RN: on education #2 (featuring Carolyn Chute!)


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,   

First, Antonio Rossin has a little message for us:

The address I gave you for his web site in the Dec. 10 message on education
does not work.:

Hi all,

let me correct and apologize.  The above URL was mispelled and doesn't run.
The correct one is: <http://www.mripermedia.com/Rossin/>

Best regards,


Meanwhile, there are three excerpts on the theme of education which I would
like to share with you.

One is from a document Carolyn Chute, of the 2nd Maine Militia, wrote,
called _The Really New Deal for America_. 

People who are subscribed to the Cyberjournal will surely remember being
introduced to Carolyn Chute by Richard. She was quite excited to see his
essay on overcoming the "left/right" divide (a divide which undermines the
possibility of coordinated citizen effort to revitalize our democracies). (I
believe the essay she saw was entitled "Who is the enemy?" and I'm sure
Richard would be happy to send it to anyone who would like to see it.)

On Richard's June/July trip to the Eastern US and Canada he got to meet
Carolyn and she is indeed a marvellous individual. She has lived in real
poverty much of her life, and even now when she is a best-selling author,
money is still tight. This, even though Carolyn and her husband Micheal have
"no phone, no fax, no TV" (and no e-mail, either!)

Anyhow, here are some of Carolyn's ideas on education (Note: I'll try to
leave some of Carolyn's interesting spelling intact.):

        "Burn down the schools. Oh, well, yuh, you're right, that's wasting
a building. Shool buildings could be used as warehouses or places to grow
        Okay. We need to start by looking at the word "school" before we
outlaw school. School was created by the Prussions to give people
conformity. The Industrailists jumped on the bandwagon. They realised
schools were the perfect tool for getting whole populations dependent on
industry for EVERYTHING. People who lived off the land and traded within
their communities didn't need FACTORY JOBS, paychecks or STUFF. So it was
important to industry to take away all life-sustaining interdependent
skills, crush communities and family. Take away the land. Get people to
desire lots of STUFF. And it was important to divide the people into winners
and losers. The honor group management group. And the worker ants group. And
the extras group (to keep wages down).
        Schools have not failed. They are doing exactly what they were
designed for. A peachy-keen job, I must say.
        Part of [what we need...] would be to redesign the learning
experience to create the kind of society we really want. If you want
grasping, sneery arrognat high-stepping honor types who speak of POSITIVE
THINKING with bright sunny faces, who are really just a notch or two above
the whole angry grasping frightened loney exhausted competative millions and
the emprisoned trashed-over bottomed out total loss group, if this is what
you want for America, then no change in the learning experience is necessary.
        But if you want vibrant honest back and forth business and
self-employment and community farms, a world where all gifts are honored, a
world of neighbourliness, INTERdependence, respect for others, leaders who
are sages, not _winners_, self-discipline, excellence, curiosity,
capability, skills, experience, loving families, shared work, shared
history, shared place, but with open minds and respect for all the world, a
world which is not a level playing field, not a chess game, not a free grab,
but the planet on which many species call home...if this is the kind of
society you want to create, you do not have flourescent-lit rooms of same
age kids with identical _clean_ hands all striving for honors for twelve
years. You do not have grades. You do NOT graduate. Ever. You do not
graduate from learning. It is not a tournament. We are not fatted calves
stepping off the box car, grade A down through cull.
        You do not create a space which resembles nothing else but an
insurance company and cram all of America's children into this space and
call it good.
        The Really New Deal suggests taht every community have a Good
Neighbor Center ... or "village". The villae would have many "shops" where
varieties of projects and expertise are housed. While the old schools
offered desk work, art, computers and sports, the villages will ahve
EVERYTHING. From "nursing" homes to forestry crews, from the study of DNA to
boatmaking, windmill making, everything you need to know about solar (hands
on), raising butterflies, growing and preserving food, physics, municipal
law, corporate law, linguistics, animal husbandry, philosophy [...] and
learning how to raise hell when the government betrays us. [...]
        These Good Neigbor Villages could be the heart of the community,
library, resource centers, etc. CSA (Community Supported AGriculture) Farms
would be encouraged. Yes, even in cities this _can_ be done. Small biz
start-up seminars, and advisors. [...]
        In every region there will be larger Centers, convenient to serve
many Good Neighbor Villags. Like universities, these will be places for
serious research and specialized learning. Free. And no grades. No honors.
        If you want to go to Harvard, there are already existing prep
schools for such and more can be made... or you can do an independent
prep... perhaps other like-minded persons can form a prep group to be ready
for those rigorous tests. And tutors. _Lots_ of tutorers.
        We are not doing away with acedemia. We are only eliminating the
boxcar slaughterhouse mentality. We are building a community-minded America.
We are honoring community values, Common Sense and Common Decency where
nobody is trashed and  where we Americans can learn passion and excitement
for knowledge. And we will no longer be a bunch of dreamy passive-aggressive
selfish stupid people who when we hear  "The sky is green", "The sun is
blue", "The chicken says Moo", we wil no longer accept such bullshit on faith."

