I believe that, with very rare exception, our public schools, and most private schools too, are wasting educators’ and students’ time. As I see it, they are interfering with, instead of helping, our development as individuals – and the healing of our communities, society at large, and ‘Mother Earth’!
There are far too many critical issues – personal, societal, ecological, etc. – that need awareness, understanding, and solutions! We – humankind – cannot afford to waste meaningful time with the mostly meaningless chores and the ridiculous curriculum that permeate mainstream schools. We need to be in places where we are growing holistically as learners and as people, and where the same is true for our students!!!The adults in mainstream schools are NOT going to fix them, so we who care need to open up our own learning programs. At some point, when enough students have left the mainstream schools, I think the adults in charge will panic at their loss of revenue and will finally decide to make meaningful changes. If that in fact happens, great! But if it doesn’t then we just keep on opening up more good programs, and increasing the numbers of students who leave the indoctrination centers and join our centers of true learning and development!Here are some ways to do homeschool resource centers, or coops. (Btw, one name that I have been thinking about is Full Potential Centers.)1- Here is Kamali, the African-centered homeschool in New Orleans (I think I mentioned this):(In this homeschool coop several families pitch in and do most of the teaching, and the adults set most of the curriculum. Kamali is mostly for younger kids): http://www.Kamaliacademy.com/2- North Star in Hadley, Mass., which has been around for 15 or 18 years, works a bit differently. Was started by two junior high school teachers who hated what they were doing and what the kids were being put through, and so they decided to start their own program. Here the students have more freedom, can study what they are interested in; some parents teach occasionally but so do the founders, other community members, college interns, the students themselves; and many kids do internships and apprenticeships. (North Star is for teens): http://northstarteens.
org/3- Here is a brand new program in Boston where teens meet with an advisor/mentor only once every two or three weeks. In between they work on projects of their own choosing. It’s in its first year, and I have no idea how well it’s working, but you can at least get an idea of the concept. This program doesn’t have a building, and so their meetings are held in places like McDonalds or Starbucks.*About charters. I don’t know much about charters, except that different states and areas have different regulations or expectations. If you can find a place where you can open a charter and run the school with the values that you believe in, then great. Obviously it’s much better to not have to charge parents anything and to be able to pay staff, have money for supplies, trips, etc.But my bias is that if the government is involved, they’re usually going to find a way to mess with your program.*Homeschool Resource Centers – or Coops – can generally be run quite economically. You might be able to get some funding, but also there are lots of retired educators who would like to make a difference as volunteers; there are good people in the community who will volunteer 3-10 hours a week; students can apprentice in the community, helping out mechanics, photographers, dieticians, etc., and getting real life experience. (You don’t need licensed teachers; you need people who know their craft or their subject and who will enjoy teaching it to young people who are interested in their particular expertise – and there are lots of these kinds of people around. In fact, this kind of situation is a Win-Win, because often your potential teachers or mentors are just aching to put some more meaning in their lives, and they may very well become happier and healthier by getting involved with such a positive learning program.)Sometimes you’ll already have a building. If not, you can often have space donated by churches or community groups, or you can meet in peoples’ living rooms or public spaces. Even libraries, if you keep your voices down. Students can take college courses as a non-matriculant in city or state universities at pretty good rates.A number of students realize that for the kind of ‘work’ they enjoy and are good at they don’t need to go to college, but for those who do want to go they – as unschoolers or homeschoolers – have no trouble being admitted, and in fact often have an advantage over traditionally schooled applicants. I can tell you more about this if you want.RogerAdditional info or resources:There has never been a better time to be a Student:Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and schools:(check out other Sir Ken videos too – they’re funny and profound)Some good Facebook groups for non-traditional education:The Learning RevolutionThe innovative EducatorHomeschooling, Unschooling, Uncollege, Opt Out, DIY, Online LearningUnschoolingUnCollegeTransforming Education(Some of these are closed groups, but if you ask to be invited you usually can be. I’m in all of them, and maybe I can help if you have trouble.)
IT IS TIME – CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS
IT IS TIME to create a world where people from different cultures and backgrounds will get along with each other!
