The IDEA Blog

The Apple and The Arrow: Freedom and Schooling Pt. 1

I recently went through a book I picked up in the Children’s room at the Central Library. This story, “The Apple and the Arrow,” by Mary and Conrad Buff, has a plot with many parallels to the state and nature of schooling. It even represents the struggle against traditional schooling. As I read the book I noted my analysis. This book is not a novel “of comparable merit” to books on the “Advanced Placement” book list, but it managed to highlight many things that I am currently contemplating.


Many many years past,
Over six hundred years ago
In the year twelve hundred and ninety,
Thirty-three men gathered on a mountain meadow
Gathered together at midnight.

Peaceful men,
Herders of cattle,
Hunters of chamois,
Skilled with the crossbow.

From different cantons they came,
Some hailed from Uri,
Others from Schwzy,
Still others from Underwalden.

And on that moonless night
Over six hundred years ago,
Thirty-three men talked long
Seeking an answer for freedom,
Seeking an answer...

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Posted on Jul 24, 2010 - 04:35 PM by Zuleka Irvin

School Lockdowns: Are They Democratic?

This video is a snippet of a lunch lock-down. I thought my former school was the only one that practiced it with this specific term. Similar to a loss or restriction of lunch recess due to teacher displeasure with behavior, a lunch lock-down is a disciplinary spin on regular lock-downs. The typical lock-down is a procedure of restricting everyone's movement on the campus to protect against threats, assaults and violence. If there's word of a gun on campus, the campus immediately goes to lock-down mode while bags/lockers/desks are searched. If a burglar or criminal gets near or on to school grounds, the school is locked down - no one can go anywhere until the issue is resolved. Same applies to major disasters or anything else threatening.

Now I'm not sure if this is legal, but my former high school and many elementary schools restricted lunch/"nutrition"/recess access because the teachers or principals/administration were displeased with student behavior. At my former high school,...

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Posted on Jul 22, 2010 - 05:51 PM by Zuleka Irvin

Horizon: Mireless

I’ve been asking the question lately, What is the point of (traditional) school?  What is it for?  What purpose is it serving?

But then I had to ask, What is the point of this “Alternative Education” that I am espousing?  What is it for?  What purpose will it serve?

Answer: Humanity.

You see, even though I am very much about creating a school that respects its learners and creates an atmosphere of equality for all, the larger vision is really restoration of Humanity.  

Under or behind all the labels - words we use to keep our distance from each other - are real live actual human beings; daughters, sons, cousins, sisters, mothers, fathers, best friends, lovers - People.  At the risk of sounding like I’ve gone overboard I’d say the labels we use for other living things, like trees, rats, caterpillars, whales, spiders, oranges, flowers - the create a distance as well.  

Anthony DeMello said in his book Awareness, (and I’m paraphrasing here) that once you name something such as a...

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Posted on Jul 21, 2010 - 07:40 PM by Cian Sawyer

Some Thoughts on Coercion

I'm often asked about coercion. What do I think about it? What does it mean to coerce a child? Am I a supporter of non-coercive education?

I posted a response on the AERO list-serve to this question: "When we fixate on non-coercion, are we condemning some children to being handicapped in our society because it is more difficult for them to attain these skills and so they don't 'choose' to?"

My answer is yes.

It might take me lots of stumbling around and many sentences to get to the clearest articulation of why. Here is what I'm thinking: When we fixate or over-focus on non-coercion, we can tyrannize healthy back and forth relationships between peers, or student and mentor, or child and parent.

I think a healthy parent does not give their child white refined sugar whenever they ask, nor allows them to avoid ever brushing their teeth simply because they don't want to.

Babies are born with the instinct to be nursed and nourished at the breast of their mother. Yet,...

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Posted on Jul 16, 2010 - 04:04 PM by Scott Nine

The Big Why

Why do I want to start a school anyway?

First and foremost, there is one key person who played a major role in diverting my life onto this track (though thinking about it now, I know it was inevitable). So in some ways she was more like an turning point in the course of this river of my life's work that was always bound to end up in the ocean of education(al reform).

A woman by the name of Lisa Sawyer McCartney took a chance on me and hired me to teach at her well respected and very succesful pre-school (now elementary school), Unicorn Village in April 2001. In hindsight it feels like I blinked and went from working in retail (to somewhere in between starting my Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education) to having a room full of two-year-olds, an assistant and I was their teacher.

