This piece by Julia Pointer Putnam from the venerable Monthly Review was published in the summer of 2011, but in light of continuing developments in DPS and the birth of the Southwest Detroit Freedom School, it has only grown in relevance. It is a powerful examination of the failure of public education in Detroit and across the country. But more importantly, Putnam describes her personal journey and her current project, the launch of the Boggs Educational Center, which is at the very vanguard of educational reform nationally. We hope to get an update on the new Detroit-based charter school in the near future. From the story:
In her book, The Next American Revolution, longtime community activist, Grace Lee Boggs, presents a radically different vision of education, of schools as part of a community and as part of social development:
Just imagine how safe and lively our streets would be, if, as a natural and normal part of the curriculum from K-12, school children were taking responsibility for maintaining neighborhood streets, planting community gardens, recycling waste, rehabbing houses, creating healthier school lunches, visiting and doing errands for the elderly, organizing neighborhood festivals, painting public murals….This is the fastest way to motivate all our children to learn and at the same time turn our communities, almost overnight, into lively neighborhoods where crime is going down because hope is going up. (158)
The social philosopher and educator John Dewey wrote, “The teaching-learning environments that would bring greatest growth are places where children and adults grow together, where the schools are not separate from the community.” In order to foster that kind of growth, we have to rethink our notion that schools are the places where adults are the holders and dispensers of all knowledge. In fact, many of the disagreements among adults in the education field are around what kids should know. Rarely, if ever, are young people asked what they would like to know or what they feel they need to know. Their voices are dismissed with the assumption that they could not possibly know what they need. In the meantime, technology is changing at such a rapid pace that the gap from one generation to the next is shrinking. Young people already know more about some aspects of the world than most adults, and yet we continue to pretend that young people have nothing to offer us. It is time for us all to learn together to bring the greatest growth.