Private vs. Public School. How Do You Feel About it?

4781354867_31e8687a41_zIn response to an article about private vs. public schools from the Gothamist, that was posted to Facebook yesterday, an interesting exchange ensued. The Free School Apparent is sharing it here with names abbreviated to protect the innocent. We like exchanges like this because of the variant points of views.

EM: that article is b.s. i went to a private school in manhattan and didn’t die of a drug overdose. granted some of my schoolmates did, but not my friends

EH: harsh.

CT: I dunno man I went to a public high school in Massachusetts that really supported and nourished creativity, art, music. language, etc. Of course 5 years after I graduated, when my sister was starting there, a lot of that got slashed from the budget, but when I was there it was fantastic. I think the issue is really the slashing. Some schools are always better than others based on a lot of factors including financial allocation and teaching talent.

AP: I also had an amazing and formative experience in the Berkeley public school system. Private schools are not necessarily outside the “traditional” education system, and some public schools have a non-traditional approach.What is certain, and what the article really speaks to, is that we as a society cannot afford to abandon public education. Even those of us who don’t have kids need to have some awareness and emotional investment in our neighborhood’s and city’s schools. They are the heart of our communities. Also, for what it’s worth, Laguardia Performing Arts High School IS a public school.

CM: I went to public, parochial and graduated from a city college. Any school is what the parents put into it.

KF: Well said, AP. The article doesn’t mention that in a city as large as NY, there are alternatives to the neighborhood school, even on the elementary level. Brooklyn New School, Brooklyn Children’s School–case in point. Not nearly enough of them & parents need to do research & be aggressive advocates. There are schools for all kinds of special kids. I think it is harder when a kid is “average” in intellect, talent to find a school that nurtures & gives them the advantages of the “special” but they exist. Slashing of the arts has been a major blow to all education and creativity but that is not reason that the system is poor, just the funders.

The Free School Apparent: I disagree with this article whole heartedly. Private schools cannot be painted with one broad brush. On the other hand, public schooling systematically disempowers children of their own learning, so how is that good?

AP: If private schools cannot be painted with one broad brush (positive OR negative), then why is it okay to do it to public schools?

The Free School Apparent: It is not the school but the system. If the idea of education is still “coercion” then it all feeds the same outcome. Public schools still adhere to a CORE curriculum which still maintains the system of standardized testing, which approaches students as “one size fits all.” Until we can allow children to be themselves, and give them the space to find out what it is “they” are interested in, instead of a preconceived set of accepted ideas, we will never move forward. It is the system that needs to be junked so that teachers can participate in this process of redefining what education actually is. And one thing I know that it isn’t is school. Children learn from each other and it is up to us elders to watch, rather then to espouse.

JC: Thanks for starting this conversation Anne! I have wanted to quit during my first year as a NYC public high school teacher because I feel like an oppressor, particularly under this intensive testing regime. I think schools in general have swung far to the right toward more rote, dull, uninspiring education. In the 70s when most of us were going to school, pedagogies/ideologies were much more liberatory. At the same time, I feel oppressed. 40% of my teacher evaluation under the new system will be based on the test scores of students at my school. And these are completely new common core-aligned tests that we haven’t seen and the students have never taken. Teachers’ and community discretion over the content of the curriculum has been completely stripped away. I probably don’t need to tell you that much of what is on the test we don’t agree with, don’t think our students need, etc. However, I am NOT quitting, because I love the kids and I love being a teacher (and, okay, I love having a job), and the people in the system bring the light. With most students in public school living in poverty, and most students of color, it is the system we have, and we cannot give up on it.

CT: Standardized testing is one of the worst things to happen to schools… my mom was a teacher in the MA public school system for 25 years (is now the academic dean for an innovative private school for dyslexic kids in upstate NY) and one of the things that absolutely killed her sense of self-worth as an educator who is passionately interested in innovation and pushing kids to expand their horizons was how much schools now force teachers to cater their curriculums ONLY to standardized testing. The schools are RATED on how many kids pass standardized tests, and what scores they receive. All that matters is that the teachers pump out the material that will help kids pass those tests, and it’s usually really mundane and does not give the teacher much opportunity to express himself or bring his (or her) personality, personal expertise and creativity into the classroom and makes it harder to engage kids. Unless the teacher is REALLY savvy it seems to become a rote passing of information, which is not the key to really good education (engagement is). My mom taught science and engineering and did a lot of great work and found it being stripped back over the years.