- And from breath One I was in love -

Two and half years later I had my first baby and it's been a wild and interesting journey ever since.

I first became acquainted with alternative...

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Posted on Jul 10, 2010 - 07:23 AM by Cian Sawyer

An Inadvertent Lesson From My Nephew

As of late, I have been observing what it is like to maintain a high level of patience with my 4-year-old nephew. For example, he can sometimes take a very long time to complete a task that he knows how to do, because he is trying different methods. And sometimes, his experimental process can be a nuisance, depending on what kind of time frame we have to spend with each other. If we need to be at the park down the road to meet up with his parents at 3pm, and he needs to get his shoes on in the next 3 minutes, or else we will be late, then his efforts to successfully throw his flip flops onto his feet can be straining on whoever is responsible for him. But lately I have been allotting a lot of unplanned time when hanging out with him, and letting him lead our adventures in his own way.

Allowing him to take his time, and giving him the opportunity to try to do things however he wants to is very interesting. He seems to just fiddle around sometimes, and really make no progression...

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Posted on Jul 06, 2010 - 04:51 PM by Shawn Strader

AERO Conference Digest

I've just returned from the 7th Annual AERO Conference in Albany, NY and to say it was phenomenal is a bit of an understatement.

The truth is that, in many ways, it already feels futile to try and capture the experience I have just had. In telling it to friends I find myself using the same words -- like "incredible, inspiring, amazing" -- over and over again. I struggle to articulate what has been a deeply perception-altering experience. I say “perception-altering” instead of “life-altering” because while I am certain that my life is in fact altered, it is born out of a greatly expanded awareness of my own ideas and beliefs particularly those I had held regarding the people I am hoping to effect change with, and on whose behalf I am acting.

It is as though I entered the conference dialogue with a uni-dimensional objective and as the workshops, keynotes and days went on the nature of the thought(s) grew into new forms; from one- to two- to three dimensions and possibly more.

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Posted on Jul 01, 2010 - 10:11 AM by Cian Sawyer

Introducing Me

Well hello IDEA readers and bloggers!

I have to confess this is a teeny bit nerve-wracking as it's my first time blogging for someone else. Usually it's a ramble about stuff that I hope someone will eventually read. This time, I pretty much know it's being read. By you!

So let me tell you a bit about me, because this is really a segue to another post that I would like to add after this.

I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica and I am now living as a resident of the archipelagic island nation of The Bahamas. I am a passionate unschooling mother of two and an unwavering advocate for what I believe is every human being's birthright to organic learning/self-directed education. Having experienced the traditional school system as a student, and later as a teacher, I began to think that there had to be a better way for people to go about the business of being educated. I was initially drawn to Montessori's experience-based learning, later exploring other methods such as...

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Posted on Jul 01, 2010 - 09:59 AM by Cian Sawyer

Drop Down Thinking

Yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with a rather pleasant woman named June about our nation's current population of youth, and the ways in which our youth seems to process thoughts. June provoked the conversation after we had discussed that I study philosophy at ASU.

She began by mentioning that there seem to be many people, especially today's younger population, who seem to lack any notion of a creative way of thinking. That is, she recognized that many kids nowadays are being taught what to think, as opposed to how to think, which seems to be giving rise to a population of people who seem to struggle when problem solving alone, and sometimes even in groups. I was very excited that this woman, who I had never met before, had brought up a topic so relevant to my work with IDEA upon our first meeting. June and I were quick to agree that the ways in which we educate youth right now seem rather unfitting, at least for the most part.

June next brought up the idea of drop down...

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Posted on Jun 21, 2010 - 01:28 PM by Shawn Strader

Goals met?

The last meeting of the year is just winding down, the walls of the classroom are bare, and there is not a single piece of paper on the floor. It is officially time to start summer, at least for me.

My official evaluation was a week ago. I have my copy of it around here somewhere.... Anyway, things went wonderfully according to my vice principal. She was very happy with my performance. That is good, because I need to keep my job. She is happy, and my family has health insurance. My goals for the administration were met.

I do recall that I set different goals for myself, than I turned in for the powers that be. I wrote about my goals in my first post for IDEA. Let's see how I did....

1. I will work to create an atmosphere of personal responsibility, where people are able to express their needs of the curriculum, and get those needs met.

I established a good report with most of my students this year. I will admit that not all the 150 kids in my class were always happy to be there,...

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Posted on Jun 18, 2010 - 08:42 AM by Alison Bagg Brink

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