Articles/Essays Free Online Resource; We Need Suggestions

April 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Revolution E-News | Leave a comment
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Help us develop our free online resource of essays and articles on educational alternatives!  Visit to view what we already have online and send us your suggestions for new articles, re-posting of others, and anything else to  With your help, we’d like to have hundreds of great free articles/essays by September!

Help Us Name a New Book!

April 22, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Revolution E-News | Leave a comment
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Carlo Ricci and I are putting together an exciting book of short essays from visionary educational pioneers. We would like you to help us brainstorm a title for this book, as we’re not satisfied with any we’ve come up with yet. Here’s an excerpt from the letter we sent to the participants:

“…The tentative title of the book is Contemporary alternative education visionaries: Their schooling, their break, their actions. We are hoping that you have the time to contribute to the book by writing about ten pages primarily around the following questions:

What was your schooling like?
When did you realize that there is a need for an alternative approach?
What have you done since to help realize that vision?
What are you doing now?…”

People who have submitted articles include:

1. David Gribble
2. Mary Leue
3. Chris Mercogliano
4. Len Solo
5. Ron Miller
6. Helen Hughes
7. Herb Snitzer
8. Pat Montgomery
9. Deborah Meier
10. Wendy Priesnitz
11. Riane Eisler
…Several more expected soon!

Please send your title suggestions to or post them as a comment below!

Jerry Mintz

“Education, My Partner & Vehicle for Revolution”

April 22, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference, Education Events, Education Revolution E-News | Leave a comment
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We have just learned that this will be the keynote talk delivered by Patch Adams at this summer’s AERO conference! We will pass along a more in depth summary soon!

Visit for more information on the conference!

Patch Adams

Patch Adams

Education Circle of Change Report

April 12, 2009 at 11:55 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Events, Education News, Education Revolution E-News | 2 Comments
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Most Attendees from the Circle of Change Gathering

Most Attendees from the Circle of Change Gathering

Education Circle of Change

by Isaac Graves

I recently returned from a very interesting gathering called, Education Circle of Change. “The Education Circle of Change is an initiative to advance existing movement building in education and to bring different elements of the movement together.” The venue was the Children’s Defense Fund’s stunning Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, thirty miles northwest of Knoxville. The gathering brought together organizers and activists from a wide variety of backgrounds representing a great diversity of educational work and thought. The premise of the gathering was “the belief that high quality learning opportunities can be created for everyone that embody and advance the values of democracy, justice and equity and that are holistic in approach and humanizing in practice.” As an educator and representative of AERO, the drive to attend this gathering came out of its simple, yet powerful goal: “…to seed and cultivate a vibrant, vision-based network for educational transformation.”

I arrived a day late, but had an incredible experience. The event was organized by Spirit in Action, which specializes in facilitating and supporting movement building. In their own words, Spirit in Action works “…to create effective, sustainable movement networks anchored in the principles of diversity of voices, healing divisions, building connections and using our hearts and vision to create deep and lasting change.” I credit much of the event’s overall success to the interactive, movement-filled facilitation which seemed grounded in community and interpersonal connection. Facilitators included Linda Stout from Spirit in Action and Shilpa Jain, from YES! and Shikshantar.

Shilpa, Khalif, Kim, and Laura, Photo by Jayeesha Dutta

Shilpa, Khalif, Kim, and Laura, Photo by Jayeesha Dutta

In Shilpa’s words, “YES! is an organization that focuses on the intersection of self-change, interpersonal change, and systemic change. It tries to give those involved in social change key skills, community, and reflective space to be able to be more effective and sustainable in their lives and work. The organization hosts week long gathering called Jams, which bring together thirty people or so committed to sharing space.”

She went on to explain that, “Shikshantar is a movement dedicated to eliminating the monopoly of schooling as a primary or only means of learning in society. [It is also dedicated to] creating multiple diverse spaces and opportunities to take learning into their own hands. [It is] really an invitation to people to collectively and personally dream about the world we want to see…and take on the learning we connect with to manifest that world.”

The gathering had a number of reflective exercises where we discussed key questions pertaining to our vision of a larger movement. Questions addressed topics such as “what our ideal world would be as it relates to education” and “what the challenges and difficulties standing in the way are” among many others. In less than two days, I found a surprising sense of community and camaraderie with my fellow attendees. I simply could not image what transpired. I am reminded of an article by Chris Mercogliano where he described the Community (capitalization intended) of The Free School in Albany, NY. In what he felt was the best articulation of the essence of community, Chris used a portion from M. Scott Peck’s classic treatise on the subject, The Different Drum:

“If we are going to use the word meaningfully we must restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, and to delight in each other, making the other’s condition our own.”

