As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to take courses with Dr. Charles Bidwell, whose in-depth explorations of schools as organizations inspired me to think about schools as physical embodiments of social inequality. To me, there’s no better way to learn about a place than by visiting its schools. Whenever I’m out doing fieldwork, attending a conference, or vacationing, I try to visit a few schools. Even just standing outside of a school building and walking around the nearby neighborhoods can be very educational. At fieldwork sites especially, this practice has proven particularly useful. Having firsthand experience of stepping foot into the school and its surrounding neighborhood helps inspire deeper conversations with families about their experiences in these settings.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding the built environment of educational institutions is going to be key to understanding how the pandemic has affected children’s learning and exacerbated existing inequalities. Schools have always been geospatially stratified, across neighborhoods, cities, and regions. In an era of social distancing, however, space itself has become a resource of even greater value, one that we know is distributed very unequally both across and within schools. Studying inequalities in space, place, facilities, and the built environment of schools will be fundamental to understanding and mitigating educational inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some of the photographs that I have taken of schools, universities, district offices, and other educational institutions that I have visited.