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Transforming Education

责任编辑:ccpg  来源:  作者:  人气:735  发布时间:2014-03-11 17:08:07

harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

This past weekend, a number of us got together here in Washington for a marvelous "deep-think", and amongst the many sessions was one on Transforming Education (K-12) led by Alan Klein.  

He has a question for all you folks on the LIST which follows. I have invited him to join us, but in the event that doesn't happen, I will pass along your comments.  

Alan Wrote:  

I have a question for all Open Spacers that arose from the Phoenix Rising discussions on December 15th. Specifically, we had a session around the question of transforming education (K-12) so that students do not lose their natural ability to self-organize.  

As Harrison says, Open Space is founded on the notion of "Self-Organizing Systems". Specifically on the notion that ALL systems are self-organizing and that we do damage to them by trying to control them from without. I make the assumption that we all buy into that notion (or at least I am aiming my question at those who do.)  

? What if schools were formed as consciously self-organizing systems.  

? What if all participants (parents, staff, and students) were given equal, democratic power and rights within the school?  

? What if students of all ages were recognized as responsible for their own learning?  

? What if this meant that there were no mandated classes, tests, or other externally imposed requirements?  

? What if the only requirement for graduation is to defend (to the entire school community) the thesis that you are ready to take responsibility for yourself in the outside world?  

There are a few schools that operate in this way around the US as well as other places on the planet. What is your reaction to this way of organizing education? What concerns arise in you? What excitements arise? What questions occur to you?  

Thanks, Alan Klein  

If you want to contact him -- the email is mailto:alan@klein.net  

ralph copleman, new jersey, usa:  

Harrison, thanks for sending along Alan Klein's questions.  


My immediate thought is that if schools were organized in that fashion, education would then be back in harmony with the natural order of the universe.  

If Alan (or anyone else) wants to check out Thomas Berry's book, "The Great Work", they might enjoy it.  

michael m pannwitz, berlin, germany:  

Dear Alan, as I read your "what if" questions the second principle we put on posters when introducing os­technology came popping up:  

   

Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Another way of saying this in German is "Wenn der Hund nicht geschissen haette, haette er den Hasen gefangen", which translates something like "If the dog had not taken time out to shit, he would have caught the rabbit".  

So my reaction to your question is simply to lets be on the lookout for schools or subsystems of schools that want to open space....which I believe is one of the possible first steps to consciously experience the open space nature of schools (or any other system). I was fortunate enough to facilitate a 2.5 day open space together with Irmi Gruensteidel for 47 student body representatives of a Berlin highschool (actually 45 from one highschool and 2 "guests" from a highschool where 75% of the students are immigrants). As could have been expected they surfed in this new environment as if they had done it all their life.  

This open space according to my count is now the 6th open space within the schoolsystem that "spun off" from one that was held for a crosssection of stakeholders in schools from all over Berlin 3 years ago ... it had as its main theme "The mole learns to fly" which I think is appropriate when you look at schoolsystems in this part of the world. Beyond these 6 open spaces a number of others, I think about 8 spun off into other systems and contexts.  

The student body OS mentioned earlier had as its theme "More active! More constructive! More communicative! --- and this is how we will do it." They came up with 36 issues, worked 22 of them and had 17 concrete actionplans produced in the "third day"....the first one: we will become an open space school! A year earlier, when they had their first OS, their vision was "we will be an open space student body council" which in fact they immediately put into practice in turn infecting the parent representatives to have an open space for the whole school (took place last September).  

The reason I am telling this at some length is that nobody I know of (certainly not I) had intentionally done anything to bring about an open space organization in schools and still or perhaps just because of this things seem to be developing in that direction... .or picking up on your questions again, nobody is consciously forming self-organizing systems, none of the participants  


are given equal, democratic power and rights, students are not recognized as responsible for their own learning, there are mandated classes and all the rest and the requirements for graduation are still the same. And: are these the conditions or givens or prerequisites that we have a preference for?  

Which takes me back to Harrisons remark "the harder we try the behinder we get" which made Eric Lilius think of the Zen line: "The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences."  

This is damn wise and awfully hard to actually be but the more we open space facilitators transform in that direction the more will we contribute to the surfacing of the open space character of organisations.  

I hope there will be more schools in my open space work in the future, there is nothing that invigorates me more (another way of saying its just a hell of a lot of fun) than working with students and I wish you and everyone else the fortune of working in schools and other systems with students, kids and other young humans. Merry xmas, michael  

eiwor backelund, sweden: Hallo Alan,  

In Sweden we have a certain way of educating adults. We call it liberal adult education and the form is study circles. The meaning behind this form of education is that you yourself are taking the whole responsibility for your own learning. These study circles are to be free and independent and noone can demand you to go to one. You decide for yourself what you want to learn about and what you want to learn in that area.  