The Free School Apparent: Recently, an old friend asked me to talk with his 26 yr old son about his career. In conversing with him, I realized that he had no confidence in his abilities. That somehow, his education had failed him. He did not think in a resourceful manner. He had desire, but lacked passion. It is as if something had been squashed in him, and it was difficult to revive. I have seen this in a lot of young adults who have passed through our PS system. The thing is, I hear from teachers over and over again about what CT and JC speak about. Administrators have confessed in multitude about the woes and the disaster that the current Common Core, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind have created. Everyone seems to be convinced that the system is a disaster. But like a narcotic, the policy makers cannot ween themselves off of it. My only suggestion is that more people make a clean break. We need innovators and creative thinkers. We need people who can collaborate and troubleshoot. And they need to come from EVERY community irregardless of race and economic standing. It is how our nation can become relevant again in a positive way. It is how we can again be a leader in the world. But as long as people continue to desire what was yesterday, they will not see what is and the future will only be a downhill ride. The current structure needs to scrapped, and everyone needs to look at education as something we do no yet understand, because in truth we don’t.

JC: I appreciate the “just opt out” sentiment, but we have over one million kids in the NYC public schools. They and their parents don’t have that option. I’m leaning toward fomenting the revolution from within. For example, having kids read the “Black Students’ Manifesto” from South Africa in 1975, which paved the way for the protests against Apartheid education policies in Soweto in 1976. I give them this source along with others from the Soweto uprising. I think the students will change the system.

The Free School Apparent: I agree. I know I speak in extremes. but there is an organization Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA) that is trying what I am speaking about within the PS system. You may want to check them out.


A Student Vents His Frustration

AlbanyHigh4171c6bd-5b30-4cd8-9496-c2e5cb43441eThe following post comes from Aden Suchak,  a High School student in Albany. It is in response to an ongoing situation in his school. The following explanation is from his father, Bhawin Suchak, a teacher at the Albany Free School.

This commentary was directly in response to that incident at AHS, the teacher was his English teacher and Aden has been so frustrated with the complete lack of dialogue around the issue with students or other teachers for that matter…” for a simple misunderstanding or a slip-up teachers are often fired, all out of the glare of the mass media and especially not to the knowledge of the students. this execution style way of dealing with insubordination allows these schools to often never have to release more information about the firing or expulsion because like a totalitarian regime they can often make these things seem much worse and allow the media to play only off the bad and not off the good or the unheard.”

Aden’s response

Public Schools, AKA: Totalitarian Regimes

Today i would like to try to open some eyes to what exactly the public school system is. I will be comparing the public school system at least in New York to that of a totalitarian government.

In a totalitarian regime the govt has control over all aspects of life. In new york public schools the administration, principal, school board and superintendent have full control over all aspects of life in the school. Students and for the most part teachers have no say in what curriculum they must teach or be taught.

A totalitarian regime relies on the aspect of nationalism in its subjects for strength. this is achieved in public schools by heavily controlling the historical ideas students are taught. most of public school history is a watered down white European view of history as a whole, the history of Asia and south America are completely excluded and not offered as a class, while European and American histories are all but mandatory.

Students are also not allowed to have a say in what tests they take, the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 insured that standardized testing would teach students exactly what the schools wanted them to know and nothing more or less. Also like a totalitarian govt the public school system deals with rebels swiftly and harshly, for a simple misunderstanding or a slip-up teachers are often fired, all out of the glare of the mass media and especially not to the knowledge of the students. this execution style way of dealing with insubordination allows these schools to often never have to release more information about the firing or expulsion because like a totalitarian regime they can often make these things seem much worse and allow the media to play only off the bad and not off the good or the unheard.

The comparison above only reflects the opinions of me myself and I and if you are reading this i implore you to develop your own opinions and not jump on my bandwagon, this piece’s only goal is to bring attention to something i believe is important, not to force you to agree with me, Thanks.

And apparently, this is not over. The students, I am told, are staging a protest. Stay tuned.

No Room for Creativity or Flexibility

Michael_Bloomberg_splotchedThis is in response to the previous article,” What Kind of Tree is Education?” David and I have agreed that this forum could be used to develop a dialogue, so I am going to give it a shot.

It is easy to find a scape goat as obvious as Mike Bloomberg. Here we have a billionaire, who has no clue as to how ordinary people live. The fact that he holds a position that by definition is supposed to indicate ” public service,” it is not without irony that someone so out of touch gets to make everyday decisions for the rest of us. It is tantamount to appointing a Secretary for the Interior who favors oil drilling and strip mining (something the great Ronald Reagan did in appointing James Watts.)