Maria, Photo by Jayeesha Dutta

Maria, Photo by Jayeesha Dutta

In our limited time, I believe the Education Circle of Change made huge strides made towards reaching Peck’s beautiful description of Community.

One important aspect to this gathering was the size. With less than thirty individuals in attendance, the opportunity to connect on a deeper level and network in a more meaningful way was greatly increased. Learning about all the work and projects my fellow attendees were involved in left me proud to know I was in some way a part of something greater and more significant going on in the world of education today. Towards the end of my first day in attendance I met Gail Spotted Tail. Gail is an early childhood educator from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, who works to incorporate the Lakota language and culture into the daily lives of their children and families. This effort, Wohpe Ekta Woglakab, which translates to “Through the nest they speak their language” is just one of the many profound examples that was shared throughout the event.

Before the event began, Spirit in Action wrote about the “hope that a commitment to continue the process from those who are inspired to do so” comes from the gathering. They continued to write, “The circle can grow, new voices will be included and alliances to advance a shared agenda for education may, and we hope, will emerge. Folks may engage in concrete collaborations with new allies or form distinct initiatives.” I am pleased to report that a commitment to the continuation of the process was made and the goal of “a vibrant, vision-based network for educational transformation” is certainly possible.***

Groups/Organizations Represented:

Allied Media Projects,

Alternative Education Resource Organization,

AntiRacism Education

Baltimore Algebra Project,

Detroit Summer,

Ohio Coalition for Quality Education,

Education for Liberation Network,

George Mason University,

Harriet Tubman Free School,

Institute for Humane Education,

Mind Power Collective,

National Black Child Development Institute,

National Council of La Raza,

Oakland Asian Students Educational Services (OASES),

Parent Voices,

Rethinking Schools,

Rosebud Sioux Reservation,

Schott Foundation,

Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Insitute for Rethinking Education and Development,

Sicangu Oyate Cikala Waunspe Oti,

Southwest Youth Collaborative,

Spirit in Action,

Teaching for Change,

University of Oklahoma,

Wohpe Ekta Woglakab,


Youth in Focus,

Zero To Three,


Children’s Defense Fund,

Haley Farm,

Starlet, Mariana, Isaac, and Khalif, Photo by Jayeesha Dutta

Mariana, Starlet, Isaac, and Khalif, Photo by Jayeesha Dutta

For the Good of Our Youth (and Our Society), We Must Redefine the “Typical” Educational Experience

April 12, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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Weapons of Mass Instruction

Weapons of Mass Instruction

From the Institute for Humane Education’s Blog, Humane Connection

Irecently read Debra Gwartney’s new book, Live Through This, her memoir of her years as the mother of two runaway teenagers. It’s an agonizing story. An ugly divorce and a move to a new city destabilize her family, and her two eldest daughters slowly come unraveled, full of anger and pain, and fall into the worst nightmare a parent can imagine. She watches, more helpless by the month, as her daughters begin their decline into cutting, a nearly deadly overdose, and running away from home.

After finishing the book, I listened to a “This American Life” radio segment which featured Gwartney and her now grown daughters (who are drug free, stable, and one of whom is now a parent herself). As I listened I wondered what our society could have done to prevent such a terrible decline into danger, dread, and disaster. While I know there will be some who place all the blame on Gwartney or her daughters for what happened in their family, I see it differently. We’re all part of the tragedy of teen runaways and drug abuse, even if we can’t see the role we play.

After leaving home and being gone for several months, the younger daughter, Stephanie, managed to get herself to Austin, Texas, after her older sister almost died from a bad batch of heroin in Tucson, Arizona (their mother and young sisters lived in Eugene, Oregon). In Austin, Stephanie lied about her age, got a job at a pizza restaurant, and found an apartment, where she lived with a dog she rescued — for almost 9 months. She was fourteen.


