Re: ready to venture toward something new...

Kirsten Sutherland (DWDSUT7@UCHIMVS1.UCHICAGO.EDU)
Fri, 03 Oct 97 11:04 CDT

Run Robin! Run away from Iowa---run as far as you can get, but don't
stop in Pennsylvannia!!! This is Kirsten. I was raised in Iowa -spent
18 long years there and the limp I carry from its "world class
educational system" will no doubt be with me until the day I die. Iowa
is an awful state in which to found a democratic-folk school---I'll give
you three really good reasons for escape: 1) People in Iowa love their
school system--and with a hemogeneous culture like the one in Iowa you
can see why. 2) As a result of loving their public system it is a
heavily regulated state in terms of Education. I am not sure of all the
nightmarish details, but with the Yin to impose permanent, irrevocable,
imparing National Testing on everyone and their uncle (Private Schools
too) Iowa will be second only to Pennsylvannia in firm
acquiessance---you will be regulated into oblivion. 3) Liberalism is not
the same as (and is in many ways antithetical to) vigilance about
democratic governance and individual freedom. Liberals don't necessarily
want freedom as much as they want "goodness" ---imposed goodness is
often more effective than elected goodness. Another reason: Iowa is a
very grudging state when it comes to change. It may be human nature to
look suspiciously on those who are different, but in Iowa loathing takes
on unimagined dimensions---especially when it comes to the schooling
issues.

Iowa is an agricultural state and farmers are communal people and many
of them interrelated. Those sprawling farm families have a huge stake in
the status quo--farm life is hard, the culture is patriarchal, the
system of dominance is authoritiarian, and the school system reflects
that. The schools support and perpetuate that farming ethic culturally
by emmulation and economically by making them free. They are public
schools done the way Iowans like them. At least the rest of us
(especially in Chicago) have the advantage of public schools in
shambles---hated by all.

The _only_ place I ever found in Iowa where you could breath was Iowa
City. The place where all the "weird International students, Gay,
Lesbian and Pinko Communists" hang-out to attend the University of Iowa.
Even that city I am sure would be razed by the citizens of Iowa if it
weren't for the men's football, basketball and Greek fraternity system
which overshadows the slight "weirdness" that is allowed.

I can feel my wounds showing so I better stop now. Robin, I don't know
what kind of mobility you have, but my best advice is find a state with
a hands-off approach to education (not Michigan, Pennsylvannia or
Maryland) and either work at one of the Democratic Schools there or
found your own. Just across the boarder here in Illinois the Liberty
School just started near Joliet and there is also a group I am part of
that has been meeting for two years in Chicago. I think your folk school
and adult education interests sound fascinating, wonderful, and
intriguing. Such ideas are surprisingly seldom spoken of in the
democratic school context. Your mention of that facet of thought made
me instantly reach for a pen and paper because I know our founders
group would love to hear from you. The constitution that we have formed
to govern the founding process of our school is entering its completion
stage and we are eager to fill in the details about what our
democratically-governed free school will be like. Why not come join us
across the border in more hospitable Illinois? We would love to have
you!

If you have no mobility and have to stay in Iowa to do your school your
best support for "school founding" advice is the Subury Valley School.
There is a private e-mail list for start-up groups and well founded
Sudbury schools to ask questions and get feedback and they even have a
whole string of e-mail stories of how schools were formed--how they got
their founders. E-mail the host at SudVal@aol.com and ask about the list
and the string. My heart goes out to you there in the corn and soy and
hog state. -Kirsten