We live in a world that to me has come to represent a horrible result. We have come so very far from what our true nature is. Looking around, I see structure upon structure, each being a reaction to its’ predecessor. None of it has any correlation to the needs of people or the environment the structures exist in. It all exists for some deformed concept of profiteering. This is a stripped down definition of Capitalism.

Placed down in the midst of our strange world are children. Fortunately we have not lost the need to continue our species. But how to integrate our young ones into this crazy environment is a cause for debate. And we debate from a foundation of confusion.

Jack Crabb: I don’t understand it, grandfather, why would they kill women and children?
Old Lodge Skins: Because they are strange. They do not seem to know where the center of the Earth is.

I post the above quote often because it speaks to the core of my point of view. How can a race of creatures, so out of touch with their surroundings, so clueless to the needs of each other, make decisions on how to nurture the newest members of our species? I may be sounding a little Darwinian, but in any case, we are as far from evolution as we have ever been.

And so because there is so much confusion, we need scapegoats for what is wrong with everything, in this case, education. There is no room for creativity or flexibility because people in western society no longer know what those are. There is a large proportion of our society, who like to sit back and get their information from Fox News. We think of people like Bloomberg and Joel Klein as experts, because the majority of us do not want to be bothered off our couch to look honestly at our lives. So noting all of what I say, it is no surprise that millions of capital dollars are lost, because our politicians along with the people who elect them (us,) let them remain in their positions of power. Most of the people around us have their heads buried so far up their asses that all they can see is the back of their own mouth. Plugged in and tuned out.

I have never been a proponent of fixing the system. I believe it is basically unfixable. Broken. Forever. In my view, what needs to happen is a quiet movement in another direction. A direction that starts with looking at myself and my own immediate community, and asking a few simple questions. What do I really need? What would I wish as an outcome to pursuing my needs? And how do our children benefit from such questions?

Then we should look carefully at what we call “school.” Is it it a place where I would want to spend any time? Do I have fond memories of being stuffed into a classroom and barked at by an adult who seemed worn out by the effort to keep on barking? Did I like homework, or learn anything from it? Why would I want my child to be placed in such an environment? Who can actually learn anything in such a place?

The reason I ever got involved with any of this, was because on reflection I realized that most of what I knew from a knowledge standpoint, came from my own research, my own interests, and support from my peers. As a guitarist, I still play pieces that other guitarist friends shared with me long ago. Much of my learning in art came from looking, observing, experimenting and being shown a few choice techniques from a few instructors.

What if, instead of investing in a system that has proven itself to be a failure—has shut down the learning process in favor of standardized testing, which is based on ridiculous statistics that apply better to machines than to people — create an environment where we as the older ones, simply observe. We allow children to be themselves. And if money is involved we would need a whole lot less of it because we are dealing with a situation where the stress is taken out of the equation. The structures get simplified. Everyone gets to be themselves. Each person is appreciated for their unique outlook; their particular interests and skills. And together we recreate the world we live in. It sounds like a stretch, but in truth, it all starts with one meeting.

What I am speaking about is consensus building. And people like Bloomberg, Klein or Michelle Rhee do not fit into this vision. There is no room in this world view for inflexibility. We must move with the breeze. And we must let our children lead the way. It does not mean that as the older ones, we become obsolete. On the contrary, we begin to realize that we are all in this together. It becomes an integrated communal responsibility. And that is an idea that would render Capitalism irrelevant, which is why you will never see it in the immediate future.


What Kind of Tree is Education?

Michael_Bloomberg_splotchedRecently Mayor Bloomberg, in a move that is being blasted all over NPR and the blogosphere, lost $240 million for NYC public schools, by rejecting the United Federation of Teachers 2-year concession to his proposal for permanent performance evaluations for teachers. In typical Bloomberg style, he dug his heels in deep, canceled on mediations, and minced no words as he lambasted the Union as well as the leaders in Albany.

So what does Mr. Bloomberg teach us?

As the unabashed tsar of NYC’s education department, Bloomberg illustrates exactly why the mantra of current education reform, “our public schools are failing,” may actually be true. Rigor. Rigidity. Inflexibility.

