The care and feeding of real education

Services are drying up, monies are not available except for anything associated with the military-industrial complex, and our kids are not getting educated. Within days of each other, we have an article about the Randolph Learning Center needing mentors, and then in following days, the Education Coalition (notice front-page headline [in the Asheville Citizen-Times]) is closing its doors for lack of funding.

And, it was especially telling that the Sisters of Mercy did not re-grant the Coalition because it felt there was not enough emphasis on the needs of the African-American student, while the Randolph Center, which is predominantly black, needs more help!

This is a natural opening for a conversation. Our African-American children are so disenfranchised by the educational system because they are not part of “his” story. Education in America is purely Eurocentric-based. Nowhere in school books do you find the contributions with which black men and women gifted this country. Does this not beg for attention?

Can we understand that if you are not seeing yourself while sitting in school—why stay? Why be interested? Especially when the message is: I obviously don’t matter! (and all this while the prisons are being amply funded and inhabited!)

Isn’t it time we attend to the true needs of our students? Not how they test, but how they can be tested for living life as contributing people, ready to use their skills and self confidence and natural creativity to build understanding—not division.

Isn’t it also true that when we learn how to fish, we can then eat everyday? So why are we not giving our students the opportunity to fish? Let’s turn this around! Have students get involved in experiential projects that allow them to explore, ask, seek, broaden and most of all—learn how to think!

As ones who have taught, we have found that engaging teaching is not by rote, nor by numbers and certainly not by the standards of the 19th century chalkboard! It is by participation in experiential, wholistic creativity and positive knowledge empowerment.

Let every child experience and soak in what it really means to learn, while witnessing firsthand the joy of participating in something that is uplifting, interesting and life-skill productive.

Is the answer: “Yes, we can” provide educational sustenance?

— Ariel Harris and Jamal Jabali
Asheville

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7 thoughts on “The care and feeding of real education

  1. Here! Here!
    I agree with all of these sentiments –
    However implementing ideals is always little more of a pragmatic challenge.

  2. Kristin

    I am one of the founders and volunteers at Katuah Sudbury School, WNCs only democratic school. At this school, students learn what they want, when they want, with whom they want. When they are interested in something, they find a way to get to it (ask a staff, look on the internet, etc.). In a word, they learn to think.
    All matters of the school are decided in a weekly school meeting that runs on parliamentary procedure. Every staff member and every student have one vote. Everything is considered at school meeting. There are no sacred cows. Those who come to meetings (which is all of them at some point) learn about budgets and why certain rules should be or not be created. They learn to debate – respectfully. They learn to lobby, and they learn to lose and get up and try again. They take very seriously their responsibility to elect their staff each year. They come out of this experience responsible for themselves, knowing who they are and how to learn what they need to know to get where they want to be. Their communication skills are superb. They know how to resolve conflicts because the only requirement (other than following the rules) is serving on the Judicial Committee which deals each day with any rule violations that have occurred, determining the facts of the case and an appropriate consequence. It is a beautiful thing.
    All that said, it is a private school, which makes it inaccessible to many who could benefit. When we first began discussing opening this school, I desperately wanted to make it a charter school. However, charter schools are beholden to meeting the requirements of the allmighty test scores. Private schools are only required to test in grades 3, 6, 9, and 11, and the schools get to set the standards for test scores. This gives us the freedom to allow students to move at their own pace without worries or stress. The idea that students learn at the same rate and at the same time is absurd. Anyone who actually knows any children knows this is false. So we were cornered into being a private school. We do everything we can to keep it affordable, trying to balance that with a living wage for our staff and rent, utilities, supplies, etc. It is not an easy task, and we look forward to the day when a wonderful benefactor comes along, allowing us to have a scholarship fund, and we look even more forward to the day when the public education system is open to these ideas (hey – it COULD happen).

  3. Alan Ditmore

    Public schools exploit childfree taxpayers and undermine our ability to protect the planet from future generations.

  4. Trey

    Public schools are nothing more than a system designed to keep children out of the job market as long as possible.

  5. Kristin

    Public schools COULD be an asset, even to the childfree. A truly educated citizenry would be beneficial, particularly in the arena of maintaining our ability to remain on this plantet (I maintain that the planet needs neither protecting or saving. It is our own butts we need to worry about. She will survive long after kicking us off.)

  6. Alan Ditmore

    Public schools could only be an environmental assett if they taught exclusively contracption and nothing else. The problem is that public schools start far earlier than most North Carolinians consider the study of contraception to be appropriate, making the elementary schools at least, useless.

  7. Kristin

    Alan, I am beginning to think you are being facetious. I mean, that is outrageous. Are children just destructive little problems running around biting ankles? That is what it sounds like you are saying. It seems to me that my generation and those older than me aren’t doing all that great of a job solving the problems WE created. A truly enlightened, educated, and motivated citizenry who grew up learning to think for themselves outside of the box might have a better chance than those of us who grew up in a schooling program designed to fill up the workforce for the industrial giants. I don’t think we need to be so dramatic as to let the entire lot of humanity just die off. How depressing. Children are the gift of promise.

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