reflections...

Robin Martin (roses9@IDT.NET)
Mon, 12 Jan 1998 13:19:00 -0700

Greetings!

Haven't heard from anyone on this list in some time, so thought I'd write
and make sure it's still functioning & I'm still a member...:)

As some of you may remember, I posted some messages back in October about
wanting to get interest going here in Iowa in a democratic-model school.
Well, since then, as I did in fact decide that continuing graduate school
simply no longer made sense. It was no longer in harmony with my highest
vision of myself. The more I reflected on who I was & what I wanted to be
about, even though my program was very flexible, etc., it was still within
a structure where getting through the hoops seemed more important than the
learning itself--where reading the books that others told me to &
completing the assignments or even doing my dissertation research, was
always going to be defined more externally than by me personally. So, I
finished the semester with a final oomph and did some enlightening projects
related to my passions & interests, then hung up my formal-schooling shoes.
:) And, wow, do I feel good about it!

Remarkably, about the same time that I decided to leave school, another
opportunity presented itself--helping to co-found a new organization with a
small yet diverse group of like-minded individuals, called the Foundation
for Inspired Living. We met for the first time in real space/time in
November, and came up with a vision & mission statement for the
organization. It was like a magical meeting of minds & spirits. While our
organizational philosophies will be extensive, in a nut shell, our mission
is to "inspire, encourage, & nurture people to express the fullness of who
they are in relation to themselves, their communities, and the planet." We
will be working to create books & workshops (retreats, etc.) for helping
various groups of people (including educators) develop strategies & create
REAL communities for more holistic, harmonious, & joyful ways of living &
working.

As part of this organization, I also hope to continue reading,
investigating, researching, & writing about alternative educational models,
and promoting democratic school options here in Iowa, or at least to get
people started talking about REAL options to schools as they are. However,
the Foundation is still very much in the foundling stages...not sure who
all is going to join or what exact form or shape it's going to take...so,
I'm going about now trying to pursue my core interests on my own (while
working on other little misc. projects to pay for my living expenses, which
I keep giving more time to than intended...)

I thought that I'd dig in right away to making connections with
homeschoolers around Iowa, but a bunch of personal stuff put a big damper
on my life in December and haven't done much with that yet, except to make
a couple calls which haven't been returned. Have been browsing some of
your wonderful school web pages, and also reading a book by Scott Peck,
called A Different Drum, about community-building, which seems much in line
with what democratic-schools are about, though from a focal-point.

Last week, I contacted the director of Alternative Education in Iowa, and
then one of the "model" alternative schools, which I went and visited this
morning. I was sadly disappointed. While interactions between teacher &
students were more casual & personal and there was much more "individual
learning" going on, it was still assigned, not self-initiated learning, and
in the traditional classroom setting (only with more classes in the day &
greater leniency regarding coming & going & chatting). Students were
simply learning to get the "credits" they needed to hop through the hoops
that the system told them they need to get a diploma. Attendance &
punctuality to classes seemed to be as much of an issue to the teachers as
what students were learning. And what they were learning to me seemed to
be to fill in the blanks, and find answers to questions that were no of
relevance to them. When I asked the director about whether he had ever
considered "more radical" approaches, where learning was more
self-initiated & student-directed, he replied that such an approach
wouldn't work with "these" kinds of students (at-risk kids). (Hrmph, I
thought, how do you know?--if you can't even dream it, how could you ever
create it!)

I had planned to visit the school all day, but after a while, I didn't even
know how to interact with the teachers, who were very nice & clearly felt
they were doing a great service to these students. So, I left before noon,
frustrated, yet once again clear in my mind on WHAT I WANT TO BE ABOUT.
Now, the question as ever, is how do I get there...

Since I myself have only "dreamt" of what many of you have & are doing, I
begin to wonder: Should I continue to struggle to find people of
like-minds here in Iowa, or perhaps I should see if some of the emmerging
democratic schools in Illinois could use a helping hand, and just move there.

Had previously thought about getting a "research grant" via the Foundation
for doing research into successful democratic & community-based schools,
but decided the Foundation is still too much at its own early stages of
definition, to be of much support yet. Then, I began to think of another
option: Perhaps I could get busy & start writing to local newspapers about
"A Different Kind of Education," write some columns that get people
thinking beyond the "learning-as-a-product" approach to education, and to
envision something richer & more meaningful. I was a journalism
major...perhaps this would be something I could do to begin finding others
of like-minds here in Iowa. Then, as I dreamt more, I thought...perhaps, I
could even find a newspaper or magazine who after a simple column or two,
would fund my going around to such schools in the Midwest to write more
about this exciting & emerging trend in education...(Ah, I love to dream!
Realistically, though, what do you think...is there any chance that I could
really get a newspaper/magazine to buy into such a venture?)

Hmm...

Am heading on a road trip to Arizona at the end of the month, and will be
gone most February. Going to work/play for a few weeks with some other
members of this Foundation for Inspired Living, and see what in-person help
I might lend them and get a better picture of the extent to which I
can/want to join them, and the extent to which my ideas for
work/joy/research of alternative education strikes a chord with them.

Well, if any of you have the time & feel so inspired to reply, that would
be delightful...

Smiles from Iowa,

Robin

p.s. In December, I wrote a paper on Folk Schools which I think might
intrigue many alternative schoolers. I posted it to my homepage, if you'd
like to take a look at:

http://www.public.iastate.edu/~rmartin/reflections/folk-ed.htm

Also, for another class, I drafted a "Spiritual Manifesto for Education in
the Age of Technology," which I have posted on an unlinked web page as I
seek feedback first from a few selected individuals. If any of you have a
chance, I would love to hear your feedback on it:

http://www.public.iastate.edu/~rmartin/reflections/manifesto.htm

Cheers! & HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!