A few weeks ago I pointed out an interview with Junot Diaz where he described the
lack of attention isolation most adolescents face. How few adults are thoroughly invested in listening to the children around them? Sadly, at least some teachers fall into this category…
This morning, re-reading Deborah Meier’s essay on NCLB and Democracy, I found this passage:
By the time they are adolescents, are children are largely cut off from relationships with adults outside their immediate families–and stuck with one another in a world designed for them by strangers. They are all educated by the music, advertisements, and products designed to sell to an international youth market. They are carefully groomed to recognized ways to enhance their status in the race to look good, get ahead, be the most, have the most. What they do not have are very strong roots in any specific multiage community.
One of the things we’ve focused on in trying to create a pilot program (and eventually a charter school) is ensuring that we break down, as much as possible, the strict categorization that characterizes current secondary education. Instead of history remaining what you do between 8:50 and 9:40 with a group of individuals who are your age and who someone has declared your academic level, we want it to become something you do with your younger siblings, your grandfather, or while you’re walking down the street, looking around your neighborhood, or reading the paper.
And we want a school where “graduates” linger, where potential students poke around, where parents, community members, nearby business owners, university partners can become a presence as opposed to sheepish individuals with glossy visitor’s badges. The best learning communities are the messiest, the places where the lines between “learned” and “learning” are as blurry as can be.
CODA: you can walk in on the EVX team on any afternoon and see this in action. Engineers, mechanics, volunteers, teachers, kids — it’s one community. We want to take this after-school model and make a whole day of it.