I recently attended the Juice Conference here in Maine on the effort to power up the state's creative economy. The discussions focused on how craftspeople -- potters, weavers, dancers, musicians, metalworkers, woodworkers, and their ilk -- contribute to the bottom line. As I listened, it occurred to me that the conversation -- and the definition of "creative economy" -- needed to be far deeper, far more foundational than that. We must be more creative in how we think about creativity.
I've read too many articles about students who, during a field trip to a park or wilderness area, were frightened by unfamiliar noises or the possibility that some beastie might creep up and devour them. It depresses me to think that many children -- and even supervising adults -- are so alienated from nature that they consider the outdoors to be an unpleasant or even hostile environment. Even more depressing is the fact that their aversion to the Great Outdoors is often learned behavior.
If you're going to set out to change the way people look at this place we call school, you had better be prepared to spend a great deal of time communicating your vision, the research you've done, and your implementation plans. It's important when you're looking for financial and political support, but it is most important when you're asking for the support of your parent community.
A friend of mine was bicycling through a quiet neighborhood one day last fall when, like a good citizen, she slowed to a halt at a stop sign. When my friend started pedaling again, a teenage girl who, flanked by a group of friends, was standing in the street near the corner as if she were going to cross, suddenly slugged my friend in the arm, knocking her off her bike and onto the ground.
Recently, a nationally recognized expert in classroom management visited the campuses of Envision Schools to help coach our teachers. Though he had plenty of advice about how we can make our learning environments more structured so student learning is accelerated, he was also effusive about the sense of respect he witnessed between students, between students and teachers, and between adults in the schools.
My summer-reading list included the autobiographies of Mohandas Gandhi and Malcolm X, as well as a book about John F. and Robert Kennedy called Brothers, by David Talbot. Part of my motivation for reading these books came from a desire to understand the process of social change and how, perhaps, that process can help us change schools.
New America Media, a nationwide network of over 700 ethnic-media organizations, received funding in 2006 from several foundations, as well as from the University of California's Office of the President, to conduct a survey of young people in California to better understand what young adults ages 16-22 feel are the primary issues impacting their lives.