Do Schools Kill Creativity? (VIDEO)

August 31, 2010 at 10:37 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Online Video Series | 1 Comment
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Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

See also this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, “Bring on the learning revolution.”  Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

24-Hour Poll: If AERO conference was held in Portland, OR, which of the two dates would you prefer?

August 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference | 2 Comments
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A Humane Parenting Handbook for Parents of Young Children (RESOURCE)

August 25, 2010 at 11:43 am | Posted in AERO, New Resource | Leave a comment
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From our friends at the Institute for Humane Education:

Most parents have a shared interest in nurturing a just, compassionate, peaceful, sustainable world for their children, and raising children who are kind, conscientious, happy and healthy can be a special challenge in today’s world. Passionate about humane parenting and seeking shared support and connection, IHE M.Ed. graduate Kelly Coyle DiNorcia dedicated her Independent Learning Project (ILP) to creating a handbook for parents of young children (ages 18-36 months) to help them raise children with a humane ethic toward other people, other animals, and the earth.
According to Kelly, her handbook “guides parents, other family members, and other caregivers through the five elements of Humane Parenting….Specific techniques for dealing with common parenting concerns such as food choices, gift-giving occasions, literature and media selections, and teaching children about diversity are given.  The handbook concludes with a list of suggested books, periodicals, weblogs and organizations that parents are encouraged to consult for more information.”
Click the link below to download (The handbook begins on page 27 of the PDF file.).

Update on AERO’s Online Courses

August 19, 2010 at 8:16 am | Posted in AERO, Education Events | Leave a comment
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So far we only have six people who have expressed interest in the school starters course, the History and Theory of Educational Alternatives course, and the school starters in Spanish course. They will not be offered this year unless we have a significant amount of additional interest. We often have a slow start and last week was our first announcement, but the courses would ordinarily be starting in about a month, so we need to hear right away if you are interested. This is not a final commitment but it will give us an idea if we should pursue offering the courses. In our experience there is a big difference in success rate between those who take the school starters course and those who simply subscribe to the listserves. The daily give and take between participants and with staff and resource people is crucial. We have helped start over 40 new schools ( and alternatives in the last four years we have been offering these courses. But it is a huge commitment of time on our part, and not justified without significant participation. At some point in the future we will offer the information in a kit form, but we feel that this is not as effective as the courses. Also, this is the first time we would offer the course in Spanish. Ron Miller has again agreed to offer the History and Theory class, which has always been enthusiastically received. We do not recommend taking more than one at a time because they are fairly intensive. Let us know if you have interest in any of the courses and which ones.  Just reply to this e-newsletter or write to
For more information on last year’s courses go to:

Here are some of the evaluations of the course:
“What an amazing, diverse group of people! I told my husband last night that I feel that I’ve found my tribe, in a way. It’s really the first time in my life that I’ve been surrounded by people who are thinking about all of the things that I am, who are concerned about the same things that I am, who are passionate about the same things that I am, who are dedicated to putting their thoughts into action like I am. It is truly wonderful!” –Mary

“This class has helped me spell out my ideas and put them out there in a safe place that is supportive and helps me see what potential they have. This class has also inspired me to discuss my vision more with others (in person) and let people know not only what I feel is necessary in education, but WHY I feel it is so necessary. I have developed more confidence in articulating my vision and by doing so, have gotten lots of valuable feedback and support in surprising areas. It is quite an exciting time for me seeing all of the ideas I have been playing around with in my head for so long finally come out and take shape into something that seems a little more realistically feasible each day!” –Katie

“I do feel the course has assisted in getting closer to my goal of opening my school. I have learned a great deal from the topics and the questions/comments posted by the collective group. I have a new sense of confidence and peace about this process. I do not see it as such a big thing now. I am already open for school everyday for my children and now I am just including some others with a little different twist.” –Marianne

“This course has been spectacular– it really has opened many doors for me and made a *major* step in the right direction for me opening my school– both in what it has taught as well as in the people I have met.” –Alex

“This course has been immensely helpful. Among other things, I’ve discovered that there is a considerable body of literature on the subject of alternative education, but the literature is NOT readily available. You won’t encounter it as required reading in teacher preparation courses. You won’t find it in most public libraries. One thing I could do, I suppose, and it would be tax-deductible, would be to purchase the available materials from The Education Revolution website and DONATE them to the library.” — Robert

Response to LA Times Report on Teachers (Commentary)

August 19, 2010 at 8:14 am | Posted in AERO, Education News | Leave a comment
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I just wrote this article in response to a report on the results with students when they have good and bad teachers (,0,6793836.story?track=rss)

Jerry Mintz

I used to think that our little democratic school was unusually blessed with good teachers. But as I thought back about it I realized that many of those teachers were not particularly good when they came to us. In fact, some were not good at all. So what happened?

Well, one significant aspect of our school is that we had two long staff meetings every week to go over everything that was happening in the school, and what was happening with each child. We wound up all being on the same page and catching little problems before they became big ones. Also, students who chose to could come to staff meetings. We found them particularly helpful, as they knew about things that were going on that the staff didn’t.

