RN: on education


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,   Dec. 10

This posting will be somewhat different from most I send. Instead of
alerting you to an issue of timely importance, it presents comments from two
RN list participants who care deeply about an issue of enduring concern:

Happy reflecing and reading and all the best, Jan

First, a message from someone whose caring has prompted him to learn English
and go to many other efforts to share his insights. Antonio Rossin is a
doctor in Italy and also a PARENT. He feels parents have a crucial role to
play in building a better world, as you will see.

Date: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 10:05:53 +0200
From: Antonio Rossin <•••@••.•••>
To: Jan Slakov <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: "top-down"

To judge by the way people act (how they "vote"), they want themselves not 
to share, not to build a "Bottom-to-Up democracy" based society. So, the way 
they are being governed now actually fits in with people's real wishes.

What many people, including Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance, are doing
then, is imposing their own take on how things are.  If they supposed that 
people actually want a more just order, they operate under a wrong premise. 
They are trying to build a revolution to bring a more just order about when 
actually the real democratic wish of people is not this.  Therefore, they are 
due to act "authoritarian like", because they are not supported by the real 
democratic wish. So they're spending too much energy, often unsuccessfully.

It would be of great help to try to get at why the bottom-to-up desires of 
people are "wrong", that is, why people do not want a truly just and
democratic society.  This why must be searched in the earliest grassroots
bottom-to-up thinking model source, i.e., how a body (a future voter) gets
inclined either to share or not to share in any "Bottom-to-Up democracy"
based society. This leads all of us to look at the very basic model of
social organization, i.e., the earliest parents/child relationship.

A good analysis on this subject has been made by an italian practitioner, 
Antonio Rossin <•••@••.•••>.  He is suggesting parents the know-how to
change their traditional language patternings, or family educative model, in
order to foster more Critical Thinking and Flexibility in children.  Rossin
explains the new educational model, called "Dialectic Education" (Dial Ed),
at the web site:  <http://www.mripermedia.com/Rossin/html> 

Interestingly, Rossin says that the lack of Critical Thinking and Flexibility 
in people's minds is the reason of people's lack of real democracy not only, 
but also Primary Prevention of Drugs Addictions and of psychosomatic illnesses
being tied to the subdued personality in what he calls "the Less Flexibility 
Syndrome", at: /lef.html>  (Some else call it: "Obey Authority Syndrome"..)

Therefore the engagement for a "Grassroots Bottom-to-Up" Democratic
Renaissance comes to coincide with the engagement for more health in people
"from Childhood Upwards", mostly Primary Prevention, and we believe that
this side of the coin could have a greater grasp on people's attention.
Rossin's "Dial Ed" is free and would plant the democratic seed of our
movement into each family worldwide.

Read, comment, forward,
cheers and thanks,

This next message gives us a paradigm for societal change based on
individuals taking reponsibility or acting without waiting for "leaders".
An à propos quote:
"Do not wait for leaders, do it alone, person to person. "   
                       --Mother Teresa

Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 04:10:41 -0700
To: •••@••.•••
From: Bill Ellis <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: The Individual

At 8:47 AM -0500 11/5/98, •••@••.••• wrote:
>Another example, with schooling: If one family decides not to put their child
>in a public school they are: diverting energy and money from "the beast",
>healing one or two or three children forever of the scars of authoritarianism,
>creating a life-long "witness" to everyone they meet, work with, or talk to,
>about a more humane way to educate children.
Kimberly gives a good example of a leaderless change.
In 1980 a few families started homeschooling.
In 1990 300,000 families were homeschooling.
In 1998 1,500,000 families were homeschooling.
If this 20% increase a year keeps on for another 10 years 24% of all
American school age children will be homeschooled.

Who invented homeschooling?

Yet homeschooling is beginning to self-organize.  Special services are
growing up without design or planning for homeschoolers.  A couple of
organizations have concentrated on legalizing homeschooling.  Since 1993 it
has been legal in all 50 states.  A couple of others provide special
equipment and supplies for homeschoolers.  Another one or two give tests
and certificates for college entrance.  There are a few mentors who give
aid to homeschool families and find internships for homeschoolers.

Who has decided what services need to be organized?

The growth rate suggests that homeschooling will be a major element of the
nation's learning system in a decade.  How much has it been discussed by
professional educators?  by politicians? by leaders?  by planners?  by

This same sort of grassroots organization is happening in economics,
health, transportation, communications, governance, and all other aspect of
our culture.
As Kimberly says, what happens when one more person commutes by bike?  When
one more person stops taking the drugs advertised on TV?  When one more
person joins the local co-op?  When one more person starts a co-housing
unit?  When one more person uses a local scrip?

