LIVING FOR CHANGE
Another Education Is Happening
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, July 18, 2010
In the Peoples Movement Assemblies (PMAs) of the USSF, local groups shared strategies towards more democratic ways of Education, Health, Housing, Utilities, and other fronts of struggle.
I participated in the Education PMA with 350 people from over 20 organizations, facilitated by Shea Howell (Detroit) and Scott Nine (Chicago). This report is based on Scott’s summary.
Bill Ayers (University of Illinois, Chicago) began by acknowledging the messiness of the process. He encouraged everyone to participate generously and let something powerful happen.
Facilitators invited participants to greet a few folks around them. Parents, youth, grandparents, urban, rural, shouted out their presence.
Kim Sherobbi, a Detroit public school teacher for 25 years and I framed the moment as we see it. Mia Henry described organizing a Freedom School in Chicago. Civil rights veteran Vincent Harding shared a long-cherished idea on education. “As citizens in a country that does not yet exist, how do we prepare a young person to participate in a multiracial democratic society?”
The PMA then broke up into working groups of 12-15 to discuss best practices for democratizing education, available resources, and how people are transforming schools into centers for community change.
As groups shifted from general discussion to generating resolutions to take to the National Assembly, the room was reorganized for a fishbowl, consisting of the framing speakers, a representative of each breakout group, and an open chair for new participants to enter the fishbowl.
As fishbowl participants changed, group representatives were asked to explore what was “shared” in their group. The fishbowl was then asked to name specific actions or resolutions.
Strongly Affirmed Resolutions
1) We face a crisis that is both deeply challenging and full of possibility. We can move beyond a dying system to transform our educational practices to prepare youth to participate in a democratic, multiracial, and sustainable society.
2) Young people who experience democratic education are
- confident, creative, generative, passionate, empowered, independent, interdependent.
- have power; their school belongs to them, they count.
- possess knowledge of history and solidarity.
- feel honored, nurtured, respected, connected
- have no sense of artificially imposed limitations.
- have lost the sense of entitlement that many Americans often have.
- connected to their life purpose and the future before them.
- filled with the joy of being alive; know the joy of play.
- know they come from some place and have a sense of purpose and connection and tools to interact with that place.
- know they are going somewhere and have the skills and tools to enter into a new place and connect with new people, spaces, and challenges.
- understand that learning is a collaborative process.
- possess creative and critical thinking skills and the ability to synthesize.
- have a reverence for other beings and the planet.
- understand food and its relationship to the ecosystem.
- see the world clearly and beyond the current moment.
- leave school feeling healed, expanded.
- have the tools, literacy, and power to move through the world they inhabit.
3) We call for all people taking up the education of our youth to the responsibility of understanding and connecting with people, place, power, oppression, and the history relevant in that location. We think this must be a fundamental and required aspect of teacher training.
4) We call for the elimination of high-stakes, standardized tests and replacing them with relevant, rigorous, community-based assessments.
5) We will network, document, and share our work more effectively with each other. We begin by sharing the contact information of PMA participants and the documentation of the PMA.
6) We seek to reform the property tax system and other formulas that create inequitable funding for schools.
7) We seek to replace zero tolerance polices in schools with restorative justice practices.
8) We affirm October 7th as a National Day of Action for youth, parents, educators, and all allies who want educational justice and transformation.
9) We support the creation of a National Student Bill of Rights and effort to ensure Quality Education as a Constitutional Right.
10) We aim to reconcile or incorporate some of what seems right within community-powered alternative charter and private schools (more local control, more flexible, more personal) while challenging the corporate led privatization of schools.
Another Education is Possible by Julia Putnam, Shea Howell, Grace Lee Boggs, Shari Sanders, Emma Fialka-Feldman and Bill Ayers. 82pp, Spiral bound, $5+$1 SH from boggscenter.org