me the issues they faced as a community at large. They were fleeing a collapsing infrastructure. Interesting read.


Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities: How citizens and local leaders can use

strategic thinking to build a brighter future (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Social Policy Blog Post 1, or “Let’s get mad!”

Policy Blog Post 1!

Let’s talk for just about minute about this textbook. The authors must have been snubbed on the playground by some kid in a Ronald Reagan t-shirt or something. I felt like I was reading an angry liberal blog post. And I’m not even conservative! It was a challenge to see the forest for the snark. Still, the text is valuable and challenging, and I promise that this is the last time I mention how weird the text is. That is a lie. I’ll probably bring it up again.

Ladies and gentlemen, you see before you a chart of your standard liberal-conservative leanings and some key stances on various subject matter. This is by no means exhaustive. Even well-known politicians who fall squarely into one of these categories has been known to deviate from his or her chosen  path.

Keep an open mind. Take a peek below. Leave me a comment if I’m off-base or should add something important. Thanks!


“Government is either organized benevolence or organized madness; its peculiar magnitude permits no shading.” – John Updike

Economy Role of Government Civil Rights Reproductive Rights Gay Rights
Liberalism Keynesian economics-macro-economic stabilization by the govt. Large government presence to keep welfare and economy stable. Champions minority groups, works to extend legislature and keep protections in place for minorities. Supports women’s right to choose, free and easily accessible birth control. Pro-marriage equality, pro-gays in the military.
Neo-liberalism Less cautious of big business, opposed economic protectionism, opposed financial regulation.


More cautious of govt. than traditional liberalism, preferred less presence. Potentially harmful to civil rights with de-emphasis on social issues, emphasis on meritocracy. Potentially harmful to reproductive rights with de-emphasis on social issues. Social issue de-emphasis HOWEVER recent legislature has gone in support of gay rights. (Author argues that Obama is a neoliberal [pp14]).


Leave the economy alone and let it regulate itself. Tweak as necessary. Belief in free-market capitalism. “Small government”. Idea that the country can take care of its needs without govt. assistance. Oppose the extension of civil rights legislation. More apt to support reproductive rights than a cultural conservative. Supportive of gays in the military. Lack of stance on marriage equality being usurped by cultural conservatives.
Neo-conservativism Believe high unemployment is good for economy, believe in competitive income structures. Take aim at social programs and work to disrupt the growth of welfare programs, larger govt. presence than classical conservativism. Little emphasis placed on civil rights issues, usurped by cultural conservatives. Little emphasis placed on reproductive rights, usurped by cultural conservatives. Little emphasis placed on gay rights, usurped by cultural conservatives.
Cultural Conservativism Strong belief in free-market capitalism and minimal govt. presence in the economy. Belief that being a good Christian who tithes will bring prosperity. Small govt. presence in economic and social areas. Significant govt. presence in personal areas like contraception, marriage equality, and other private affairs Strong religious presence influences beliefs that racial and ethnic minorities are inferior. Pro-life, want heavy legislation, currently revisiting abortion and contraception legislation, champion abstinence being taught in schools Anti-marriage equality and gays in the military

Blog Post One: “Communities are not programmable or predictable.”

“Communities are not programmable or predictable.”

After locking myself out of my blog and feeling my anxiety rise up in my body like a flood, I understand things being unpredictable and non-programmable. What an interesting way to start the blog assignment. What does this quote even mean? As members of our own communities, we rarely put these kinds of thoughts in writing. We just go about our lives, living where we live, experiencing what we experience. Do we notice how things around us change?

I found Morse’s discussion of the community of Wausau, Wisconsin particularly poignant regarding this quote (Morse, pp. 18-19). I lived for five years in Madison, Wisconsin, and was able to travel to Wausau with a friend for Easter one year. Wausau in central Wisconsin, sitting slightly north of dead center. Morse is right. It is LILY WHITE. Yet there is a significant Hmong population there that has developed over the last 25 to 30 years. They immigrated to north-central Wisconsin to escape religious oppression.

Weirdly, I don’t recall noticing a lot of Asian faces at the mall in Wausau. It’s been a long time (like, 12 years), since I was there. It would be interesting to see how the community has changed in the 12 years.

This is a tiny snapshot of how a small community can change over a few decades, but what about significant changes that happen over a relatively short period of time? How did events like Hurricane Katrina change the face of New Orleans in a matter of DAYS?

With the political winds changing, it will be interesting to see how our communities change and reform in the next four years. Will we become more homogeneous, or will we bind closer together and fight to hold on to the unpredictability on which the United States was born?

Morse, S. (2014). Smart communities: How citizens and local leaders can use strategic thinking to build a brighter future (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Three Commitments for Learning Enhancement

Topic: As your practice blog, please name 3 things that you will commit to do to enhance your learning in this course. 

I am a busy person, and I like being a busy person. I tend to take on too much at once. For instance, I’m singing in yet ANOTHER opera this semester. That being said, these are the things I commit to do for this class:

  • Stay on top of the reading! This will help me understand the course material, engage more effectively in class discussions, and make everything generally easier.
  • Keep an updated personal calendar that has every assignment written into it. I usually do this anyway, and it always helps me stay on top of my papers and other assignments. This is the only way to get through a degree that is this intensive.
  • Find ways to use what I am learning on a weekly basis in my practicum placement. I am placed at an elementary school, and I do spend significant time in the classrooms conducting group lessons. I want to use the information I glean from this course to be more effective with the kids I see.

I’m excited to get this semester going! Let’s do this!

Jill Burcham