Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No How = Know How

As I travel the world of non-traditional education, specifically democratic education, I am learning that like unschooling - there is no "One Right Way" to do it.

We humans like to have things neatly laid out and pristinely wrapped in clear cellophane packaging with labels including ingredient lists so we can take it home feeling safe that we know exactly what it is that we have bought (into). None of this "Well it's really up to the individual" business. Tell me exactly what alternative education is complete with formulas and predictable results. Describe in detail how unschooling works and how you Do It. Give me a list (which must have references and bibliography) of all the things I need to do in order to have a Democratic School.

Umm, sorry what? Summerhill is not identical to Sudbury is not identical to Brooklyn Free School is not identical to SelfDesign????!!!!

Slomo cam captures the dramatic NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! as the victim falls to the ground in dispair.

So that was me you saw in your mind's eye crashing to the floor. Shocked to learn (yet again) that there is not One Single Recipe for a democratic school like Yabba's Best Corn Bread Pudding or something. Rats!

I keep stumbling across ideas and things and examples and thinking, YES! That's what I want for The Village School. And that! Aaaand THAT!!! And.... that? Well, maybe not. But yes, that other thing for sure. Yes!

So if you ask me to tell you about a day in the life of a learner or teacher at The Village School, I really can't answer unless it's that day and it's the end of that day. Because it's kind of like "real life" (pretty messy stuff, that). And though one may have grand plans and schemes and ideas and examples and things and stuff, Real Life still manages to sort of Happen to one. Or to several. Or most. Or all. (Yep, definitely all.)

The thing is, if you put a group of people in a space together - be it three or 15 - things will not happen the same way all the time. The horror!!! (Unless you make 13,857 rules about every single permissible and non-permissible movement, word, idea allowed that is. Which isn't very democratic now is it?) The problem is that people have this nasty habit of growing and changing and learning new things, which makes for a dastardly time if one wants to pin them down and fit them into a label/category for an extended period (like forever or say, 18 years).

Which means that I get it. I hate to use the "O" word, but I am afraid I am a bit trapped into saying that a person cannot come up with one single definition for the above methods of facilitating learning because they are (...wait for it...) *sharp inhale* - Organic. Humans and learning are like living, "Growing Things". It's crazy! Kind of like some sort of garden project where all you really need to do is plant some seeds, keep showing up and helping them along with some water, good placement, chicken poop and a hefty dose of TLC and the things just seem to maagickly grow themselves! Miraculous really. (Wait, am I talking about people or tomatoes? I'm confused.)

The point is, even though there are some foundational philosophies that serve as the guiding principles for democratic/child-centered/learner-directed/organic/passion-driven (whatever you want to call the thing!) education, it will look different from place to place and person to person precisely because we are all one but not the same. <-- I teefed that little phrase from that song with Mary J. Blige and Bono.

Therefore, good friends, I eagerly await the birth and growth of this school in my head: another face for Democratic Education as it shapes and is shaped by yet another community.

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