The following curriculum unit is designed to teach New Haven middle school students how to appreciate, understand, and to have some hope and pride for their city. The underlying theme is the importance of the neighborhood. A city lives and dies for its inhabitants by the quality of life in its neighborhoods.
New Haven neighborhoods in the past were some of the finest residential areas in which to raise a family and live until retirement in the entire country. People knew and respected each other. Neighborhoods were like extended families where everyone helped each other and looked after one another and their property.
Problems are nothing new to New Haven or any other city. The World War I years saw a deadly influenza epidemic sweep the nation. The 1930’s saw unprecedented unemployment and bread lines. In the 1960’s urban riots scarred many of our cities, including New Haven. Urban ills like any other problems are solvable. History has shown this over and over.
Today’s problems of crime, violence and general lack of civility among the residents can be overcome. However, first the people must have confidence and a strong unified will to do it.
Little children and senior citizens could safely walk the streets of their neighborhood at any time, night or day, as recently as 1960. However, conditions which have changed rapidly have made the neighborhoods unsafe, unfriendly and unlivable.
The youth of New Haven have to know what it used to be like and be able to believe that the neighborhoods of our city can come back to life again. They must be given the opportunity to see how much better life used to be in the city and to have it back. Only when people have a sense of the past and present, by comparing what the neighborhoods used to be and what they are today, can they hope for the future. New Haven used to serve everyone—residents, university community, and out-of-towners. Today it’s a city being used with little or nothing being put back for the people who live there. These people pay a tax rate that is threatening to send more walls crumbling as abandoned, vacant houses appear at an unprecedented rate.
Flight does not have to be the only answer. Neighbors can take a stand and fight against crippling taxes. After all, they are the City. People don’t have to abandon their homes. They need only to be shown how they have the power to affect change.
The only hope is that the city becomes a place its people believe is worth saving. This curriculum unit tries to educate the youth of New Haven so that it may lead the way.