And here is more outspoken opinion: "Strong Words from the New York State
Teacher of the Year" from _Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of
Compusory Schooling_ by John Taylor Gatto :

p. 75. "Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual,
not a conforminst; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which
to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will
be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person
who loves doing whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are
with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.
        What's gotten in the way of education in the United States is a
theory of social engineering that says there is _one right way_ to proceed
with growing up. That's an ancient Egyptian idea symbolized by the pyramid
with an eye on top that's on the other side of George Washington on our
one-dollar bill. Everyone is a stone defined by position on the pyramid.[...]
        [...]Rebuild these things [families and communities] and young
people will begin to educate themselves -- with our help -- just as they did
at the nation's beginning. They don't have anything to work for now except
money, and that's never been a first-class motivator. Break up these
institutional schools, decertify teaching, let anyone who has a mind to
teach bid for customers, privatize this whole business -- trust the free
market system. I know it's easier to say than do, but what other choice do
we have? We need less school, not more."

To close this posting, I would like to quote from one of my long-time
favourite authors, Herbert Kohl. 

While Kohl shares many of the concerns with conventional education as
expressed by Carolyn Chute and John Taylor Gatto, he also believes in
"public education but [does] not believe that the public schools are
providing an adequate basic education for our children." (_Basic Skills_, p. 4)

Later in the book, (p. 107) he writes: "For me, the principles that are
fundamental in a democracy are:

1. Everyone should have access to information and resources and be informed
about how to use them. 
Without knowing what is happening in the world or without techniques to
organize the flood of information available to us, we become powerless to
act intelligently. And without resources we can't act. Young people need to
learn how to gather and organize information, as well as understand what
resources are available and how they can acquire and use them.[...]

2.People should have as much control over their onw lives as is consistent
with not damaging others.
This implies that maximum individual freedom must be allowed for, consistent
with social coherence. Decisions affecting people's lives should be made
from the bottom up - those people affected by a decision should have a voice
in that decision whenever possible. Hierarchies should be avoided unless
absolutely necessary. Mutual respect is essential to democracy and cannot
develop where hierarchies dominate.
This implies that yound people whould know something about control, should
have the opportunity to exercise power, and analyze the consequences of it.
They should understand what it means to damage others and study the line
between individual freedom and harming others. They also should understand
that differences of culture, style and taste should not be viewed as

3. Everyone should consider carefully the balance between fulfillment in
their personal lives and service to others.
It is fundamental in a democracy that service be not merely an obligation
but a source of personal and social renewal. This implies that young people
should experience cooperative work, should have an opportunity to learn in
the community as well as in the classroom, and should come to understand how
learning itself can be a lifelong source of growth and pleasure."

Kohl then goes on to list what he feels are the six basic skills citizens
need and to describe how we could teach them. And then he talks about what
people can do _now_, given current realities. A useful book,if you asked me!

all the best, Jan