I wrote recently about John Taylor Gatto’s new book, Weapons of Mass Instruction. One of the things Gatto is most frustrated by is how our culture and our schools dumb kids down –- keeping them kids instead of letting them grow up. He tells many stories in his book about the accomplishments of our founding fathers (and others) who, as teens and even pre-teens, did remarkable things. School, Gatto thinks, infantalizes young people and perpetuates a lengthy adolescence when such energetic youth ought to be contributing and doing, instead of sitting all day following unimportant rules and being fed boring instruction. Teens, he says, are capable of so much more. Oddly, Stephanie’s survival on her own at fourteen is a reminder that Gatto is right, although he certainly doesn’t promote running away, doing illegal drugs, living on the street, and terrifying your family. While I found myself furious at Stephanie (and her sister Amanda) for their self-centered, cruel, reckless behavior that nearly destroyed their mother and terrified their younger sisters, I was also impressed by their courage, tenacity, self-reliance, and will. Imagine what could have happened had these girls had good options, where those same qualities could have made a positive difference in their and others’ lives.

When Stephanie finally returns home at fifteen, the regular public school in her town is not an option. She has lived on the streets on and off since she was twelve, and a typical high school is clearly not going to work. They find a special private school in Colorado, funded by Honda and free-of-charge, to which she applies and is accepted. Three years later, she graduates. This is a rare school for kids who can’t or won’t function in typical high schools, but the question that I keep coming back to is this: Why is it rare?

What if Debra Gwartney had had good options for her out-of-control daughters – a place like the high school Stephanie eventually went to that offered a different path for angry, fearless, reckless teens to channel some of that passion and angst into something worthwhile? What if there were good work and living options for such youth, or real apprenticeships for real tasks? What if typical high schools with their typical academic subject categories and typical bells and typical separation of issues and typical grades and tests and typical sitting in classrooms and working out of textbooks were a rare option, and a range of choices to meet teens’ passions and interests and match them with the world’s needs were offered in every city – not just at a unique boarding school here or there?

Gwartney lived through hell. I’d like to think that we as a society could have created different opportunities for her daughters when they were in such pain, offering them a path out of their own hell. We are all responsible for creating those options. Schooling as it typically happens today may work well for some and tolerably for others; but for many, it’s a recipe for irrelevance that dulls creativity, imagination, action, and true accomplishment.

Yes, this is another plea to use your own voice to promote humane education that offers youth meaning, purpose, ideas, inspiration, tools, and knowledge for contributing to a better world in their own unique way.

~ Zoe Weil

Crisis in the Kindergarten: A New Report on the Disappearance of Play

April 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Posted in AERO, Education News | 1 Comment
A new report from the Alliance for Childhood, Crisis in the Kindergarten: A New Report on the Disappearance of Play, states that in some kindergartens, there is no playtime at all. The same didactic, test-driven approach is entering preschools. These methods, which are not well grounded in research, are not yielding long-term gains.
Thanks to John Harris Loflin for sending this to us!

Opting Out of NCLB: Two Reports from a Growing Movement

April 7, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Posted in AERO, Education News, Education Revolution E-News | 2 Comments

Jerry Mintz & Linda Darling-Hammond

Jerry Mintz & Linda Darling-Hammond

It seems that we practically have a national consensus that No Child Left Behind has been a failure. Yet people still seem to be propping it up. Many of us are concerned that the new commissioner of education will not scrap it, although Linda Darling Hammond, President Obama’s education advisor at the time, told me that he would end it within a year of being elected when I met with her in Washington during the election season. Several people in diverse parts of the country are taking things into their own hands, encouraging state-wide movements to opt out of NCLB where that is an option. The feeling is that if this can become a national movement, we, the people can put an end to NCLB by making it clearly unable to function for lack of participation.

We also had another important group contact us recently with a plan to further organize such a movement through a workshop they will offer at the AERO conference in June. By the way, don’t miss this year’s conference, our 20th anniversary event!

Below are statements from organizers of this movement in Colorado and Washington State:

Don’t Take the Test!

by Juanita Doyon

Conscientious objection in the form of refusal has been a great American tradition since Boston Harbor was transformed into the largest cup of tea in the world, in 1773. Fast forward to bus boycotts in Birmingham, AL, in response to unjust treatment of riders based on skin color. Now, compare the moral inequities of forced taxation without representation and forced segregation with moral inequity of forced standardization of learning and performance brought upon our public school children by the imposition of widespread, incessant, high-stakes, standardized testing.

Battle cry of the Test Resistance– “Don’t drink the tea; Don’t ride the bus; Don’t take the test!”

