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Remembering why…

June 4, 2011

As you all know, students are greeted with quite a demanding schedule upon arrival.  Still, we stress the importance of finding time and space to reflect on their experience, to re-tell a story, re-imagine a reality and re-construct an unsustainable system.  Well, believe it or not, the staff has an equally formidable schedule awaiting them.  So, in all fairness, I feel inclined to do the same, to allow for a paradox of regression, a moment to step back.  As of late, my mind and heart remains afloat over the question ‘why’- why is this place needed.  Well folks, simply put, the answer lies in the need for reevaluating education.

The Latin root of education is “to draw forth, to educe”.  Formal education has obviously strayed away from this path for some time, especially in regards to the “banking model” of education described by the great Paolo Freire.  The assumption of today is that the environmental crisis is one of technology, rather than one of the mind.  This originates from our inability to think about ecological patterns and long-term effects of human actions.  This inability is directly related to the ‘problem of education’.  There is not a lack of education, just a lack of the right kind of education.  The crisis of today is not the work of ignorant folks, as the faces behind the crisis are indeed well educated, complete with BAs, MSs, PhDs, etc…  The problem is that theories are favored over values, concepts over humans, answers over questions.

Bolstered by the ruling doxa of today, one shadowed by capitalism, consumerism, nationalism, individualism and disconnection, education has become a means for “upward mobility and success”, rather than one whose goal is not mastery of subject matter but mastery of one’s person (Paideia).  The ability of a student to engage and embrace her own meaning is ignored.  Rarely in my schooling did I come across a teacher embracing the facilitation role over the ruler, dictator or ‘I’m smarter than you’ role.  The content of education was always more important than the process.  With a focus on only content, the curriculum becomes disconnected and tends to pigeonhole students into specialties.  With this comes the myth that nature is as disconnected as the curriculum.  Schools tend to be factories, processing students to be narrow-minded, incapable of thinking systemically.

As long as education is constrained in the dominant consumption-driven system of today, students will never feel ownership of their learning.  Their learning takes no account of emergent, transformative and participatory experiences, but takes more account of putting students into vocational/social roles driven by the economic system.  Students are trained to work in, not to live in, be a part of, and participate in the social and political system.  The powers that be are afraid of what might happen if students are taught in this manner, because in doing so, they (students) would begin to more fully understand the system and most likely work to change it.  So, when conventional education, under the umbrella of our society’s dominant culture and value system, is heavily favored in the fight against change, the question becomes, “How do we better approach the fight?”.  Well people, I think we are trying to do just that down here in Eleuthera.  As we prepare to assess our semester and reevaluate our curricula, we remember that change must not come as some separate domain, away from other lessons and teachings, but rather as a transformative force that connects directly to science, math, economics, politics, history, literature, art and physical education.  Let us all remember why we are involved with The Island School, so that we continue to remain energetic, creative and hopeful in our pursuit.  Si, se puede people, si se puede!

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