In this move to prove a point against the UFT (which last month he likened to the NRA), Bloomberg is literally cutting his nose off to spite his face. But why? “We’d be better off finding a way without the money from the state and not compromising on an evaluation system that was a fraud,” he answers.

I see this principled, uncompromising stance toward education, and thus the lives of children, as the force behind the estrangement of teachers, students and parents. If you talk with those who recoil at the standards movement and the changes started by No Child Left Behind and continued by the Race to the Top, their biggest complaint seems to be that there seems to be less and less room for creativity and flexibility.

An old adage says that the tree that does not bend with the wind breaks. Any good teacher carries that with them in their toolbox. And as in nature, or in the classroom, or in life, it is our ability to adapt, to bend, to flow that makes possibilities possible.

And yet we wonder why, as a nation, we are falling behind to the innovators of the rest of the world and look to the data for answers. But innovation does not exist in math scores, or teacher evaluations, because innovation is dead in a world where the boundaries constrict us. Innovation thrives when our worldview moves with the world.

During his trip to Albany, Mr. Bloomberg did say something I agree with, “Money is not the answer to everything.” And I want to be clear that his failure here has little to do with money. Instead, his inability to come to a compromise with the workforce that day in and day out spends more time with his city’s children then anyone else, illustrates exactly why our education system is broken. And like the tree that tries to stand straight in the wind, the force of nature will render it irrelevant, that is until it is used for firewood.

Introducing David B Easton

David Easton will be joining The Free School Apparent (TFSA) as Contributor. TFSA has basically been my voice, but it has always been my desire to have others join the conversation. I welcome David and look forward to his unique insights on education, children and life.David Easton

Born in New Jersey and raised in rural Connecticut, I’m a country boy at heart. After 18 years of running through the woods, jumping off gorges and living amidst nature I moved to the big city where I surrounded myself with much needed diversity. Over the next four years I studied at NYU where I received my Bachelor’s of Fine Arts for film and television production (with a minor in philosophy). The city and all that it has to offer has captivated me ever since.

A few years ago I pursued my interest in education and became a NYC teaching Fellow and started teaching special education in Ozone Park, Queens while getting my masters from Queens College. My experience at the middle school where I worked led me to start researching alternative methods to the standard public school way. I loved my students and felt sorry that they were expected to conform to the system and not the other way around. I am a constant self-directed learner and feel that it is really the only way that anyone learns anything. I truly believe that living is learning and learning is living and I can’t imagine having one without the other.

David has been an advisor at Brooklyn Free School for 6 years and resigned last year to pursue his own independent film projects. He continues to conduct a philosophy class at BFS. David will be posting articles on TFSA in the coming weeks, with the intent of opening a discussion between us as to what we observe in children in relation to the ever changing needs of our society.

I Am a Left Wing Nut

I am not sure if I can add to much about the storm. We came out okay. Got a week’s vacation. Stayed put most of the week. Not much to write home about. Prayed most of that night that my windows would not blow out.

There is another storm to deal with though. That of the presidential election. And I took the liberty of posting a controversial rant on Facebook, put up by a cousin of my wife. He is a black republican, a veteran of Desert Storm and I will share it here:

Since President Obama’s been elected into office, suddenly Many White folk have become angry and want to take America Back… BACK TO WHAT/BACK TO WHERE, is my question?
The idea of a Black Man as the most powerful Man on the earth is unsettling to many. If Obama wasn’t Black, they would be praising and thanking him.
After the 8 Years Of former President Bush/ former Vice President Cheney Disaster, now you’re angry?
You weren’t angry when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.
You didn’t become angry when Vice President Cheney allowed energy and other corporation officials to dictate energy policy and push us to invade Iraq .
You weren’t angry when former President Bush and the United States illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.
You didn’t become angry when our U.S. government spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.
You weren’t angry when former President Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.
You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash mysteriously disappeared in Iraq .
You were not angry when former President Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.
You didn’t sound a peep when former President Bush didn’t track down and catch Osama Bin Laden.
You were not angry when former President Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.
You didn’t become angry when you learned of the horrible conditions at for returning veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.
You didn’t say a damn word when former President Bush allowed New Orleans, a major United States City, to drown.
You weren’t angry when former President Bush awarded the wealthy who had more money than they could spend, the actual 1%, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks.
You didn’t get angry with former President Bush had the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.
You were not angry when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.
You didn’t get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the former President Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.
You finally became angry when: A Black man was elected President of these United States and decided that all people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they were sick. Illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you however, helping fellow Americans who are sick is not?

