Percolating thoughts

The Board believes the District will be most successful when the community is aware of and understands the District’s efforts and goals.

Source: December 01, 2011 EEE Committee Meeting minutes

I would take this further; the word picture I use is like a marriage – the general health and excellence of the relationship is (I believe) optimal when all parties share the same goals within the context of each individual’s whole self. Yes, the District will be better off when the community is aware of and understands the District’s efforts and goals, but I wish to clarify that and hope that the goals are shaped and the efforts are guided by a strong community collaborative partnership. I say that very deliberately – I do not think the goals and efforts should be determined by the state, nor the government (as it exists now). Unfortunately, it is my observation that our schools are currently, largely, a reflection of  legislation.

Allow me to take you a short tour of stories that have impressed me this past week (or so).

  • Vandana Shiva (hat tip to Pattsi Petri): Ms. Shiva is not stupid – she has studied nuclear physics and has researched Quantum mechanics. As one commentor said “I would have hoped that studying physics and quantum theory would lead most students to similar conclusions of social and environmental equality but it cannot be. It must require a love of people first.” Her ideas of interconnectedness are fascinating, to say the least, but it totally makes sense. I could not help but see this report through the lens of education, especially since I see education as a way of preparing our members to actively participate in a vibrant, social ecology. When the “artificial, corporate rule on a planetary scale” dominates what we learn and how we learn, it is no wonder that we observe extremely contentious issues like a $20 million jail and a state governmental system best known for the number of criminals it produces.
  • Presidential direction for Education: While channel surfing XM radio on a recent 6-hour drive, I paused on a political station in which President Obama had a sort of town-hall meeting (I believe this was in Columbus, Ohio). A young lady (14?) asked what he was going to do to make sure her daddy, recently laid off because of downsizing, was taken care of while he continues to look for work. My take away is that President Obama is very focused on vocational training, saying something like how we have lots of jobs but few trained and certified people to fill them. This all sounds very “American Dream”ish to me – you go through the education assembly line so you can be equipped to work for America.  Or “putting America to work”. Yes, on one hand it sounds awesome – it is a good sell for a reason.
  • The Voice of the People, by James Fishkin: There are a number of things that strike a chord within me as I make my way through this book, and also things I do not yet agree with. The big thing at this point in time is that I personally believe we, as a collective, have lost our self-efficacy (and perhaps our efficacy as a result) as a participatory democracy. The bad news is that, like a problem that has festered over time, it will take a long view and some hard work to reverse the damage already done.
  • Mike Bost [warning – youtube]: If you allow yourself to go beyond the pure entertainment value of this demonstration, you can see how twisted our current system has become. Obviously one guy sees the pink elephant in the middle of the room and is saying something about it. Talk about calling a spade a spade. If you choose to watch this clip, be sure to note the sea of stoicism, a striking contrast to this very emotional delivery.
  • Quinn promises aid to farmers: Illinois is one of the top corn producers, eh? I would very much like to see an extremely transparent and comprehensive report on where exactly that money goes. Because, to be honest, I have my doubts that Independent Farmer Joe down the street, who just happens to have 20 acres of corn and very much depends on it, is going to get much help. If we are to believe the theories put forth by documentaries like “Corn King” and observe a pattern of how Big Money takes care of its own, it is hard to see how the little guys get so much as a shiny penny.
  • Champaign City Council July 10th, 2012 meeting: I just happened to be working on my TiVo when channel 5 was re-broadcasting the July 10th City Council meeting, and I recognized some of the folks. Then I saw Mr. Martel Miller get up and speak – I am very impressed by Mr. Miller. He makes his voice known, even if it seems to be falling on deaf ears sometimes. I rather wanted to stand up and clap for him when he said “We have got to do something about this” in regards to the shootings and his plea that what we are doing now ain’t working. The is the level at which the rubber hits the road, where the shit is real. There is a ton more I could comment on during this meeting (kudos to Will Kyles).

