Thursday, June 24, 2010


Today was the first day of the Alternative Education Resource Organization conference, and I am sitting at the computer at 11:15 pm not quite able to go to sleep with so many images in my head. The biggest one is of over 400 people from all over the US ( and some from other countries) smiling and welcoming and curious about what the others were involved in. Many young people! A few black and brown faces. More public school teachers than I had expected, but of course lots of home schoolers, unschoolers, and folks representing a variety of other education approaches and philosophies. The first person we met was Rick Posner, whose book about the alumni of the Jefferson County Open Classroom, Lives of Passion, School of Hope is now in my backpack. I knew from a phone conversation that we’d had a year ago that I’d like him, and I did. He introduced me to one of his former students, Ian, who is here with him, and who struck me immediately with his sense of humor and astute observations as we watched a video conference with Herb Kohl.

Herb was full of piss and vinegar, chiding the Alternative movement for not being activist enough, and for deserting the public schools. He didn’t pull any punches, and I am sure agrevated a bunch of the participants with his negative comments about home schooling and the elitism he sees. He went overboard, as is his wont, but much of what he said was valuable. One quote I liked was “schools need to embrace the vision of a decent world>”

At a workshop on maintaining a positive school culture I discovered that there are a group of teachers here from the independent school in LA where I taught in 69-70! Play Mountain Place is probably the oldest Summerhill based school in the US. I was so pleased to talk with two young teachers who brought me up to date about how the school is doing. It sounds like it has stayed true to it’s original mission of incorporating ideas brought forward by Carl Rogers about the emotional needs of children. I hope i get to talk more with them tomorrow.

This evening we saw a film called The War On Children which traces all the inhumanness that has entered the public schools--from zero tolerance policies, to medicating for quiet classrooms. the film had many interesting and important points to make, but I am not comfortable with its conclusion that we need to toss out the whole public school system...the two videos of the day were in stark contrast on that point!

Time for bed. Tomorrow we show our film!

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