Re: the right to pursue excellence

Cathy Pauline Lachapelle (aelin@leland.Stanford.EDU)
Sun, 11 May 1997 21:27:28 -0700 (PDT)

> In sum, it's sort of like Fritz Perls' metaphor of "pushing the river." The
> river of the traditional educational paradigm flows along in a mighty
> torrent. Our feeble attempts to resist it or to push it in another direction
> usually end up with us being "washed away", in my case toward democratic
> schooling.


Believe me, I understand. I too see it happen all the time, and I agree
with you that it's a huge problem. Probably 90-some percent of all
attempts to push in the direction of child-centered, democratic schooling
will fail.

However, there are success stories. In Cambridge, MA for example, There
are now *three* alternative schools. Some twenty or so years ago, there
were none. One school managed, with incredible parental support, to
survive all the strikes against it. About five years ago, parents and
teachers confronted the school board and got another and then another.
These schools are always over-subscribed in the lottery. I never said it
was easy -- but it is possible. The school my son attends, for example,
is very much like you describe your old school -- though they have a
"farm" with gardening and animals instead of a "science/art/animals room".
It's a rarity, but it exists, and without opposition (possibly because the
conservative parents in town have been bought off with an even more rare
item -- an ULTRA "traditional" alternative school. Most of the dozen or
so elementary schools in town are halfway between the child-centered model
and the traditional one -- in some ways like the one, and like the other
in other ways -- though that changes for the older grades). Of
course, attempts to extend my son's school to the middle grades have been
hotly contested. Sigh. As have been attempts to make the math program
more open and activity-based for all grades (in all schools but my
son's, where it's generally hard to say what is a "math program").

It happens!