How many local scrip organization have to be started before they start
networking and self-organizing?  How many co-housing units will it take to
change the whole housing system?  How many GROs (or NGOs) are needed to
create a new world governance?  How many....?

Get the point?  Thanks Kimberly.

Bill Ellis
PO BOX 137
Rangeley ME 04970-0137 USA
URL: http://www.nonviolence.org/tranet/

Because I (Jan) am a home-schooler, I happen to be on a list to which a
speech by Bill Ellis (author of the message above) was sent. 

It offers an interesting summary of the Gaian paradigm and how that links up
with the way we educate our children and ourselves.

From: •••@••.••• (James Crombie)
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 17:29:27 -0400
Mailing-List: list •••@••.•••; contact •••@••.•••

>Date: Wed, 04 Nov 1998 01:12:55 -0700
>From: Bill Ellis <•••@••.•••>
>At 7:59 AM -0800 11/2/98, Silvia Austerlic wrote:
>>'Strategic Questions' on LEARNING, or Give Your Virtual Imagination a Real
>Your emphasis on "learning" is masterful.
>TRANET has used "Learning" instead of "Education" for its column for 20
years for just the reasons you use. Learning is something one does for
onesself, Educating is something somene does to you.
>I emphasized this difference in a section of my E.F.Schumahcer Lecture on
hoeschooling.  I've forwarded this to others previously.  If you've already
gotten it HIT DELETE NOW.
>Excerpt from a 1998 E.g., Society Lecture by Bill Ellis
>The Gaian Paradigm
>    As the 21st Millennium opens there is a mood for change in society.  To
some extent this is a holdover from the Biblical admonition of "a second
coming."  To some extent it is a growing angst over the failures of modern
society to live up to the potential for justice, equity and a good life for
all that is possible within the technological advances of the fading
millennium.  A third element is the hope for the future that is now rising
as a deeper understanding of the cosmos, and humanity's place in it, is
being revealed by modern science.  In this essay I want to grasp this mood
for change, particularly within the new science/social mindset, and envision
the learning system that could emerge if we let it happen.
>    My starting point I will call The Gaian Paradigm.  Gaia is the Greek
Goddess of the earth.  The word Gaia started taking on new scientific
meaning in 1972 when space scientist, James Lovelock, and microbiologist
Lynn Margulis collaborated in developing what they later called The Gaia
Hypothesis.  What they found, and many other scientists have later
confirmed, is that the Earth acts as a self-organizing life-like entity.
The atmosphere, the soils, the level of salt in the ocean, the amount of
oxygen in the air, the balance or solar radiation reaching the earth, and
all other qualities that make life possible on Earth are carefully
controlled to be just right to support life.  No other planet yet observed
has that unique ability.  The mechanism that controls all these quantities
is life itself.  
>    The Gaian Paradigm suggests that all cosmic evolution is ruled by the
samelaws as biological evolution.  That everything is dependent on everything
else.  This is radically different from the Dominator Paradigm on which
society has been organizing for the past 2000 years or more.  The Dominator
Paradigm instilled the values of self-interest, survival of the fittest,
competition, materialism, and greed.  
>    The Gaian Paradigm suggests that everything is interdependent.  Nothing
dominates anything else.  The cosmology from the Big Bang through the
formation of atoms, molecules, cells, life forms, and human society follow
the same pattern.  It is a steady transition from simpler entities
self-organizing to become more complex ones,  all interdependent. 
>    The human body is a good metaphor for this evolving system.  The cells are
organized into organs, and organs into the human body.  In like manner
society is made up of cells, social organizations, and the social body. 
>    The Gaian Paradigm provides us a new mind set with which to envision the
future.  There is not a clearer expression of the Gaian Paradigm than the
emergence of homeschooling and its potential for a major transition from the
current schooling system to a community life long-learning system.
>    An increasing number of educational critics like 1991  New York teacher of
the year, John Taylor Gatto in _Dumbing Us Down_,  have decried the schooling
system.  They point out that early American schools were strict disciplinary
centers in which students sat stiffly at their desks in abject obedience
while stern teachers taught them the three Rs by rote memory.  Its purpose,
at least during this century,  has been to prepare workers for an industrial
culture.  It worked well.  Laborers in American mills and factories
surpassed all others in bringing wealth to our nation,
>    The critics contend that it is the form of schooling that is now teaching
the wrong lessons.  The monopoly state schools restrict the individual's
natural curiosity and desire to learn.  They teach authoritarianism,
self-repression, and strict obedience to the clock.  The teacher, under
controls set by the state, and now the national government, determines what
is to be learned.  The clock and the calendar determine when and how long a
child can learn it.  Much of this criticism of schooling has been reflected
in a report to the president, A Nation at Risk. 
>The Age of Chaos
>    Well before the current attacks on schooling and educating, John Dewey and
