In an opinion piece in the Boston Globe a couple of days ago, Carlo Rotella writes about the newly renovated K-8 school in his neighborhood. “It’s lovely,” he observes, “but it’s too neat, and it smells wrong. Don’t get me wrong: It smells like a million bucks. The library and gym have a tang of freshly varnished wood; the hallways and classrooms have a crisp, sharp new-building smell without the underlying musk of sweat and dinge that pervaded the school before the renovation.”
This is not the expected response to a renovation. Rotella explains why he holds this unusual view:
I’m looking forward to the return of that musk. A school, even a well-kept one, should smell like effort, like humanity, like desperation as well as inspiration. And there should be clutter, too — student projects displayed on the walls, books everywhere, stacks of papers collecting in desks and piling up in the corners of classrooms as students crank out more and more work. A school should look and smell like a place where young people and their teachers work hard because the stakes are high and because they owe it to themselves, each other, and the community that’s counting on them.
Definitely something to think about, isn’t it?