It is easy to get depressed when you consider how screwed up some things are. Likewise, it is easy to find problems and opportunities to complain about something. However, I strongly believe there is a lot of good happening, all around us. I believe there is beauty all around us. Within the school district, lots of amazing and little-known things are happening, whether it be teachers, parents, board members, administrators or even students or custodians. A majority of these things never make the news, sometimes they are locked into facebook circles. Don’t get me wrong, the school district is not perfect by a long shot, but it is, nonetheless, pretty amazing; come talk to Sheri Williamson some day about Resource Days; see what Caleb Curtiss is going to do with “Community in Curriculum”; and there are more. One of the things I wish to do is aid in the increase of this awesomeness, and one of my major efforts is to more clearly define the bridge that connects the school board to the community.

Why? Because I am thoroughly convinced we each have a role to play in our society and we have allowed our better sense to slip, opening the door for a very mischievous and subtle kind of oppression. Come, join me on a journey of eye-opening and seeking out truth. Let us no longer be willing to be blind and led by those who claim to have our best interests at heart. “You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” (Morpheus)

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5 Responses to “Percolating thoughts”

  1. pattsi Says:

    James Fishkin must have a lot of courage to write the books that he has and live and teach in Texas. 🙂

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Reading the July 23 & 30 Newsweek (the dates of these publications are moronic – just put the date they were actually published, duh!), there is an article about “Generation Screwed”, positing that 18-35 year-olds are growing up in families where parents had to get a college degree to get a good job (for the most part), but for them, there are no jobs. Worse, the author states that the government is pandering to the older generation and leaving the youngun’s in the dust. How very much in contradiction to what I heard Obama saying a few days ago. Another crazy thing – Obama was saying that folks can get trained for jobs that exist now. So, let’s say I am 13 years old; there is a construction opening right now and I can spend my next 5 years training for it? Really? 1) How may 13-year-olds know what they want to do, and 2) what are the chances that job will still be available in 5 years? It just doesn’t add up for me.

    The one major fault with the Newsweek article is that it does not offer any real solutions. Come on, man, give me something to chew on. So here is my own out-of-the-box thinking, borrowing from a number of things I have read and heard (my own Theory of Education Soup, I guess). What if school were not required, at least, not middle school or high school. What if we got rid of the child labor laws and allowed anyone, no matter how old they were, to join the workforce. Why? As a way to let them see what it is like. My intent is not so we can capitalize on all this labor, but rather so that kids and young adults can explore the Real World in a safe way. A kind of schooling while living, like the way apprenticeships used to work. In this system, you go to school to learn skills, not for the sole purpose of moving up through the grades to end up with a useless piece of paper that doesn’t guarantee anything. This system assumes that society will teach its members the social graces and morals and ethnics we need to survive and live together.

    More later. I realize this is nothing new. And this idea is still very rough. Just tired of the same-old same-old we have now.

  3. pattsi Says:

    Building on your post–why not return to the rigors of the HS of decades ago when a HS degree was worth something and grades had meaning rather than the grade and institutional inflation that presently exists. Why not return to the educational configuration of vocational programs in both HS and vocational schools were acknowledged as worthwhile and prepared people for the jobs to which Obama refers–now including computer science/technology. Junior colleges have somewhat slipped into this void. And why not think of education as a means of teaching this generation and upcoming generations how to continue to learn effectively leading to civil society decision making. With the rapid advances at every level of discipline, the most important aspect an individual can learn is how to learn and how to ask questions about things they know nothing about (remember Memo’s Dilemma). Bottomline, I could not support no requiring schooling. I would go so far to argue that some 4-year college programs ought to be free, aka Europe. If you are admitted to Harvard, you would have to pay a differential. 🙂

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    More along the lines of “we are so screwed”: We are in sooooo much trouble.

    There is a lot in this short 2006 article that I still very much agree with, mostly because I feel like all the hard-core science I took in college is totally useless to me. But beyond that, she makes a great point about how the times they be a-changin’ and to get stuck in the mud is to lose the race. Or “that is so last week”. Even better, she doesn’t just point out the bad, but offers some ideas on what to do now; hire intuitive and passionate folks, unstifle curiosity and take up the violin. 🙂

  5. pattsi Says:

    Ah, so you are arguing for a very well rounded, rigorous, classical liberal arts education rather than discipline specific. Hurrah, you can come to your senses. 🙂 Re-introduce Latin into the HS and college curriculum. 🙂


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