In my home state of Washington, the brand of test is the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). The test has been in place for twelve years, and the process was adapted to fit federal No Child Left Behind requirements, in 2002. WASL passage as a requirement for receipt of a high school diploma was put into place in 2008, resulting in the denial of graduation to thousands of deserving young people.

In Washington, parents and students claimed their right to opt out of state testing soon after WASL was introduced. In 2000, a fellow mother and I founded Mothers Against WASL by standing on a street corner holding signs proclaiming the right to “Just Opt Out.” The state education office soon labeled the action of opt out “refusal” and wrote a policy to match the parent and/or student action.

Mothers Against WASL (MAW) continued as a grassroots group until 2005, when we established a nonprofit organization, Parent Empowerment Network (PEN). PEN, which still maintains MAW and the website , provides up-to-date information, support, and a complete opt out packet for parents and students.

As with any resistance movement, backlash and attempts at manipulation and coercion by the institutional hierarchy are inevitable. Depending on the school and district involved, parents and students can experience an inordinate amount of pressure to conform. PEN exists to help and provides parents with the backing of testing facts and statistics and current state policy. Parents are free to refer badgering school administrators to PEN leadership for “assistance.”

PEN also supports teachers who take bold steps to refuse to give the WASL or inform parents of their right to opt children out of the test. In 2008, Seattle teacher Carl Chew refused to administer the WASL to his 6th grade class and was suspended without pay for two weeks. PEN helped Mr. Chew publicize his stand with a press release. Carl’s courage in doing the right thing for students received national attention. In 2009, two Seattle special education teachers refused to administer the alternative state test to their students with profound disabilities. Parents of all of the students had informed the teachers that they did not want their children tested, but the district insisted that the teachers did not follow proper opt out procedures and suspended the teachers without pay. PEN again sent out a press release; media accounts have received national and international attention. PEN has pledged to help parents and teachers in this situation file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.

As long as one child is denied access to well-rounded educational opportunity, the joy of learning, advancement to the next grade level, or a high school diploma, based on his or her scores on a standardized test, all children suffer. Resistance is never futile. At the very least, it teaches our children to stand up for what is right and just. At most, it provides a vital lesson to the institutional hierarchy about who is rightfully responsible for a child’s education, whether the choice is public, private or home school– the parent.

Juanita Doyon is the Director of Parent Empowerment Network and the author of a book to encourage educational activism, Not With Our Kids You Don’t! Ten Strategies to Save Our Schools, Heinemann, 2003. Juanita can be emailed at

Here is a summary on opting out of tests in Colorado from Don Perl:
First of all, before we started encouraging parents to exempt their children from high stakes standardized testing, we looked through the Colorado Revised Statutes to see what legislation we could find that would support parents, as taxpayers and as critical partners in any public education enterprise, to act in the best interests of their children in the event they determined that a specific program undermined their ethics, or ran counter to their values for their children.  And voilá, we found Colorado Revised Statutes 22 – 1 – 123  (5) (a) which states:

“…A school or school district employee who requires participation in a survey, analysis, or evaluation in a public school’s curriculum or other official school activity shall obtain the written consent of a student’s parent or legal guardian prior to the student being given any survey, analysis, or evaluation intended to reveal information, whether the information is personally identifiable or not, concerning the student or the student’s parent’s or legal guardian’s:  (II) Mental and psychological conditions potentially embarrassing to the student or the student’s family;…”

We put this specific statute on our website, and you can find it prominently there at  In most cases, parents who call or write are encouraged that they do have these rights.  Many note also that the school has the responsibility to secure their written consent for the testing regimen.  (And, of course, no school does this.)  The next step is for them to invoke these rights.  Often they vacillate.  And for good reason.  They and their children may face reprehensible repercussions for stepping forward.  A ninth grader in Bennett, Colorado, four years ago was threatened with the prospect of retaking ninth grade if she followed through on her written statement not to submit to the testing regimen.  Thus she and her parents took the course of least resistance, and she took the test.

