We now seem to have come across “a theory of everyone” that explains the human universe… Whether in a family, classroom, workplace or whole country, we get better results if authorities in each setting engage stakeholders with more voice and more choice, in exchange for taking more responsibility.
The public is very smart if you give it a chance… If people think their voice actually matters, they'll do the hard work, really study their briefing books, ask the experts smart questions and then make tough decisions.
We have come to confuse learning with schooling. Learning is now measured by the number of years in school and the number of diplomas collected. Informal learning, acquired through direct experience, or self-directed learning, driven by personal interest, are regarded as inferior to school learning.
In 1991 Lee Atwater, former Republican National Committee Chairman and a pioneer in political attack ads, was dying from a brain tumor. Years earlier, in an off-the-record interview, Atwater explained the so-called “southern strategy” that allowed Republicans to win the votes of racists without sounding racist themselves — by making the racial messages abstract.
The day before I started my first year of teaching, I put the following quotation from George Santayana on the bulletin board in ominous black letters. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The quotation stayed up for several weeks until I changed it to a display of historic political cartoons.
One day a pleasant girl in one of the “tech school” sections asked me about the quotation. “I just want to train horses. Why must I study history?”
I proceeded to explain the importance of learning from the past, of analyzing events and actions which have occurred in order to make better choices when faced with similar situations.
The Arizona highway seemed an endless blur, edged by desert sand and topped with a starry night sky. Sue, Josh and Benjie slept behind me in the van while my thoughts flew back to Pennsylvania.
Angry thoughts. Confused thoughts. Replaying the events which led to my resignation from the public schools and our present journey.
Some of the events were books. Books which jarred my consciousness and pushed my head in new directions. Books like Deschooling Society (1971) which advanced the idea that schools should be abolished, that they have dehumanized learning and removed it from the flow of life.
West Philadelphia High School was considered the worst in the city. Suspensions and expulsions did not stop the frequent fights and fire-setting. The good news is that “restorative practices” came to West Philadelphia.
In 1920, on the first day of Prohibition, people must have looked around and thought, “How the hell did this happen?” Wayne Wheeler, leader of the National Anti Saloon League, knew exactly how it happened. He got America to give up its booze and shut down its fifth biggest industry by exploiting the flaw at the center of the election process.
When I was 11 years old Walter O’Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, moved the team because New York wouldn’t help him build a new stadium and Los Angeles would. I was devastated by the heartless decision-making of free market capitalism.
Throughout the world there is a widespread mistrust of our institutions and our leaders. That’s why I created this website. Not to complain, but to focus on possibilities. Actions, prototypes, demonstration projects, experiments. Proposed, underway or long established. That’s what I’ll be sharing.