other philosophers assailed this concept of education with their creeds of
"learning by doing" and "child centered education."  Although the philosophy
of education changed the form didn't.  Children still gather in rooms of 20
or more; each one trying to do his or her own thing.  The result is that
neither teaching nor learning is possible.  Many schoolrooms become centers
of confusion.  Education is now at the edge of chaos, ripe for a radical
>     One element of the reorganization of learning started two decades ago
when some families started taking corrective actions one family at a time.
It was called homeschooling.  These actions grew in concert with Paul
Goodman's urging that schools make more use of community facilities and
issues, with Ivan Illich's seminal book Deschooling Society, and with John
Holt's Instead of Education (1976), and Growing Without Schooling (1977) on
how children learn.     
>    In the beginning, only a couple of decades ago, homeschools were
autonomous family units, each one setting it own curriculum, and providing
its own supplies and services.  These homeschooling units are the cells on
which a new learning system could grow.  They typify the basic cells of any
system governed by the Gaian Paradigm. 
>    During the 1980 and 1990s homeschooling took off.  From 1990 to 1998
homeschooling grew from 300,000 to 1.5 million.  That is an annual growth
rate of nearly 20%.  If it continued at that rate the 1.5% of the American
children now homeschooled would grow to nearly 25% in the next 10 years, 50%
in 20 years.  A number that surely demands social interest and wins
political support.  
>    As homeschooling grew in the past two decades,  practitioners began
forming associations primarily to exchange information and to confront state
laws that limited their rights.  BY 1993 homeschooling was legal in all 50
states,  There are now some 700 homeschooling associations in the United
States.  About 50 of these have a nation-wide constituency.  Homeschooling
is beginning to self-organize into a unified whole.
>    As the network grows, organs are forming to make the whole system function
for efficiently.  Most of the services provided to homeschoolers, like
Growing Without Schooling, or Home Education Press, are primarily
publications creating the network -- linking the cells together.  Others
like the Clonlara School Home-Based Education Center provide a by-mail
service with curricula, tests, and diplomas for homeschoolers.  Still others
are newsletters written and exchanged by homeschoolers themselves.  A few
like Home Schoolers Defense Organization help homeschoolers with legal and
legislative matters.  One or two have books, equipment and other material
for loans to homeschoolers.  Some like SKOLE and Aerogram are publications
condemning the authoritarian, monopolistic state school systems and
supporting alternative educational systems.
>    Closely associated with the home schooling movement are a broad variety of
alternative schools which are moving in the direction of child-centered
education. Jerry Mintz in his "Handbook of Alternative Education" lists
2500 Montessori schools, 100 Waldorf schools, and 60 Quaker schools as well
as the 700 homeschools programs. 
>    In additions to these there is a growing number of Folk schools patterned
after the Folk Schools of Denmark, "schools-without walls," "Open
Universities" and learning centers.  They do not fall within the province of
being substitutes for the K-12 governmental schools.  It is this later group
of learning facilities with which this paper is most interested.
>Community Learning Centers
>    In the last two or three years local homeschooling networks have started
providing themselves with a new form of learning social institution.  They
don't yet even have a universal name.  To start examining them I will call
them "Cooperative Community Life-Long Learning Centers (CCL-LLCs)."  
>    These community centers are cooperatively owned and controlled by the
member families they serve.  They provide counseling, mentoring, supplies,
facilities, workshops and classes.  They serve everyone regardless of
religion, age, sex, learning level, financial ability, or employment status.
They use all aspects of the community for learning.  Libraries, YMCAs,
churches, museums, local businesses, farms, government offices, the streets,
the parks, and nature itself are all part of the learning system.
>    Community Learning Centers put an end to the end of school.  Life-long
homeschoolers do not graduate in the sense of ending their learning careers.
They are not expelled from the learning and exercise facilities of the
traditional school.  They have learned to continue to be participants in the
learning facilities that are the community in which they live.  
>    As Gene Lehman put it in one of his Luno broadsheets "life long learning
relies heavily on daily life activities, deep and varied interactions among
people, contact with nature, and a popular culture which is abundant,
diverse, profound, and cheaply accessible to all.  Most importantly, a
holistic approach to lifelong learning relies on developing some kind of
face-to-face community of friends and neighbors who co-operate in order to
share the essential burdens and delights of life."
>    In 1998 Community Learning Centers became of governmental interest when
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act dedicated $40 million to expand
after-school programs.  But this program was limited to school districts,
and administered by U.S. Department of Education.  Thus it was directed more