We have a system of 11 study associations which have  

different perspectives and founding members, some of them are  

connected to the political parties, some of them to the churches or the sports teams or other organizations. You can always find one that has the same basic values as you have and that suits your picture of the world. These study associations offer a lot of study circles with different themes, i.e. english, weaving, fishing, dancing, politics, what you want to do with your life etc. If you can't find the theme you want then you can always ask them to start a new study circle with what  

   

you want to learn. When the association has got a group of people that are interested in the same theme, they invite them to start the circle. On their first  


meeting the group decide exactly what they want to learn, how many times they want to meet and what books or material they need for the learning. The learning is based on dialogue and reflection. That means that you read something or do things together and then you talk them over with the group and there must be reflection time between the meetings. Often the groups meet one evening once a week for maybe ten times. You learn a lot together but you don't get any graduation papers.  

So this is the essence of the study circle but as we live in a reality where many companies only look for papers on what you know, some of these associations have changed and started to also work with courses that gives you some sort of paper on what you have learnt. My opinion is that this is no good, because many of us learn best when the pressure is off and many things that are valuable learning can't be described on a piece of paper.  

We also have schools for adults that are based on the same principles and some of them use OS for larger meetings and that is always a start. My hope is that this way of doing things can get in to the children's schools as well but there are lots of people that have a feeling they are loosing control (as if they had ever had some) and they need to change their way of thinking. The money that these 11 associations need for their work comes mainly from the Swedish government and most of the regions and communities. That is because the associations have the goal to get in touch with immigrants and those who have no education or only very little and let them grow so they can take part in the democrazy work. We believe a country needs educated people (I think there is a better word which I don't know, that also includes the emotional and social competences) to keep the democrazy alive.  

About the children's schools, we have a law that says the learning should be based on what the children need and that you have to start with the single child and build the learning in a way that supports that child. It also says that the parents should be involved and decide about the school together with the children and the teachers. Some schools have a board of children, teachers and parents deciding about that school. And some schools let the children do their own planning. And that is great and it works in some places but when it comes to reality the picture is often something else. There are always givens that tells that there are things you can not decide about, and I suppose there must be but not so many as we have today. So there is a lot of work to do. And of course Open Space could work in school. Children know a lot of things but we never seems to ask them about it.  

chris weaver, north carolina, usa:  

Hi Alan, & thanks Harrison for being the conduit!  

I like your questions, and Eiwor's and Michael's responses (I had a feeling this one would draw Michael out of the woods).  

I have taught all grades kindergarten through 9th in US public schools. I studied a good deal of Educational Anthropology in grad school. Currently I am the director of what could well be  


described as an Open Space Camp for children and youth, on 80 acres in the Southern Appalachian mountains. I will share a few reflections on your notions, one at a time.  

?   What if schools were form ed as consciously self-organizing systems. Life would be good!  

?   What if all participants (parents, staf, and students) were given equal, democratic power and rights within the school?  

Hm. In the most enlightened educational organizations I've known, there's a lot of open space. But always, certain people hold the responsibility of setting the themes and defining the great mosaic of givens, whether the issue is school structure or curriculum (in the broadest sense). To me, a consciously self-organizing school doesn't concern itself with power, rights, or even equality. These words are like curious tools of a bygone era, not needed (reactions, you might say, to a paradigm of dominance). Leadership processes are always at work, with a varying pattern of leaders.. .but effective leadership naturally claims its authority, within the givens of time and space that call that leadership into being. Parents, students, and staff each have realms of activity in which they are called to leadership -- with some cross-pollenization being very healthy.  

?   What if students of all ages were recognized as responsible for their own learning?  

I'm a constructivist through and through - people of all ages construct their own knowledge, actively and creatively, reconciling their past learnings of mind, heart, body, and spirit with their present experience (a process that involves some disequilibrium!) But are students of all ages responsible for their own learning? No. If I'm their teacher, or mentor, or coach, or guide, or even their transparent Taoist master, I accept and claim a deep responsibility for the quality of their learning experience. This is first because we all learn in relationship. As the old teacher's saying goes, a child doesn't care how much I know until they know how much I care.  

I also accept responsibility for their learning experience because someone initially must set the givens! Maybe the givens are a violin. Maybe the givens are a violin and a scale to play. Maybe the givens are the materials to make a violin. Maybe the givens are a hundred books of poetry, or a creek in the woods, or a diesel engine. Yes, invite young people to choose, and to direct their own learning. But provide them with a whole village full of mentors who love their students, who really know how to do things of this world, and who love the ART of setting givens to establish open spaces for learning. Too much freedom and not enough conscious mentoring leads to, in educator Lillian Katz's phrase, "a mutual exchange of ignorance." (Also see May Sarton's critique of Black Mountain College in her journal, The House by the Sea.)  