Of course, not being black, but being married to someone who is, has given me unusual license in expressing my own dissidence. But some of my Facebook friends seemed to get a little bit riled. Here are a few responses.

Typical left wing rascist rant with hate and factually incorrect information. As far as I recall without the white vote Obama would never have been elected. But now that they think he has done a poor job they only think so because he is black? Give me a break. I could counter each one of your claims but they wouldn’t sink in because you are already convinced by the liberal media.

Here is my problem. Had Facebook never been invented, I would no longer have ANY connection to people I left out of my life a long time ago. I grew up in a Queens burg, where many of my white friends were rewarded for their classroom obedience by being placed in what were termed “Special Pupil” classes. This meant that they did good on tests, raised their hands in class, paid attention to the teacher, stayed out of trouble. Their reward was to be put on the fast track to better schools, better paying jobs, better living conditions and humdrum lives working within the structure of modern society. The others, like me, who did not pay attention, let their minds wander to subjects not covered in class. Doodled in our notebooks, talked to our friends during class and in general, grew into a disobedient bunch— in other words, “creative types.”  We were set loose to find our own way. The obstacles for this group were huge. Many of us over came them in time. Many have not. And if you are black and in this group, the obstacles are even greater. And being that Facebook has brought back into my field of consciousness, a hoard of people, whom I would no longer have communication with whatsoever, I now have to accept their comments to my views. So is it wrong that I should dump the above commenter down the digital tubes to oblivion?

Here is another comment from another so called “friend.”

sick and tired of this liberal histeria. Wake up!

My response was to go into my settings and remove these two “friends” from my field of vision. I will no longer see them or even have a passing thought, at least not until this post is finished and published. Then all will be erased from my mind, and I will lie back into my left wing bliss, dreaming of revolutions, and moss covered houses. Calling me a liberal is tantamount to a direct insult. I am not a liberal. I am a left wing nut job.

I do not agree with Obama on many things. In truth, I see him as a true conservative. I think that he has some progressive ideas and he has his heart in the right place. But I do not think he is perfect. On the other hand, I could never accept the talking piece of cardboard that is Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney represents everything I abhor. He is a shill for large corporate interest, and I believe he aims to throw us into the dark ages. Or at the very least, back to the 19th century where children worked in coal mines and there was horse shit in the streets of New York up to our knees.

Education is an area in which I have a huge margin of disagreement with Obama, which I have written about on this blog. There are other areas as well, but I allow for some imperfection. I will not get into that now. Having lived through this recent storm, seeing the devastation around many areas of the city, hearing my friends complain about the loss of power, need for help etc. I am reminded about George W Bush’s response to Katrina. His total abandonment of the people of New Orleans. And I cannot help but feel that a Romney response would not be any different. I believe that on the compassion meter, Mitt falls even lower than Bush/Cheney. And many of us find that hard to imagine.

So call me a left wing nut. I do not mind. I am an artist in a world that no longer has a useful place for a visionary. We have to scratch out our existence. Forge our own place in this society. It was written long ago on a teacher’s blackboard. It was spoken when that kid who questioned, or acted out, was removed from the classroom, rather than making attempts to understand him or her. And now we are coming back at you. We want the tables turned, the playing field equalized. Our visions need to be heard. Because I believe that these are the visions that will save the world. And if you don’t agree with me, that is okay. But if I have to see your angry rants, with their coded racism, on my Facebook page, I will feel free to click you into oblivion. And for the rest of you, get out and vote so that we will not have to endure 4 years of having a used car salesman deciding personal, national and international policy. Lets put Mr. Romney in hole so deep, we cannot hear him scream.

In Defense of An Idea

It seems that everywhere I go these days, I am always steering the conversation toward democratic education. Other than spiritual questions that cover the purpose of existence, and why I am on this planet, the process of the Free School approach is number one on my mind. Apparently, it is also number one off the edge of my tongue.

This of course puts me frequently into the position of having to defend my beliefs. I must preface to say that my opinions are not just born of a stubborn attitude, although that is absolutely true of me, and my critics have a fair point of accusing me of being so. But I have watched the children play in the Free School environment now for almost a decade. I have watched some of my own fears and beliefs melt away in face of recognizing that something mysterious takes place when children are allowed to be themselves, and act from an organic place. I have seen miracles. Children who, if having remained in a standard public school environment, would be depressed, angry, and of no good use to anyone, transform into empathetic caring school leaders.

