From Dec, 29-Jan 12 FLYP, a new interactive multimedia magazine,, features "Welcome to the Future" interviews. Among those interviewed are Melissa Harris-Lacewell ("Race and Politics"), Andrew J. Bacevich ("National Values") and Grace Lee Boggs ("America's Soul").


Another Education is Possible

Michigan Citizen, Dec. 28-January 3, 2009

The recent selection of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education shows that change has to come from below, as President-elect Obama said repeatedly during the campaign. As CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Mr. Duncan succeeded in raising test scores slightly, but his approach to education is essentially that of the factory manager. This approach may have worked one hundred years ago in the springtime of industrialism. But our children live in a new world and need a new kind of education. That is why so many drop out and why our schools have become a pipeline to prison.

The following letter provides an example of another kind of education that concerned parents, teachers and citizens can create to meet the needs of our children in this period when our public school system is collapsing.- GLB

Dear Michigan Moms and other Concerned Citizens:

We are average citizens and Moms in Battle Creek, Michigan, who started before the election to work for change in education.

We know that it is crucial to support public schools because the majority of children rely upon them. But we, and 30,000 other parents in southwest Michigan, did not feel that today's public schools could provide the education we wanted for our children.

Our children live in a new world and need skills to prepare them to live in this new world. As parents, we also believe it is important for children to develop at their own pace and be allowed to pursue their own dreams and interests. We believe that on this path they will learn the basic skills needed to learn more.

We encourage our children to seek information about what interests them. We see the world as our classroom and often use the community as a resource for learning. We act as facilitators, guiding them toward resources that give them what they seek. We want them to be joyful. We seldom test them; yet they always seem to do well when tested.

We are not interested in " information transfer. " We are interested in integrated learning, the seamless approach. We take our child's passions and teach them through those passions. We want them to be able to form meaningful relationships with diverse people of all ages, to be well-rounded and to have plenty of time for play. Happiness is something that is never discussed in educational jargon and there is no place in standardized testing to measure it.

Our public school system is so focused on test results that learning becomes a race and competition. The intrinsic joy of learning is devalued while external motivators like gold stars, candy or pizza are used to motivate children to perform, A child can no longer afford the time to play and daydream because life is a race with the aim of learning as many facts as possible. Children are stressed because they have very little control over their time, activities and choices, There is little interaction with Nature. Their social interactions are usually monitored and restricted to peers. Often the only coping mechanisms for stress management are computer games and television.

Through our work we have found that while many want education to be better, few want it to be different. So we have created the Battle Creek Hatchery, a community center that gives community organizations the space to provide opportunities for children to learn through many different activities. These include Entrepreneurship, where students open and operate their own business with the support of a totally hands-on curriculum and mentoring from local business leaders. Do Right, a student-run consulting firm for sustainable energy usage, involving consulting, political action and public relations. A community cafe that is an easy approach to dialogue, connecting diverse perspectives in innovative ways that lead to collaboration, We are planning a "Fab Lab" to bring " back of envelope design" to student designers.

Children can be brought by parents, teachers or neighbors or come on their own to explore and take advantage of these opportunities.

We don't want to teach them; we want to offer them opportunities for learning. We don't want to measure their knowledge, We want to honor human variability and encourage imagination, invention, innovation, and creativity,

The Battle Creek Hatchery is a place for conversation and interaction between many diverse groups. It brings children, parents, educators, business and community leaders together and roots education in the community, something that, as John Dewey said, the wisest parent would want for her child and the wisest community should want for all children.

We in Battle Creek have made great progress and have great community support for these ideas. We are fortunate to have a superintendent in our urban school district who is supportive, possibly because there is such an urgent need for change. We also have many nationally-known experts on various levels who are willing to advise and support us,

Cindy Fadel/

Anita Talmage/

Email Grace