Why Do, What we do?Posted: May 25, 2010
At one time in my life, the idea of being a writer was very foreign to me. It was not that I could not write, or that I lacked imagination. It was that I never thought I could actually sit long enough to construct elaborate thoughts and arguments, express enough poetry and emotion, to fill a page. Yes, to fill a page. That was what was most important of all. Books represented the goal to be able to write long stories with chapters. That was what writing was for me. But now, I see it differently. It is a deep seated need to express myself. As a visual artist that has translated into pictures and art. There has been my need to express myself musically which is a language from another world. Maybe, words are a way to express myself from the common world we share. A common ground.
This blog was started almost 1 year ago. It came in response to a meeting at the first North American Democratic Education Conference (NADEC) in Albany. I attended a meeting that focused on how to turn our views on education, into a growing movement. I had agreed to attend this conference, because I wanted to find a role for myself in this movement, but I was unclear as to what that role was. Today, I sit here with a bit more clarity of my desires.
The room at that meeting was a collection of frustration on how to communicate with each other. Much time was spent discussing the inadequacies of Facebook. There is a bit of hostility toward many of the new social technologies. My gut feeling and need was to find a better way for us as a group, to find a way to communicate, and support a national effort. Possibly even an international one. As I was riding home in the car with Alan Berger, Brooklyn Free Schools’ fearless leader, I was trying to formulate in my mind, some kind of newsletter. But the expense of such a project was foreboding. The Free School Apparent was born.
Blogs have their own life, as I have discovered over the past 11 months. It is hard to stay consistently on one topic, that being education reform. My concerns stretch beyond the school. They reach out into the community and into the world. They reach into my inner world, into my mind, into my creative spirit. It has become the vehicle to allow a pouring forth of expression in the form of words. so I have defied my initial doubt of being a writer, and just allow myself to express on a host of topics, which always seem to win their way back to the key topic of this blog.
It must be mentioned here that I avoid the news. Not totally, but I do not seek it out. Huffington suggests (HuffingtonPost.com) that her bloggers are all news junkies. They use the news to bounce off of. The news and events are used to generate a reason to write. For me, news creates stress. I avoid stress. So my response comes mostly from life and my observations, with a lesser degree of responding to articles. But they do pass across my desk, and they can be inspiring.
One of the key aspects that I bring to the table in this movement is that I am not an educator. I was not a student in a democratic free school. I was not home schooled, unschooled or subjected to any innovation in schooling. Just the opposite. Every morning for most of my young life, I left my home, to cakewalk to PS 46 with my friends. On the way there, we would wrestle, talk about sports, flip baseball cards and make disparaging remarks about each others mother. Once we entered the doors of the institution, our ability to freely express ourselves was crushed. And if we chose to resist, or act out, there were consequences. We would be sifted out from the obedient, and marked for life.
As a warm up to sitting here and typing, I watched for the second time, the latest video from TED (Conference for Technology. Entertainment. Design.) featuring Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken is a lovely speaker, meaning that his use of words to convey an important point, which gets a lot of admiration from this writer. Sir Ken expresses in his talk, that we have a global crises with our main and maybe most important resource: children.
In his talk, he speaks about taking on what “is not easy.” Challenging what we take for granted.
My career at this stage in time is being challenged. The economy has shifted, and pulled the rug out from under a lot of businesses, most of which are having to adjust to the fact that there are less economic resources being shared. So in response, I am adjusting to the change of current in our world. And somehow what has emerged is my life long passion for the fact that children matter. I have reacted to the ideas that are hold overs from our upbringing which state “children should be seen, and not heard.” But in hearing children now, I have learned so much about who I am. As I move into the middle of mid-life (where I am in this sequence escapes me), it has become clear, that children help me stay in touch with that which is young within me. Having a son later in life, has helped me to stay vital.
Sir Ken also makes another point that I think needs addressing. He says that the model we have for education now, is based on the fast food industry. And this model is not only having disasterous consequeces for our national health, but for the national mind.
There is a tendency in modern life to segregate everything. We are segregated by race, economics, taste, desire, greed and also by age. So we no longer have the wisdom of elders to guide us along. As I have experienced lately, the loss of some very wise elders in my life, it becomes clearer to me that there is a job opening. Here is the classified we need to place on craigslist,: WANTED: Aspiring wise men needed to help guide and ground society. Responsibilities include speaking to young people and being able to respond to their questions. Long hours. Experience a must. Photoshop a plus but not required. Salary? TBD.
It is hard to settle on what the point of my current post is. I did prove though, that I could sit here and ramble with a measure of meaning thrown in, and express my intelligence, my passion, for what it means to be alive at what I believe to be a crossroad in human development. Something great is amidst. But there is such a shit storm of stupidity and greed, that it is hard to listen to the mounting rumble of change that lies under our feet. Sir Ken says we are trampling on the dreams of the young. I wish, as he suggests, to step lightly. Not something that is easy for me. I wish to step lightly, while also not ignoring the fact that I have my own path to explore. And though old age is beginning to appear closer in my rear view mirror, my mind and my heart have been opened by a struggle to stay close to my passion. And as my wife has been suggesting to me lately, passion is a form of suffering. It is through an intentional suffering that something special appears. That great works have the chance to be done. And what better message to let loose in the world?