• Bridging Differences

    In Bridging Differences
    Deborah exchanges views with a different colleague, each for a month or two.  Her current correspondent is Harry Boyte, a Minnesotan (although his roots are southern). He has always been a friend and mentor, even though we come to stuff in different ways and even disagree on and off. He is a professor and an activist, a theorist and a practitioner, with a focus on democracy—beginning a long time ago when he worked with Martin Luther King. He has written or edited ten books on the topic and founded a Center on
    democracy which is now at St Augsberg College, but formerly at the University of Minnesota.  

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    Dec 1-3, 2016 Fall Forum Coalition of Essential Schools: Providence, Rhode Island

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the unthinkable: dreams and nightmares

We perhaps need utopian and “revolutionary” thinking just to keep ourselves from falling into despair. Reading history helps me too—things could be a lot worse, I remind myself.

Yes “our dreams” are better than “their nightmares”—even if less realistic.

At times I fall back on hoping for a knight on a white/black/brown et al horse, who sweeps in and rights the ship/school/nation/planet and then gives the reins back to us when the crisis is over.

I had an experience of this happening at the intermediate school (44) my children attended forty plus years ago. It was chaos, violent, full of good teachers who couldn’t figure out what to do and a principal whose solution for me and my daughter was: “your children shouldn’t be a school like ‘this’.” So we managed to organize and send this principal somewhere else—hopefully not another school—and searched for a replacement. We found him in Boston. His name was Luther Seabrook. It took not much beyond a month to turn the school around. By the end of the school year I felt pretty good about my younger two going to IS 44. Everyone (or nearly) loved Seabrook, respected him. From the kids in the basement (lowest track program) to the cop on duty to the most ornery parent were won over. Trust emerged.

He didn’t change the more difficult long term question—a revolution in the intellectual growth of children, and probably not the emotional growth. But he created the conditions for doing so. And he set in motion a series of “evolutionary” changes that made IS 44 a far better place. Including the first non-tracked grade 6-8th grade program with four volunteer teachers—called “the pilot school” which piloted gradual changes on all four floors. Or is it five.

Unfortunately he left too soon to become a superintendent in which position he dealt with a “population” of politicians and bureaucrats who weren’t as easily won over by just being a smart trustworthy human being who cared… etc. He eventually retired to South Carolina.

So, what can I take from this memory to get me through the times we live in?

However did we get used to the idea that torture wasn’t something that only the worst of inhuman people did to others—truly evil people and the definition of evil itself? Would better test scores—and more STEM classes–help?

2 Responses

  1. I go through periodic bouts of reading epic fantasy novels where good eventually triumphs over evil. The age of the technocrat plutocrat has been long enough. Where is the good wizard?

  2. Debbie, You made my day, my week, maybe year in a place that is soooo far from conceptualizing what we made happen oh, so long ago. I, too, despair, often thinking that everything I worked for and achieved has been beaten down by the constant pendulum swing of educational non- philosophies. I spend my days now introducing the joy of books to toddlers while their eyes still sparkle. All the best.

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