Tag Archives: freedom

Dwayne Teaches Science

My friend’s eleven year old son, Dwayne, taught a science class last week in his one room school house.  The teacher had started a lesson on bees when Dwayne raised his hand and asked if he could teach the subject.  She agreed.  He started to explain bees and pollen when suddenly he ran outside.  He came back with a bee in a bottle.  He proceeded to show the class of first to six graders the pollen on the bees little legs and then explained the process of pollination.

When he concluded, the teacher exclaimed that he taught the subject better than she could have done.

One room schools are interesting.  I mentioned to a young couple at a dinner that I was intrigued by them and wondered if we could carry the idea of them over into regular schools.  The mother of a nine year old girl said that in the small town in Wyoming from where they came the one room school experience had been great academically for her daughter, but bad socially.   The school had 7 students; six were girls and one boy.  The five other girls turned out to be Heathers i.e. mean girls.   So the little girl was miserable there and is much happier now in their new town in a school with lots of kids.  The mother and father had a unique explanation for the bad behavior.  Except for their daughter, all the kids lived in town and not on ranches even if their parents owned ranches.  They didn’t do chores before school like their daughter did.  They felt that had something to do with the mean girls’ nasty behavior.

Maybe, I thought.  Maybe not.   Perhaps there was a way of combining all these variations.  Why divide learning up by age to begin with?   I mean a kid born in January ends up in the same class as the kid born 12 months later in December.  When I was young there was a school that had half year classes in an attempt to figure that one out.

Combining the one room school idea but in a larger context might work.  Structure or destructure a school like Pixar Studios with the bathrooms and common space in the middle of the building, so kids can mingle.   Also having everybody do animal and plant chores during the day is good for all kinds of things.

Also in the one room school model, the older children are enlisted to help the younger ones with studies they have mastered.   So the teacher gets help and the older children learn the art of teaching.  Always seemed to me that if you could learn to be a good teacher, you would be prepared for almost anything.  And it might replace the meanness for attention with genuine sharing of accomplishment and nurturing of the younger ones.

I’m sure none of these ideas are new.  Utopian schools like the Ferrer Schools in Spain, Summerhill, and Beacon Hill Schools were experiments in giving children the freedom they did not have in most schools.  They came from a view that learning should be voluntary and free.  It is part of the pursuit of happiness rather than a preparation for life as a drone.  Not much is really new.  But maybe it’s time to do another reboot and take a look at what “school” should look like.  Instead of looking at education as a “race” or school as a place for indoctrination into the myths of  a nation, we should all be going in the opposite direction.  Childhood and maybe even a good deal of adulthood should be a time to stop and smell the roses and the alfalfa.

Fun Facts:  Did you know that in Switzerland, you only have to go or “visit” school for  9 years which consists of 6 years of primary school and 3 more years of either a job training program or the college prep type school.  Most students who choose the college prep school go 6 years.  The students who choose job training go 3 years and then start work.  There is no national education department.  The way schools are structured are determined at the canton or municipal level. (Wikipedia).

In ancient Athens Cleisthenes created democracy.  Important public positions like head of the sewer systems, food distribution, army generalships, fixing buildings, etc were distributed by lottery.  500 men called the Boule took care of such things.  (from historyforkids.org)  There was no such thing as “school”.  “Skole” in Greek meant leisure.  The time to think and reflect. Neighboring Sparta was the opposite.  It consisted of regimented living and training in a fake democracy run by elites.  (Paul Taylor Gatto “The Underground History of American Education”.)

Gatto also makes the observation that in science fiction the future or the end of history is peopled by robots not by slaves.

The University of Occupy – Majoring in Freedom

Rage.  Almost every adolescent feels at one time or another or most of the time a feeling of suffocation and expresses that feeling with rage.  David Graeber in his on line essays on revolutionary social movements  called “Revolutions in Reverse” , he focuses on this alienation.  Why were so many American teenagers “entranced” by Raoul Vaneigem’s book “The Revolution of Everyday Life ?” he asked himself.  Then he answers his own question.  “It must be the highest theoretical expression of the feelings of rage, boredom, and revulsion that almost any adolescent at some point feels when confronted with the middle class existence.”  The young see before then mind-numbing unimaginative work before them and it freaks them out.

I got to thinking about this. For a long time young working and middle class people were bought off.  Not by the distractions of game playing, sports watching, or mindless movies although those activities helped the fragmentation of their social life.  No it was more insidious. They were bought off by the myth of American freedom through ownership of your very own home.  You could leave the nest and feather your own complete with mate and cute little chirpers.  You were no longer subject to authoritarian education structures or parental controls.  You were free.

But unlike a bird, you had little time to soar like an eagle or dart and play in the sky.  To mix some metaphors, you got yourself saddled with debt and if you went to college, you piled on some more saddle packs full of anxiety and woe.

In the new AMC TV series “Hell on Wheels”, the railroad baron asks a couple of young Irish lads why they were in the middle of the U.S. tagging along as the continental railroad was being built.   The brothers tell him of sneaking on a train when they were mere lads and going to the big city of Dublin.  Their father found them and hauled them home, but it was the grandest time of their life.   So for them a train was the symbol of freedom and they wanted to be a part of the building of that railroad in the hopes of capturing that feeling of freedom again.

For over 40 years we have been subjected to a bad version of “freedom” with its emphasis on the mythical rugged individual.   But libertarians of the right should take a look at what left libertarians call “freedom” and maybe find some  common ground. Here’s how the CrimethInc collective  (who Graeber calls “the most inspiring young anarchist propagandists”) describes freedom:

We must make our freedom by cutting

holes in the fabric of this reality, by

forging new realities which will, in turn,

fashion us. Putting yourself in new situations

constantly is the only way to ensure

that you make your decisions unencumbered

by the inertia of habit, custom, law,

or prejudice – and it is up to you to create

these situations

Freedom only exists in the moment of

revolution. And those moments are not as

rare as you think. Change, revolutionary

change, is going on constantly and everywhere

– and everyone plays a part in it,

consciously or not.

Graeber calls this statement “elegant”.  Direct action is, he says, “the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.”  “Sovereign” may  This is revolution and not some kind of “to the barricades” moment.  This is releasing the barricades in our minds and unleashing our imaginations.  It is pushing back against the elites who say that we need to get back into the boxes;  the voting booths, the endless marches and rallies to petition our king for some gruel, writing letters to the aged satraps in the halls of congress, or sitting in the audience at public hearings of excruciating boredom.  So-called “realistic” “pragmatic” choices are made in those boxes but “in an insurrectionary situation, on the other hand, suddenly anything is possible.”

This is what is called “reinventing everyday life.”  So forget universities.  Go sign up for a course in freedom at one of the Occupies.  The tents may be gone for now, but the Forum is always open to those who choose to live as if they are already free.