The Group

The group consisted of three VISTA volunteers providing service to children and their educational needs in a New England state.

The Program

We read Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone," which raised themes of community and individuality in contemporary America. We discussed these issues over flatbread pizza in a downtown city restaurant, and I think this setting really helped make volunteers comfortable discussing these issues.

Overview

This discussion went very well. I began by asking whether or not volunteers thought Putnam's basic thesis was right that we are losing our social capital. One volunteer raised the issue of the term social capital and whether the economic description of our entire lives is itself a cause of declining social relations. Others raised questions about whether Putnam's dislike of online community was appropriate, whether all social capital is equal, and whether there aren't some advantages to a radically indivdidual-based society.

Next Time

I would use this text again, but would probably begin by asking whether Putnam's ideas of social capital make sense in particular his comparison of online and face-to-face community.

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