ready to venture toward something new...

Robin Martin (roses9@IDT.NET)
Thu, 02 Oct 1997 10:26:59 -0500

Dear Sudbury-List-Readers:

I read about Sudbury last summer (96) when a group of Net friends
recommended Free at Last by Daniel Greenberg. I was captivated. I had
never gone into K-12 education because there was too much about it that
just didn't feel right--even though I love kids. Now, here I am working on
PhD in Adult Education, and suddenly reading more gradually about Folk
Schools. I've also participated off and on in this mailing list, and
cruised several of the democratic school & homeschooling homepages.
Though, other stuff has caught my interest off an on, such as self-directed
learning and educational uses of Net technology, and in many ways, getting
into only these areas would ensure me a good job, because they are more
"hot topics", but they are lacking something to hold me for long: PEOPLE,
who love & care & find joys in nature & art & living. They are methods for
helping people learn, and once I started really questioning the structures
set up in our society for learning, then such methods don't seem to matter
quite so much.

SO NOW, I've decided it's time to get one of these schools started in Iowa
(some mix between a democratic school for youth & a folk school for
adults)...but my question is: how do I start finding others to join me in
this quest? I've talked with a few liberal minded people at the
University, but that's about it.
Within the College of Education, I listen to people talk, and feel almost
afraid to break into their perfect world and share ideas of such a radical
nature. I've listened much to discussions and read news about education in
Iowa for years. The thing in Iowa is: people seem to hold education up as
some sort of prestine goddess of perfection we've reached ("we got the best
school system in the country," I hear it over and over.) Yet, last week, I
gave some presentations to undergraduate classes, and I was shocked at the
total non-involved, non-enthused, blank faces that stared back at me from
the chairs...and I was talking about career issues--something you'd think
might intrigue people. (Of course, it could be me--that I need to work on
my presentation skills no doubt...but trying to use discussion tactics in
this classroom was like pulling out teeth--they want to be taught and put
as little effort into it as possible. Ugh.)

So, I'm thinking, "And this is the end result of the best education in
America?" What rubbish! Well, I'm tired of waiting, and want to
begin...NOW. Where to begin? Some strategies that I was thinking of:

(1) Could buy a couple dozen of the "Free at Last" books and start dropping
them off at key places, like the post office, where people might see them
and pick them up--that might plant a seed for some people, and I could put
my name and number inside.

(2) Get in touch with some of the homeschooling/unschoolers in the area, of
which I'm hearing there are more & more...

(3) Could start going door-to-door, and just talking to people, get a
better feel where people in my own neighborhood are in their feelings about
education. Still--where to begin talking--democratics schools are SOOOO
different from anything most anyone here knows about--that would be my
dilemma. But I'm ready to face it (though my boyfriend, thought the
door-to-door idea was a bit radical, I'm not so sure...)

(4) Could write a couple editorials to local newspapers and get some
attention that way, and maybe attract a few more like-minds.

(5) Order the kit from Sudbury on how to start such a school. (How much
does that cost?--where did I even read about that?)

(6) Once I've found some like-minds, have a meeting and begin brainstorming
how to begin setting up such a school in Iowa (with Sudbury kit as a
general guide).

(Wow, I have more ideas than I realized!) Am also planning as a project
this semester for my adult programming class to conduct an interview with
someone who helps manage a Folk School here in the Midwest. Anyway, this
whole thing will take some time & effort, and that's ok...my whole heart
and soul every since I read Free at Last, has told me "Robin, this is what
will make you happy--just do it." So, if needs be--I'm even ready to drop
out of school at this point to follow my heart. The more I focus on
school, the less time I have for pursuing what I really want to do, and I'm
tired of side-stepping what my heart says would bring me the greatest joy.
If anything, many days I feel that my school work buries me deeper in
philosophical & theoretical issues, and thereby brings me farther from the
hands-on activities that I'd really like to be doing; I'm not even learning
to talk with people in my own community; studying theory/writing papers are
almost a world apart from talking to real people, it often seems to me, yet
when I'm knee-deep in school, I hardly have time to do what's expected,
much less more on top of that. (Well, that was a tangent...)

ANY TIPS to get me started in beginning to make people aware of teh
democratic school alternative would be appreciated. For example, is Free
at Last a good book to pass around, or might there be another to grab
people's attention better? Can I get any discounts from the Sudbury
Press--since I'm starting this endeavor pretty much on my own, and have
only student loan money to fund it? :)

Sunshine & Rainbows from Iowa,

Robin