Mayor Menino Calls for Community Education

During Mayor Menino's 20th State of the City Speech at Faneuil Hall. The punditry surrounded his return after a long convalescence was centered around his political mortality, as befits anyone who has been in office for 20 years.

One part of Mayor Menino's speech did strike me as particularly note-worthy: BostonX, a new pilot program with Harvard, MIT, and edX that will experiment with bringing courses to community centers then to high school classrooms and public libraries.

“Imagine a day when our community centers are little campuses in their own neighborhoods, full of vibrant groups of neighbors, exchanging ideas and making progress together,” Menino said. “This initiative is a first, important step in that direction.”

I like the sound of this educational Eden, but is this really the Next Big Thing? It's fantastic that groups of adults could sit together and get valuable training in various computer skills and software packages, but what about redirecting some of these resources to early childhood education? If the city of Boston is committed to a long-range transformation of the educational playing field for its residents, shouldn't this be the first step? Perhaps a greater emphasis on programs like the tremendously successful Harlem Children's Zone?

It would seem that these investments would pay larger dividends in the future in terms of producing college graduates and persons well-suited to succeed in college and beyond, although the ultimate question is who would pay for all of this. But really: isn't this always the question?