Gentrification debate meets AP Seminar


Photo illustration by Sami Level

Out with the old, in with the new... and improved? English teacher Christine Dutrow’s AP Seminar explored this idea for its first research project that focused on gentrification in Columbus communities. Gentrification is the act of renovating and renewing districts, neighborhoods and businesses in order to appeal to middle class families.

There are several perspectives on gentrification. One of the main arguments against it asserts that it favors the middle class and therefore displaces lower classes, which consist disproportionately of minority citizens. The argument in favor of gentrification holds that renovation and renewal are good for everyone and creates a safer and more appealing community, according to www.spectator.co.uk.

The AP seminar class focused on Franklinton, an area in West Columbus which is currently anticipating gentrification. The class explored this area and how gentrification could affect the community. Each student took the role of a different person being affected by gentrification in a given community, and then debated in favor of their assigned role.

“For our project and class debate, I played the role of a local of Franklinton. I conducted large amounts of research on how gentrification has affected other cities and what implications it had on the locals. In almost every city, the locals were displaced through gentrification and were left without homes and jobs,” junior Jackson Shiefelbein said.

This project was not only practice for the AP exam, but gave students a real- world experience that allowed them to explore the nuance of a complex social phenomenon.

“Students took on a role [residents of Franklinton, local developers, City Council members, police officers, etc.] and examined the possible gentrification of West Franklinton from their assigned perspective. As they began to understand the complexities of gentrification, they contacted their “real-life” counterparts through phone and Skype interviews. The project concluded with a mock debate around the following question: ‘Should the West Franklinton Plan be amended?” Dutrow said.

The AP Seminar class had the opportunity to talk to General Corporate Manager of Franklinton Board of Trade, Dr. Judy Box, who has a strong stance on and understanding of gentrification as a social dichotomy.

“As a nation, we have to address housing for the poor. Look up Section 8 housing programs by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is a good program that keeps the poor in stable decent housing. Other programs throw money at the problem and folks move often. This disrupts kids’ schooling which adds to poverty in the next generation,” Box said.

The students who completed the project garnered new knowledge about gentrification and how to approach this very real and contemporary problem.

“This project helped me gain new perspective on how my lifestyle and others’ lifestyles in metropolitan Columbus have negatively affected people who are not as wealthy. The same things that are happening in Franklinton are happening throughout all of metropolitan Columbus as large developments and shopping centers are built, replacing the lifestyles of the original residents,” Schiefelbein said.

The AP Seminar class will be doing this project again next year with a few modi cations, which are not yet finalized.

“If I had more time, I would love to organize face-to-face interviews with community members. Also, Franklinton is growing and changing every day, so I will allow current events in Franklinton to dictate the direction of the project.” Dutrow said.

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