On the other hand, just this past year in Commerce City, Colorado, 100 parents exempted their children from CSAP testing because the district had gone through a restructuring process to convert Hansen Elementary School to a test prep center since the test scores at Hansen had been low.  The parents railed against this restructuring for they had not been consulted, and thus took the course of exempting their children from testing.  They saw this as their only recourse by way of a protest.   This same scenario took place four years ago at a bilingual elementary school in Aurora, Crowley Elementary.  The parents were outraged that the school was going through a restructuring (based on low test scores) without any consideration of the wishes of the parents.   And as I write this, a very similar scenario is taking place in Boulder at Columbine Elementary School.  In the latter case, we have received several requests for our political buttons.  (Our logo with a red line crossing out the letters, CSAP, which appear in black.)

We always advise parents that both they and their children have to be stalwart.  They may have to continue to repeat that freeing word, “no,” many times.  And, too, they may have to counter unconscionable threats from administrators by using the knowledge of their own rights.  We encourage parents to say something like, “If you continue to pressure us to conform to this regimen, we are quite sure that other parents would like to know their rights, and we also suspect that the press would like to know more about this controversy that you are choosing to engage in.”  Often this is enough to motivate administration to relent.   So, simply to sum up, parents seem to know more and more about their rights, as each year brings more calls and e-mails.  Our website leads with the rights of parents with a simple opt out letter that they can use.  Parents are learning about our presence simply by word of mouth, and by our political buttons, bumper stickers, and literature which we make available through the presentations that our members make in the course of the year.  Here at the University of Northern Colorado, we have a large teacher education program, and I often make presentations to classes of aspiring teachers, to classes of students of cultural studies, and to psychology classes in which I strive to inform them of the brutal harms and injustices of high stakes standardized testing in general, and CSAP testing in particular.

If you would like further information, do not hesitate to contact me.


Don Perl
Faculty, Department of Hispanic Studies
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, Colorado 80639

Education Circle of Change Gathering

April 3, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Events | Leave a comment

I was unable to update the blog during the event.  I am currently working on a report of the event, which you can expect to be posted shortly.  Sorry to those who were expecting updates along the way!


I am off to Knoxville, Tennessee to represent AERO at the, “Education Circle of Change” gathering.  The gathering is being convened by the organization, Spirit in Action.  I was first contacted by Gopal Dayaneni, the lead organizer, and was truly inspired by the prospects of bringing individuals from a wide variety of organizations together to talk about common goals and ideals among so much more!  If I have internet access, I will try to update everyone of what transpires throughout the gathering.  Below is some pre-gathering information I was sent.

Isaac Graves

Outreach Coordinator

“What exactly does Spirit in Action have in mind for us?”

The Premise:

We believe that we can create high quality learning opportunities for everyone that embody and advance the values of democracy, justice and equity; that are holistic in approach and humanizing in practice. What that looks like and how we might get there is for us to collectively vision and build together.
The goals and what to expect:

Our goal is to seed and cultivate a vibrant, vision-based network for educational transformation.

In order to build a strong, meaningful movement around educational transformation that includes diverse voices, we must be anchored by a shared vision and meaningful relationships that transcend strategic or operational alliances. As a first step, the goals of this initial gathering are to engage in collective visioning; to learn about each other and our work to build trusting relationships that can grow over time; and to engage with each other over challenging differences in ideas and practice. We do not assume that everyone has a common vision for education, but that there is enough shared vision to build a movement and relationships around.
We will explore critical questions that all of us have been grappling with in our own work and lives. What makes for a transformative education? What are the critical elements of my vision of education? What do I mean when I say “quality?” What resources: economic, social, political, ecological, etc. are required to create my vision? Who are the teachers? What roles do institutions, such as schools, play in my vision? How does education fit into my larger vision for my community, this country and the world? What kind of movement is necessary to realize this vision? What are the steps we need to take to get there?  These are the kinds of questions that we would like to explore.

The facilitation will be interactive, using movement, art, storytelling, sharing, and more.

We also hope that a commitment to continue the process comes from those who are inspired to do so. The circle can grow, new voices will be included and alliances to advance a shared agenda for education may, and we hope, will emerge. Folks may engage in concrete collaborations with new allies or form distinct initiatives.

Why are we doing this?

Spirit in Action is a “movement building” organization. We work to create effective, sustainable movement networks anchored in the principles of diversity of voices, healing divisions, building connections and using our hearts and vision to create deep and lasting change.

The Education Circle of Change is an initiative to advance existing movement building in education and to bring different elements of the movement together.

We also like to take hardworking organizers/activists out of their daily work to a beautiful place, with good food and positive vibes to create, reflect and relax together.

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