So yes, the student "does the learning." But as the years go by I realize that I can't overestimate the power and art of a great mentor to invite a learning experience into being. Mentoring is an ancient human birthright, and to me the dream of the kind of school you invite us to think about, Alan, is the dream of reclaiming the art of mentoring for all.  


• What if this meant that there were no mandated classes, tests, or other externally imposed requirements?  

Lovely. Though, in a different way than you mean, there are many externally imposed requirements. If a theme is, "How do we paddle a skin-covered umiak on Puget Sound from Southworth to Suquamish?" (as it was for a group of eleven-year-olds I once knew) then one externally imposed requirement is that the current in Rich Passage runs four knots against you on the ebb tide. Not three -- four. That is to say, a curriculum that is open to the world is in continuous negotiation with the world's imposed requirements - again, the givens. These givens challenge and empower and sometimes confound us. What's funny is that even a standardized test was created with these effects in mind - to challenge, to empower, to confound, in an entirely measurable way, like a factory.. .the mechanics of learning with the heart cut out.  

• What if the only requirement for graduation is to defend (to the entire school community) the thesis that you are ready to take responsibility for yourself in the outside world?  

An interesting notion. Again, the language reveals our common way of thinking in education (defend implies judgement; take responsibility for yourself implies acute individualism). But I get your drift - to present to the community, in depth, your creative vision, your practical dreams, your skills, resources, and capacities for a meaningful path of life.  

So, as you can probably tell, I would never tire of conversing on this subject. I have opened space in public schools, and will do so again.. .but I am at present exceedingly grateful to be working in an educational setting (the camp) free of public schools' institutional constraints. We have a land base and near-complete curricular freedom. And it's a back-door into public education; this fall we gave 900 public middle school students a day each of Open Space here, in groups of 75, with a great staff of artists and other mentors, and many of their teachers were astonished to see that their students know how to self-organize. If we keep walking our talk as an OS organization, we'll provide lots of children, youth, and educators with experiences that will leave them wanting more...  

john engle, haiti:  

chris, read your responses and reflections with great interest. look forward to the day when i can visit the camp and witness how spirit is working there.  

glory ressler, ontario, canada:  

Hooray for Chris and the Camp!!! BTW - I'm appreciating deeply this discussion... best wishes for a joyous and meaning-filled Holiday season, glory  


denis hitchens, australia:  

Thanks also to you. I take my lead as follows: From Don Tinkler: About Learning 1994  

"Sound pedagogy" is much more than "instruction". In applying sound pedagogy, the role of the teacher expands to include all of the following:  

? selecting experiences using quality as a measure of appropriateness;  

? organising, timing, monitoring and managing the experiences;  

? providing order in the experiences presented (giving consideration to the scope and sequence in what is developed and presented as curriculum);  

? attempting to reduce some of the complexity of the material or information being presented (The world for both children and adults is indeed complex, but if the complexity is reduced in presenting ideas initially, the learnings often make more sense when later placed back into their original complexity.);  

? drawing learners into purposeful two-way communication (generating a climate where learners are free to inquire, to explore issues, to formulate questions, to express ideas, to debate points of view, and to seek solutions to problems);  

? extending the learners' interaction with the learning environment (extending the range and variety of the learning context).  

So I'm not too sure about the balance of responsibility. I can attempt to sequence things and reduce complexity etc but this is still my view. If the learner is to 'construct' own world view, a fair degree of true responsibility (I would think *most*) rests on them. Basically because they are constructing for their journey. Like OS I think we have to trust and be prepared to 'be surprised'; which we are all the time.  

It's good to be not alone  

chris corrigan, british columbia, canada:  

Hi there. Time to weigh in as a parent who is homeschooling my kids and participating in the evolution of an Open Space learning centre for children and families here on my little island off the coast of Canada.  

Harrison Owen wrote:  

• What if schools were form ed as consciously self-organizing systems.  


Indeed it is how learning occurs at schools, in spite of all the imposed structure. Students end up learning when the can spontaneously organize around their passions.  

See John Taylor Gatto.  

?   What if all participants (parents, staf, and students) were given equal, democratic power and rights within the school?  

See the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, and the book by Daniel Greenberg on the same. Some are very successful.  

?   What if students of all ages were recognized as responsible for their own learning?  

That is the basis of unschooling, a philosophy championed by John Holt. Any of his books will tell you the story, especially Learning All the Time.  

?   What if this meant that there were no mandated classes, tests, or other externally imposed requirements?  

