Saturday, April 25, 2009

On NPR this week one of the big stories was that “Every 26 minutes in the U.S. a student drops out of school.” The suggested solution…” raise academic standards and more teacher training.”
This proposed remedy brought to mind my favorite definition of insanity. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

Monday, April 20, 2009

the next salon\ed is delayed.

Due to a number of people's scheduling conficts, the next salon is moved from the previously posted date to May 24th.

There will be more blog posts before then, and be sure to keep the conversation going here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

the next salon\ed

The next salon is planned for April 26th, from 2 to 5. It will likely be at Rouge High School, as I've grown to appreciate having a consistent physical environment when trying to get in a particular state of mind. Collette has asked me (Jarred) to lead this time, and hopefully we'll pick somebody else for the May salon.

I would like your help in determining the particular subjects that will be covered at this gathering. A few things have come to mind, but I would like to hear what topics you would like to cover.

Last session we touched on art in public spaces, namely graffiti and what distinguishes it from other mediums. I felt one of the defining factors was that people are exposed to it whether they wanted to be or not. There are many forms of communication a person has to choose to partake in, like going to the cinema or museum, while others are seen if that person wants to go about everyday life, like advertising and public art (both legitimate and illegal). How does one react differently to these? I want to explore if there are any parallels in education: do people learn differently when they feel it is their choice? On a related note, are their benefits of everyone learning the same material rather than students having an individualized course of study? This has likely all been asked and answered through more rigorous academic study then we will be able to achieve, but our discussions will be more relevant to the here and now.

Another subject that I'd like to explore is educating students for the future rather than the past. The nature of bureaucracy makes the system as a whole slow to change, but could individual school systems reevaluate their curriculum yearly to keep pace with the exponentially accelerating pace of society? My first thought is that certain basics, particularly inspiring a passion for independent learning, will allow students to direct their studies in a way a centralized education can never do. This has been a principle of unschooling since that movement started, but I think that is more relevant then ever. In the words of John Holt, one of the philosophy's founders:

Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.

This video, recently posted on the excellent new website Soul Pancake, clues us into what I feel is one of the greatest challenges facing an educator in this modern era:

Did You Know? from Amybeth on Vimeo.

Exhausting, eh? Imagine how much faster things will change as more and more people gain the freedom and tools to create culture and advance society. There are billions of people that will be making the world a more complex place at the same time as the youth learns to engage them in away the educators never thought possible. This doesn't downplay the importance of the classic pillars of education; no, it makes them more relevant then ever. But students will be able to learn better and faster if they are effective communicators and have a passion for knowledge.

Please respond in the comments and I look forward to hearing your potential salon_ed topics.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who is Schooled in What?

“Things mean more. Time matters more” John Cullen

Brother John home schools his four children. This is a man whose vocation is to create beauty. He designs gardens as sacred space. He is “all that “. He has won best in show at the Philadelphia Garden Show and has represented the US in Singapore at the International Garden Show.
John is the youngest of eight children. He is the son of a plumber and a church going homemaker momma. As a kid John was irascible. When he was a sophomore in high school he was ejected from his role as one of the Knights of the Round Table in the schools annual musical, Camelot. The reason was his math grade did not meet the required “B”.
Perhaps he was never knight material. Perhaps he was not landed gentry with the required silver spoon. Perhaps he was a serf, or the last born of a blue-collar factory rat.
Our father quit school at 16. Quit is a euphemism. No one quits school. Schools quit kids. While his dad was succumbing to the ravages of Lou Gherig’s disease, World War II was brewing on the horizon.
Dad was needed, to be the man. First to carry his dad up and down the maple stairs. He was never good at school but he excelled at being a good son. In the war he was the ever-obedient soldier as he carried the body bags of deceased soldiers in the intense heat of India to be flown home to the grieving families.
An orphan boy, dad thrived and cherished belonging. So when he was working at the Ford Motor Company or fueling the furnaces at Zug Island in Rouge, he belonged. He was in the company of men, in the community of workers.
Dad was grimy. He was a plumber. He smelled of soot and sewage.
But our dad, like brother John with his brood of four, our dad home schooled us. (Oh we left out to regular class every day for five hours but the crical curriculum took place under dad’s tutelage.) Dad played Enrico Caruso and Ella Fitzgerald. He played some obscure Russian bass and had us listening to the lowest note ever recorded. He read Crime and Punishment. He wrote letters to the editors and poems for president’s wives. We did family reading of Edgar Allen Poe poems.
He took us to the circus three times in one weekend splurging on county candy and waning poetically about the aerial artist. He showed us the Belle Isle Bridge that Houdini had leapt from on the occasion where he got trapped below the icy waters of the frozen Detroit River.
Dad would just drop us curbside at the Detroit Institute of the Arts and leave us city urchins on our own to discover art. Looking at masterpieces the way a child looks for pennies on the sidewalk. For spending money we were dads crew on an blacktopping company he called “ Cullen and Son’s” Dad our teacher drove us around the city looking for cracked asphalt telling us stories of Paradise Alley and Mystical saints who had been martyred for some great cause.
Once I dated a handsome engineer. “ I work for the Ford Motor Company, drive a Ford and live on Ford Lake” This college educated Ford fellow though lost points with me when he spoke of the rank and file with disdain. He was the white-collar sort; he gave his soul to the “man”
Dad got that one could work with heart, yet save your soul for higher purpose.
Dad loved workers. He could have been a Marxist or a social justice Catholic. He could have been anyone of the faceless drones in the Diego Rivera court at the art institute.
Dad schooled me in an intensive curriculum. He is my muse in my own work.
One night as he was fetching me from his mothers where I lived while attending Wayne State we were traveling over the I75/Rouge river overpass. As he watched the smoky industrial smog embrace the city in a pink glaze, the incense like cloud smudging the city he spoke. He was an apostle with an epistle. He spoke of what looked to me an industrial wasteland” “Look he says, as if he is the scarecrow leading Dorothy to the Emerald City…Look at all that out there.” He spoke of the men whose sweat sustained the dreams and hopes of their sons and daughters. He looked out at the twinkle of the grimy industrial beast and understood and taught me how a man will bleed for the future. How a man may cash in their violin for a pair of work boots, callous up their fingers not by the guitars frets but on the rough shovels of while filling the bowels of the coal furnace. They fed their child, paid their house note and worked side by side with men whom they might not sit together with on the trolley home. They belly upped to the bar in camaraderie on payday Friday. Not serving the muse but having sated the beast, in communion with their fellow workers.
So who is schooled in what? I am a teacher taught by a man whose benchmarks were: 1. All men matter. 2. Our souls are our own. 3. It is our purpose that really matters in the end.
So as a mom of a son and a teacher of students who I suspect may one day work at the quick lube or perhaps with the shitty life deck they were dealt may even end up
“With the state”(incarcerated) likes so many of our mentally stressed citizens. Well I just pray and hope I have shown them a peek at beauty. Every now and then I let dad teach the class. I read them lyrics from a Joyce Kilmer poem or play calliope music. Or we just stop and gaze at the cloud formations.
I want to infuse my students with the “teachings” of my blue-collar dad. I want them to know what it was that helped him to navigate through the real world of “Everyman’s” life. If you can keep your soul and take it on this journey of life with you… well that is the great mystery that may infuse us all with that great ideal of “purpose”