12 July 2010

the Family: Site of Social Change

In order to sustain the pattern of life in any civilization, capacity must be built for emerging generations to participate in its upkeep. So at the core of every society is the system it has in place for the education of its young. To a great extent they are trained to conserve what already exists. But in addition, each generation also gains the capacity to create new patterns of life and set that society on a new course. The most visible aspect of this process is formal education in schools. However, because the greatest share of education happens early in life and continues after a student goes home for the day, the primary place of education is the home. Patterns of family life have a dramatic impact on the direction of social change. For this reason, I think any attempt at community building should place a keen focus on the quality of family life among participants.

Often there is a tendency to erect artificial barriers between service to one's community and service to one's family. But if approached in the right way, the success of one reinforces the success of the other. A vibrant healthy community is one that supports its families. And a strong family is one in which the children grow in their capacity to contribute to the well-being of the community. Just as any endeavor serving a community requires participants to occasionally reflect on past action, discard disfunctional practices, and make improvements on successful ones, so too the family should be treated as a space of conscious social transformation. Positive changes in family life now contain within them the seeds of social progress for the future.

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