 

?   What if the only requirement for graduation is to defend (to the entire school community) the thesis that you are ready to take responsibility for yourself in the outside world?  

The alternative middle school here on my island, Island Pacific School has a major thesis requirement which is passion/responsibility driven. They have other academic standards, but the masterwork is the really interesting thing that they do.  

There are a few schools that operate in this way aound the US as well as other places on the planet. What is your reaction to this way of organizing education? What concerns arise in you? What excitements arise? What questions occur to you?  

I parent and homeschool in Open Space, as do others. In Vancouver at OSonOS there were a few discussions about this too. Check the proceedings at http://www.openspaceworld.org for more. My friend Brent Cameron ( http://www.wondertree.org ) lead a session in Vancouver on this stuff too, and a few of the OSonOS participants visited more with him. Perhaps they have something to share?  

I have a few links to resources at http://www.chriscorrigan.com/mamasalon.html for you to explore. Cheers, Chris  


john engle, haiti:  

thanks for sharing your reflections and activities, chris. i'm not surprised to learn of the fascinating things with which you are involved.  

i went along to the wondertree school during my time in vancouver and spent time with brent. haitian colleagues were with me. vancouver osonos was a very rich and meaningful time for me. the visit to wondertree and time with brent were an important part of the magic.  

stories, images, and ideas that brent shared with us have stayed with me and are influencing my refections around education. .. .the idea of 8 year olds learning to manage resources, creating a budget, making decisions about who they might contract to help them learn what they've decided they wanted to learn...  

people like brent, like harrison, help us to push the envelope on what is possible.  

chris weaver, north carolina, usa:  

Denis wrote: So I'm not too sure about the balance of responsibility. I can attempt to sequence things and reduce complexity etc but this is still my view. If the learner is to 'construct' own world view, a fair degree of true responsibility (I would think *most*) rests on them. Basically because they are constructing for their journey. Like OS I think we have to trust and be prepared to 'be surprised'; which we are all the time.  

Thank you Denis, this is well-said. Indeed, how important, both trust and being prepared to be surprised: Openness to the learner.  

I can consider it true that a student is responsible for his/her own learning.. .yes, *most*, or perhaps all. And I ask: How can this not be a lonely responsibility?  

My fascination now is with the art of the teacher/mentor/uncle/grandmother/parent. This can be the art of the co-learner, sister/brother also. Establishing...no, CREATING givens, for learning experiences to happen in the newly-bounded open space. And of course the art of holding the space without asserting control.  

So there is the organizational question about what kind of "school" would serve as the setting for the deepest learning, the fullest human thriving. And there is also the question of: what is the art, what are the dispositions, the patterns and principles, the responsibilities of mentoring?  

When we talk about how children learn and how we think about that, we are of course talking about culture. And when we consider creating new learning environments, we are involved in culture-creation. So stories will help us.  

A wee story:  


I was teaching a K-1-2 class in Seattle in 1992. During a parent-teacher-child convergence in November, the mother of a first grader (six years old) told me that Celia would be leaving to live with her uncle in Alaska. (Celia's family is of the Tlingit Nation, of the canoe cultures of the Northwest coast).  

I said, "Oh! Is your family moving?" "No," replied Celia's mom. "Just Celia. She really likes her uncle. He's a fisherman. She told us last week she wants to go live with him." And so she did.  

What I have encountered many times in my teaching work with Indigenous people in the USA is that children's inner authority to direct their own learning is accepted as a given. Children choose who to learn from within the extended family or community by following an inner knowing.  

At what age are children "developmentally ready" to do this? Ha Ha! According to a case study from Educational Anthropologists George and Louise Spindler, who lived with people of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, certain Elders in the community were held in great esteem for their ability to understand the language of newborn babies and translate for them. Beloved beings, just-arrived from the spirit world, already on a path they have chosen and with important things to say.  

Working in education with Native communities also showed me how seriously the adults take the responsibility of mentoring. It is a part of what all adults do, and not only with their "own" kids, but with whichever kids choose them. One-on-one, or in a small group, the physical manifestation might be cooking or doing beadwork or shooting the basketball, but the knowledge transferred is about Everything that matters.  

So my fascination and work-attention is with this combination - open space for the passion, responsibility, inner authority of children.. .mentors as responsive givens-creators and space-holders for learning experiences, beyond what could ever be measured.. .and a "school" that establishes and nurtures the open space for it all.  

tova averbuch, israel:  

It is poetry to my ear! Not only your way of seeing education and children makes perfect sense to me but it also made me clarify and deepen the answer to a question I am often asked: "How open is the open space"? Thank you thank, you and of course to Harrison and Alan for enabling it  

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