I have heard through the grapevine that this is even true of children, who for whatever reason, had to be moved from a democratic free school, usually because of some behavioral issue that BFS was not equipped to handle, or an impatient parent who wanted to see a specific result in their child. A common scenario that occurs is that one parent feels strongly in favor of democratic education for their child, while the other spouse does not. Eventually one of them wins out.

In one instance, a child who had been a constant challenge for the staff, with tantrums, sugar issues, was moved out of the school (much to my own fears for his welfare,) became an empathetic leader helping children in his new surroundings who had similar problems to him. Leaving the democratic environment actually showed that he had been absorbing what was going on around him the previous years, and immediately put it to work for him and his new friends.

What I find in having to defend my feelings on these issues, is the lack of understanding on my part as to why people continue to defend the methods of public education. Even in the face of what seems to be failure on a grand scale.

Pedro Noguera, an advocate for public education, spoke at The Democratic Education Symposium sponsored by our school 2 years ago at Medger Evers College. He feels strongly that public education needs to remain accessible for all. I agree. But I think what is being offered as “education” these days needs to be looked at and restructured. Yes it needs to be free for all. But if we were to have a banquet in which EVERYONE was invited, but the food was absolutely terrible and would make almost anyone who ate it sick, would that be considered a good deal? Mr Noguera’s  points need to be put in perspective though. He is speaking on behalf of a large underclass in America. A class that is growing in the face of economic changes in the world and an economic divide that grows ever wider.

Research never suggests that poor children are incapable of learning or that poverty itself should be regarded as a learning disability. Rather, research suggests that poor children encounter obstacles that often adversely affect their development and learning outcomes.

To ignore this reality and make bold assertions that all children can achieve while doing nothing to address the outside-of-school challenges they face is neither fair nor a sound basis for developing public policy. – Pedro Noguera

If you follow up and read some of Mr. Noguera’s ideas on how to change public education, you will understand that there is a place for some alternative thinking. I usually advocate for the tearing down of the current curriculums which support heavy emphasis on reading and math, and then test, test, test. Noguera points out that poverty remains an obstacle to hundreds of thousands of children as the current conditions prevail.

But why I argue on behalf of democratic learning is because of something far more subtle. Watching the social interactions of children is an incredibly mystical event. Learning is going on all the time. From the democratic meetings in which everyone is required to participate to the ability to call a mediation on one’s own behalf. To spend the day engaged in what is particularly interesting to oneself, or work as a group to figure out how to spend the day, even if that means playing around all day. Learning is happening at so many levels, that it is hard to tally it up in one breath.

What I have observed is that when children are taken from the school too soon, they soon realize that there is a quality of self-determination that has been removed from their life. A sense of purpose and confidence in becoming interested in just who I am, and discovering the reason for me to be on this planet. Public education, in its’ current form crushes that. There is no space for self discovery. It is “run with the pack or get cast out.” I have personal experience with this attitude as it was prevalent even in my day. This is why I have become so vocal on behalf of Free Schools in my middle age.

It is not always possible to articulate every thought when having a discussion in the park on a sunny day. Conversations tend to be complicated events. Everyone is waiting to express their point of view. There is very little listening going on and most times we leave the table unsatisfied. Blogs are a wonderful invention. It allows one to ponder what did not get said in that conversation, and then express one’s feelings in a reasonable forum. It is not that I wish to dismiss the point of view of the other, but rather to deepen the picture that I wish to draw. Expand the view a bit. It is not simply an argument between yes and no, but rather an attention that needs to be paid to subtleties. There are things that cannot be measured by grades or test scores. This can only be seen in the growing humanity of individuals who come out of the free school environment. Many times, the results cannot be seen until years after graduation, when the adult is becoming fully formed.

We have a world crisis in our environment. We have a world crisis in the economy. Corporations are threatening every aspect of our existence from pollution of our water, our food chain, destruction of our forests and a garbage problem that is a direct result of massive consumerism. We have massive upheaval, war, economic inequality, housing issues, and a need for a reevaluation of how we occupy the planet. We must see that education lies dead center of the very SAME crisis. And taking that into consideration, there is no defending any of the current policies. They need to be seen as destructive as an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or a the melting of the ice caps. The continuation of the policies of testing, lack of play, demonizing of kids as criminals, overload of homework, longer school days and just the plain, all out destruction of childhood as a disaster that threatens our immediate futures.

Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery:  He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul but his life.  —G.K. Chesterton