There is a way, through our schools, that we can engage in a project that has the potential to dramatically shift the social fabric of the United States and the entire world to that of a new domain – a domain of respect, cooperation, and harmony. How?
Visualize virtually every school that exists, public and private, elementary and secondary (and some colleges), being actively involved in intercultural partnerships similar to what will be described in these next paragraphs. These partnerships can exist with other schools and/or within individual schools.
Suppose, for example, that you and I are both secondary school teachers. Your students are primarily white and affluent; mine are primarily students of color and are not affluent. Geographically our schools are close to each other, but the worlds our students live in are very far apart. Our young people have pretty strong feelings about the other group, but their opinions have been formed without their having had the opportunity to REALLY get to know ‘the others’. So you and I form a partnership.
A Partnership has four components:
*In-House Curriculum Exchanges
PREPARATORY EXERCISES (PE’s) – A series of exercises designed to increase the self-esteem of our students, teach them how to express their feelings honestly and respectfully, encourage them to actively listen to others, introduce them to the importance of honoring the qualities and opinions of themselves and others (while reserving their right to disagree), and challenge them to think critically about how they form their opinions.
IN-HOUSE CURRICULUM EXCHANGES (ICE’s) – Together you and I decide on an initial assignment to give to our students. After the completed assignments are collected we exchange them. My students read what your students wrote, and vive versa. Each group then responds to the responses of the other group, and these too get exchanged. And so on. The responses may continue to be in writing (including email) and/or we may decide to use audiotape and/or videotape – or more recent technology. This process continues throughout the school year.
IN-PERSON EXCHANGES (IPE’s) – Together we decide when, how often, and with what agenda, we will bring our students together to meet and interact with each other. IPE’s may occur at one of the schools or at a ‘neutral’ site. They may include doing a reading and discussing it, or engaging in an open discussion on topics that may have arisen via the In-House Curriculum. They might include experiential exercises, watching a movie, or going on a picnic and just having fun. (I have orchestrated more than a hundred IPE’s over the years, ranging in duration from three hours to four days. In every case the large majority of students from both groups reacted with comments like “Hey, they were OK” and “I thought they were all going to be ‘such and such’ but most of them were really nice” and “When can we do this again?”)
JOINT PROJECTS (JP’s) – Those individuals from both groups who choose to will have the opportunity to work together in designing and implementing some form of community improvement or social action project. This may include introducing an intercultural relations program, or a tutoring or anti-drug program, to local elementary students. Or it might be a joint venture with Senior citizens. Or something involving their parents. It might be a Solution Plan, play, a video, a mural; perhaps a book. The adults will support them and help them, but these joint undertakings belong to the students. The JP’s will really break down walls and create an emotional bonding because students experience a roller-coaster of feelings while working cooperatively with young people from a completely different background – negotiating and processing to solve problems, supporting each other through difficult times, and rejoicing when their creation comes to fruition.
WHAT WILL ALL THIS MEAN? Consider:
If the partnership you and I create exists over the course of just one school year imagine the effect it will have on the thirty to fifty young people who participate. The large majority of students will make improvements – often substantial – in at least one, and probably more than one, of the following areas: open-mindedness, interpersonal communication skills, respect for and understanding of other individuals and cultures, critical thinking, problem-solving, self-esteem, academics, attitude, sense of hopefulness, etc. And think about the likely spill-over effect that the students’ new awareness may have on their friends and family members.
And this is just one partnership! What if there were millions of partnerships going on simultaneously all over the world?! Not just between whites and people of color, or rich and poor, but Israelis and Palestinians, Pakistanis and Indians, Irish Catholics and Protestants, Americans and Iraqis, girls and boys, gay and ‘straight’, visually impaired and sighted, etc., etc., etc.
And not just one year, but every year!! What effect would there be if these partnerships became part of the curriculum in every school in the world?!
For comments, questions, or help in implementing this contact Roger Dennis at 212-662-8781 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
you know, i’ve been a social justice advocate for more than fifty years
a monster may have been created
i understand something