at getting kids off the streets, and saving a decaying schooling system,
than experimenting a new futuristic systems of learning.  Reinstituted in a
positive vein, which was not trying to fixing a failing system but to build
a new one, this attention to community schooling might well expand the
homeschooling innovation to be the base on which the new millennium learning
system could form. 
>    CCL-LLCs may be one of the most seminal social innovations of the past
decade.  They may be the seed for a deep fundamental change in the
education/learning system of the future.  CCL-LLCs are to a large extent an
outgrowth of the rapidly growing homeschooling movement.    It is
conceivable that a network of Community Life-Long Learning Centers could
completely replace the state controlled schools.  And they could be much
more than that.
>Civil Society and Learning
>    The transition to a Cooperative Community Life-Long Learning System is not
only a change in educational practices,  it is also a transformation of the
whole mind-set on the value of knowledge and the value of the person.  It is
a clear example of the transition from the Dominator Paradigm to the Gaian
>     "Teaching," "educating," and "schooling" imply that society, or
government, is acting on, controlling,  indoctrinating and forming, blank
unformed minds.  It is an authoritarian, hierarchical, dominating system of
control from the top down.  It is inherent in rule from above -- the divine
right of government.  It is in harmony with the fading Dominator Paradigm
that holds that the cosmos, and the Earth, are parts of the chain of being
in which man is a semi god controlling the Earth from above,  and all lesser
forms including women, children, animals, plants and the Earth's natural
resources are but resources for the use of man.
>     Every single word in "Cooperative," "Community," "Life-Long," "Learning",
and "System" carries an important and transforming connotation.  "Learning"
is not something a superior being does to a lesser person.  Learning is an
act of self-volition.  It is a self-actuated process of creating skills,
discovering knowledge,  and satisfying one's own natural curiosity.  It is
built on, and it teaches, the inherent right and responsibility of every
individual to set her or his own standards.  It honors the diversity of
evolution.   It is in harmony with the new Gaian worldview that everything
is interdependent with everything else.  It respects the new understanding
that each of us is part of Gaia and "belongs" to Gaia. 
>    "Belonging" in this sense is much more that merely "being a member of."
Belonging is the scientific fact that we are all interdependent systems
within systems, or holons within holons if you wish to use the systems
jargon.  Each of us is a whole made up of smaller wholes and imbedded in
larger wholes.  Gaia and the Cosmos are among the larger wholes of which
each individual is a smaller whole.  
>    "Belonging" implies not only being a whole within wholes, but that we
belong to and are subject to the laws of nature.  "Belonging" to Gaia means
belonging to the Earth and to one another.  Belonging is an ethical
proto-value inherent in the New Science/Social paradigm.  It says that each
individual is an integral part and responsible for the health and well being
of the family, the community, Gaia,  Each person is responsible for each of
the larger systems of which he or she is a part.  Inherent in this
scientific concept of belonging is much of the perennial wisdom of the sages
who have recognized that humanity cannot continue to exist on Earth without
laws of conduct which emphasize our responsibility to and for one another.
Belonging implies tolerance, respect, reverence, honor, cooperation, care,
and love.
>A Learning Society
>    This transition from "educating" to "learning" is being recognized by a
wide variety of scholars.  Management guru Peter Drucker in his "Post
Capitalist Society" writes of a society based on knowledge.  One in which
all society is an open life-long learning system in which every person can
enter at any level at any time.  From the other end of the spectrum peace
scholar Elise Boulding reports that a common feature of the many "Imagine a
World Without Weapons" workshop she has held with people of all walks of
life and all ages, was the vision of a "localist society" in which
communities are self-reliant and "Learning appears integrated into other
community activities. ... everyone is a learner, and education is life
long."  This theme of the "Learning Community" is fully integrated with the
growth of civil society and all other aspects of the emerging Gaian Cultures.
>    The transition from "educating" to "learning" typifies the emergence of
Gaian Cultures.  The Gaian Paradigm challenges every aspect of our cultural
norms.  Economics, health, habitat, community, and even religion as well as
education, are going through deep fundamental examination and
transformation.  The millennium ahead will be one of radical change.  For
the first time in over 2000 years the Dominator Paradigm, based on
self-interest, survival of the fittest, competition, materialism and greed
is being challenged by a new scientific/social Gaian Paradigm.  It replaces
the values of the Dominator Paradigm with values such a common interest,
responsibility, cooperation, community, and reciprocity. 
>     New concepts of learning could be the keystone on which the new
millennium will evolve.  
>Bill Ellis
>PO BOX 137
>Rangeley ME 04970-0137 USA
>URL: http://www.nonviolence.org/tranet/