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Teachers for a Better Tomorrow

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Over Under Through

Over Under Through

End of last week, just before Ossining High School’s graduation, all my unfulfilled homeschooling dreams came flooding back. As of Saturday, the twins are finished with OHS, and I never did do homeschooling the way I knew it could be done for them or for others.

This is a project of Northern Westchester for a Better Tomorrow (nw4bt.org). You can see the nw4bt project page here.

The flood of homeschooling dreams broke over me as I was sitting in a comfy chair at a coffee shop reading The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin. In the adjacent comfy chair was a man I’d met before who, once again, was grading papers for one of the public school classes he teaches.

I’ve been reading a lot of Seth Godin lately. He’s inspirational and helpful as I try to create Northern Westchester for a Better Tomorrow. Which is a coalition of those working locally for change and transformation, and a community I’m building to support their work. The Icarus Deception refocuses the standard understanding of the myth about wings made of feathers and wax. The moral is usually framed as advising against outsized ambitions: fly too high and the sun will melt the wax in our wings and we’ll tumble to a watery doom. What’s usually left out is the equally dangerous mistake of flying too low, lest the waves capture us and pull us down to an equally final watery demise. Godin’s argument is that there’s never been a better time to create a life and career in alignment with our deepest artistic, social and moral impulses. The world’s never been hungrier for what each of our realest selves would most like to bring to the world.

In one passage, he talks about education in this way:

Now that we’ve built an industrial solution for teaching in bulk, we’ve seduced ourselves into believing that the only thing that can be taught is the way to get high SAT scores.
We shouldn’t be buying this.
We can teach people to make commitments, to overcome fear, to deal transparently, to initiate, and to plan a course.
We can teach people to desire lifelong learning, to express themselves, and to innovate.
And just as important, it’s vital that we acknowledge that we can unteach bravery and creativity and initiative. And that we have been doing just that.

And I remembered similar perceptions back when I was so glad we’d spared our kids the assorted agonies of middle school. And also teaching cooperation instead of competition, working together to accomplish something no one had done before. And teaching how to recognize and protect oneself from the assumptions and pressures overtly and covertly brought to bear on each of us by the “dominant paradigm.”

icarus

icarus

I wanted to develop and teach “The History of Manipulation,” and “Intro to Local Infrastructure.” I wanted to help develop a course called “Commercial Techniques for the Design of Body Image for American Girls and Women.” And how about, “The Biosphere None Of Us Can Live Without & What Humans Are Doing To It.” I imagined organizing good teachers, who I knew were often unbearably frustrated by the limitations and demands of teaching within government-sanctioned “industrial solutions for teaching in bulk.” I would find teachers and organize them to teach at something like a Summer Camp for Actual Education. Or for homeschool enrichment classes, or after-school programs.

Now that I’m organizing Northern Westchester for a Better Tomorrow I’m feeling those dreams well up again. I know there’s still a healthy and vibrant community of homeschoolers out there, wishing for some real alternative education. Parents who know they’re giving their children over to educational systems they believe are doing more harm than good, but don’t see any viable other choices.

How hard would it really be to create a local co-op of teachers, either professional or amateur, with something they’d like to teach. To provide central services (marketing, scheduling, insurance?, facilities and logistics, etc.) and activate the local networks of potentially quite eager customers. In fact, once things got going a little, the range of material taught could expand dramatically. How about a course for high school juniors and seniors called “Possibilities for an Ethical Career in Advertising” taught by someone with real-world experience? To mention but one possibility.

I don’t think it would be all that difficult to create a co-op of people willing and able to provide actual alternative education, and eager to receive what they have to teach. I think it could make a big difference, and I want to begin a conversation with other people who might be ready to agree with me.

1 comment to Teachers for a Better Tomorrow

  • Stephen Filler

    Great post! I agree — it’s time for us ’59ers to start teaching! As my daughter said,”I think you’re starting to have wisdom”! I’m not volunteering, but I would like someone to develop a whole 7th grade curriculum relating to global warming and sustainability — you could easily do math, science, history, english, not to mention music and art! Relevant pedagogy ala Paulo Freire and Ivan Illych

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