March 18, 2006

new school

Okay, there are maybe one or two other reasons I am sticking around. I love to watch the ways in which children improvise being children. It’s a place that at first doesn’t seem conducive to being a kid. Why? Few open areas to run and be a kid. The streets are chaotic and dangerous, there is pollution in the shared air, the shared places for swimming, on the grounds beneath one’s feet. But somehow, they manage, in the face of adversity, they are able to be creative: on the streets with sticks, tennis balls, bicycle rims, even other moving vehicles!

On the rooftops with small paper kites dancing in the breeze at the end of a long spool of string. Some children still are able to be children here. Even without the “proper” facilities, they find ways to celebrate the simple joys of living in the moment, living with all-consumed joy – despite the physical obstacles, the noise, the grime, and the chores of work, many even have full time jobs.

Yes, of course, there is also the dark side -- children work here. Many are not given the choice or luxury of really being able to be a kid. As soon as they can do something they must. And so at the same time that I see immense adversity wither with a young person’s laugh or smile, the joy of letting oneself be consumed with the simple wonders of physics in this world or of its critters, I also see children living as virtual servants for little or no pay. I see this everywhere I go in South Asia. Sometimes my mind gags at wanting to label it as bad or tragic when it just is what it is. It’s different here than it is there or over there. But there must be basic human rights that are specific to children that we must all recognize and support. I want to believe that there is more compassion possible for the vulnerable, the inexperienced, the unknowing ones, the ones who are the most receptive to influence.

As I move my body from place to place, my mind takes up new residences also. I open these questions of possibility and being the person I am, I sometimes come up with a plan. I’ll open a school that will board those populations with the least opportunity for social change it will be for those seen as poor, backwards, and illiterate. This renaissance school will cultivate a garden of forward thinking individuals. Everything will be provided for the students.

This will be a place where young women and men can celebrate life through language, art, and sustainable living practices. The core threads that will support this growth will be music, dance, drama, drawing, film, science and math, business and accounting, world religions and philosophies, conflict resolution, public speaking. Daily yoga and meditation, organic farming. Small classes, most everything will be hands-on or group discussion. Students will be able to speak and write in their local language, the national language, English, and an additional language. Cooking. Classes will be taught in 2-3 hour blocks for course lengths of 2-3 months. Open air yoga, dance, and meditation rooms. Students will be well-fed with delicious self-harvested foods.

This school will be from 9-6, six days a week since it’s been shown that children learn better starting later in the morning, because they will be living at the school, and because school will be so cool. Throughout the day there will be many opportunities for physical, spiritual, and mental growth. And because sustainable living practices will be one of the core themes of the school, students will be innovating, designing, and building their work and living spaces, planning, planting, and harvesting their foods, constructing energy and irrigation systems. And in all of this, students will practice sowing these seeds throughout neighboring communities in student-led seminars and adult education classes. Imagine adults learning from children!

I think to begin with, great teachers will be lined up to be part of this school. India Corps and Peace Corps workers may also want to be part of the running of the school. I want to go to this school!

Of course there are lots more but imagine an education that can transform the lives of children who work all day with gunpowder on their hands making fireworks so that their families have a few more rupees than they would if the children were to go to school. I would make it worth the family’s while with fresh organically grown boxes of foods that the students have learned to grow and harvest through the most current techniques of biofertilizers, permaculture, and biodynamics. Teachers will know their field and be committed to learning other ones so that the web becomes stronger in their own lessons.

I can see this kind of school being successful in many different places, focusing on each region’s unique biogeography. Imagine a place where learning happens where the students and the teachers eat good foods, exercise, cultivate a quietness of the mind, and learn practical skills that will assist them to be not only productively creative members of a new kind of society but real renaissance individuals that can catalyze a new future for humanity. Wow, that’s going to be a lot of work! But it sounds fun doesn’t it?!

On other days, I just think about moving out to the Pacific coast in the Northwest and opening up a milk bar (that also serves Indian sweets!).

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