In a world so divided by ideology, politics, religion, race, gender and a myriad of other subtle and not so subtle mind controlling agendas, it seems difficult to find any common ground these days. Each philosophical camp appears ready and willing to attack, with the intent to kill, dissenting views in the name of whatever. We are not content to just disagree. Instead, we seem driven to shame, ridicule and beat non-conformist into submission. It’s a sad state of affairs, seemingly fueled by those who benefit from the chaos.
This sounds like an intriguing trailer for the next distopian-type movie. Wait, I do believe that’s already been done a few times. Apparently, it doesn’t matter. We the people, fanatically and repeatedly seem to feast on such fare. The script is rehearsed in non-stop sound bites from our obliging media world, left, right, center and out-of-the-box altogether persuasions. They throw the morsels our way, we race to consume whatever their daily menus provide and we are satisfied, validated in our contempt for the “other” whomever they may be.
At some point, as a human race, we have to ask ourselves, “Is it worth the hate and anger?” Is it worth the time and energy? Will the stalking attack, the targeted kill, and the determined destruction of dissenting, marginal or uncomfortable ideas create a better world for our children? Some think so. I do not.
I think those who call themselves adults owe it to next generations to model decency in discourse and peaceful coexistence with those near and far from our world view. There is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion, as I am now. However, when one demands that others except their opinion as fact, we have lost our moral compass.
DNA tells us that no two people are exactly alike. We are each unique, with our own set of genetics, life experiences, and beliefs. That’s a good thing! How boring life would be if we were all the same. Fortunately and unfortunately, history has taught us important and tragic lessons about grandiose opinions of SELF or CAUSE. Some have yet to learn those lessons.
Sadly, we live in a world of broken people. Some are broken by circumstances beyond their control and others by their own choices. There are broken adults and broken children. Sometimes the broken among us seem vile, deranged or evil. They sometimes use their brokenness in seemingly hostile ways to send a message to the rest of us. Are we hearing them? Are we listening?
Innocent young people in our schools, concert-goers at live events, runners in marathons, people enjoying a night out with friends and those who go to work everyday in structures built to withstand high winds and shaking ground have become targets for the broken among us. Brokenness comes like a thief in the night to kill and destroy. Its victims are rendered helpless.
We strive to learn all we can about how to prevent the broken from wreaking havoc again on innocent people. What have we discovered? What is the answer? Some say guns are the root problem, some say mental illness is, others say both. Many say breakdowns in communication or school/law enforcement program effectiveness failed. We are fed continuous footage, 24/7 of each and every angle. I’d like to add my voice to the mix.
Having taught and been in schools most of my life, I have seen first hand, hundreds of broken young people. They are often sitting in or outside the principal’s office. They are often ostracized by other students, unintentionally marginalized by school staff, shuffled off for special education testing, counseling, suspensions and sometimes expulsions. Where do they end up? Who befriends them? How do they integrate into society after their schooling years?
I am not criticizing schools or school personnel. I know that most of them sincerely care about their students and want to make a positive difference. Simply put, schools can’t provide everything a child may need in the course of a seven hour school day. And yet, this is exactly what our lawmakers have prescribed in heavy doses over the years.
Schools are urged to provide health clinics, intensive mental health services, full time counselors, resource officers, mediation teams and in some places, training for teachers to carry a concealed weapon. This is incredibly frightening. Is this what school has become?
Along with rigorous academic and extra-curricular programs that prepare students for college and careers, schools are charged with monitoring what students eat for lunch, how much time they exercise each day, how emotionally and socially stable they are, and how they handle conflict. Schools have become a socially engineered microcosm of the greater community. Every possible need must be met by schools, all except spiritual needs, as they are off-limits.
What if school is re-imagined, recreated, revitalized to be something quite different than it is now? What if the old paradigm shifts to something altogether divergent? What if the factory schools shut down, and new, innovative methods for learning took hold in every city and town across the United States?
Radical as it may seem, schools as we know them may slowly fad into the sunset.
Their original purpose is lost in a new technology driven world that makes old school a relic of the past. Schools have not served and never will be able to serve all the unique needs of every young person now and especially in the future. They’ll keep trying though. Union voices, and those supported by these political unions will keep old school alive as long as possible. They will do it in the name of equity and social justice. Ironically, neither of which are fully apparent in most schools.
I can hear teachers clamoring already. What about our profession? What about our salaries and benefits? What about our knowledge and expertise? Where will student go to learn? What will parents do with their children for seven to eight hours a day?
I envision a group of courageous, bright and awesome teachers joining together to open or share space in local venues such as community centers, libraries, etc. Parents choose these teachers to assist in their child’s learning experience based on offered curriculum. It’s not an all day experience either, just a portion of time as needed. Specialized teams can serve students with special needs. This is home/community schooling partnership at its best. It puts the responsibility of educating young people, first in the hands of the family, secondly in the hands of those invited and chosen to participate.
Of course it can’t be free at the point of delivery so fees must be charged. Fair and reasonable fees that don’t mimic private schooling, and serve the community is the goal. It’s doable, similar to how private practice doctors used to serve their neighborhoods. This was before huge pharmaceuticals and insurance companies took over and hiked the cost and reduced the services for everyone. Those who cannot afford to pay the teacher(s) in full are given reduced payment schedules. Those who can’t afford reduced payment, would be eligible for scholarship support.
There are no full time, paid managers such as principals, curriculum directors, or superintendents. They really are not needed. Public schools are forced to march to the beat and costs of federal and state mandates. Private entities are less restricted. The teachers, with input from the community, run the program and its services. Local businesses have vested interest in supporting this venture as well as religious and health related entities. There are no costly school bills to pay such as maintenance, landscaping, new school building projects, or cafeteria workers. Rented space, joint use space, free space or a combination of each of these are all options.
Now I hear school officials gasping in disbelief. Understandably so.
It’s a different mind set that is hard to contemplate when all you know is the status quo.
Parent choice, satisfaction, and results ensure the longevity of such a radical departure from school as we now know it. Every aspect of this model is built from the ground up not the top down. Grass roots built on community and commitment to authentic learning may be the future, divergent paradigm of schooling.
Thoughts to ponder as a divergent thinking process:
- If all, and especially marginalized young people, were able to learn in a smaller setting, with less restrictive procedures, practices, or punitive measures, would they thrive more?
- If young people/parents chose their teachers personally and had the opportunity to make friends in a less restrictive environment, would they grow?
- If children had adults helping them set and meet their goals in a more self-directed manner would they learn anything?
- If anyone felt lost and alone in large steel and concrete school buildings that seem impersonal and antiseptic, would these local centers offer them a viable alternative?
- What if parents reclaimed the educating responsibility and chartered a unique and specifically tailored path for their children with the help of those who love to teach?
It’s not only possible, it’s an idea whose time has come.