But in retrospect, that was not the most important training method that helped our staff to become great teachers. I think the most important factor was that no student had to come to any teacher’s class unless they wanted to! All attendance was noncompulsory. This meant that the classes were great and teachers could really teach because everyone was there because they wanted to be there. It also meant that if a teacher was not teaching something very interesting the students gave instant feedback with their feet. They either left or didn’t come back the next time. With this kind of feedback and evaluation, new teachers quickly learned how to organize interesting classes and activities. In some cases, if they couldn’t adjust, they just left the school. Pay was certainly not enough to keep them there. But in most cases they developed very quickly, sometimes in a matter of days, and figured out what the students really wanted to learn.

How sad it is that 99% of teachers in non-democratic schools never get this kind of feedback in their entire careers. They have a captive audience. In most cases this prevents them from becoming good teachers.

We never cared about testing for student’s grades. We didn’t give grades. But we did use standardized testing to test how the school was doing by traditional measures. In spite of the fact, or because of the fact that students didn’t have to go to any class they didn’t want to, the average student improved on national standardized tests at two and a half times the national rate. In some areas, such as vocabulary, it was useless to test them after a few years because they were always five or six grade levels above their age. This was undoubtedly because they all were very motivated to understand everything that was being said in the democratic meetings.

Sometimes people would visit, talk to the students (they often thought the older students were young looking staff members) and say to us afterward “Well of course it works with these kids. They are middle class!” But we had no minimum tuition and most of our students were low income and many were on welfare. Very few were actually middle class. But they sounded like they were after a few years in the school.

I’m not sure what the traditional system could learn from our experience with helping develop great teachers, but one step might be to leave the door open, so students could come in or go out!

2010 AERO Conference Report by Laurie Spigel

August 19, 2010 at 8:13 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference | Leave a comment
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This year’s AERO Conference, held in Albany in late June, was one of the most exciting events ever!  There was a dazzling number of workshops and presentations.  Vendors displayed newly invented and created items, alongside a selection of books you won’t see anywhere else (except in the AERO catalog).  It was easy to strike up a conversation with another browser or listener, since everyone loved to talk about education.  Meals were in the same hotel, with some tables marked for specific discussions.  You would meet your colleagues over lunch, perhaps to talk about a fascinating new book, or idea, or educator.  I met inspirational speakers, authors and artists, problem solvers, alternative teachers, students, and parents, from states and countries far and wide – all educational revolutionaries.

One of the many highlights was the keynote speech by John Taylor Gatto, award-winning teacher and author of Dumbing Us Down and Weapons of Mass Instruction.  Mr. Gatto is a gifted wordsmith with a rare sense of humor.  His talk made light of his many experiences and tussles with traditional institutions.  This is a man who broke the rules and dared to confront the boredom in his stifling NYC classroom!  One of his students confessed that all he wanted to do was act.  Writing out a pass for him, Mr. Gatto gave him an assignment: he was to go on as many auditions as possible that year.  The Dept. of Ed. finally caught up with this student at the end of the year, only to find that he had landed a role on General Hospital.  Through all of John Taylor Gatto’s outrageous stories, he makes you think.

Other conference highlights included special presentations of several documentary films, which were sometimes inspiring and sometimes disturbing, including Race to Nowhere, and The War Against Kids.  These were followed by focused Q and A or panel discussions.  DVDs can be purchased through AERO of the panel discussions and keynote speeches including the wisdom of Herbert Kohl, the energy of Matthew Davis, the wit of John Taylor Gatto, and the international awareness of Shilpa Jain who spoke about community-based education.

My own presentation, on child-led learning techniques in the classroom, was very well received.  I predict that many teachers will be adding board games to their stock of learning tools.  At the end of the conference my four days were a blur of information, new contacts and friends, and renewed inspiration. There is talk of moving the conference to the west coast next year.  Wherever AERO puts up its tent, you can expect to find something electrifying going on!

Laurie is the author of Education Uncensored.  You can buy her book at:

You can still join in on the experience of the 7th annual AERO conference! We have just a few individual DVDs and just a couple DVD sets left. Find out more about them and purchase at

Music from 2010 AERO Conference: Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde (VIDEO)

August 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference | Leave a comment
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Photo © Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde

Taina Asili brings songs filled with a voice of profound passion and uncompromising spirit seeking to inspire personal and social transformation. Backed by La Banda Rebelde, musicians with cultural roots from around the world, this group bravely infuses genres including, rock, reggae, neo-soul, hip hop, flamenco and Afro-Caribbean sounds, exciting audiences to contagious movement.

Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde combine the soul of Lila Downs, the freedom of Ojos de Brujo and the rebellion of Rage Against the Machine, creating a unique and unforgettable soundscape.

Listen to music from the band on or

Here is video from Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde’s performance at the 2010 AERO conference:

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Music from the 2010 AERO Conference: Darlene McCullough (VIDEO)

August 16, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference | Leave a comment
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Photo © Darlene McCollough

Darlene McCullough is an actress, musician, and writer from Pittstown, NY. In addition to releasing her first novel, Venture, in February 2010 she is currently working on her first album and starring role in a feature film.

For more information about Darlene and her work please visit and

Here is video from Darlene’s performance at the  2010 AERO Conference:

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Music from 2010 AERO Conference: J-Live (VIDEO)

August 16, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference | Leave a comment
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Photo © Beatshot Productions

J-Live is a world-renowned hip hop recording artist and performer. As an emcee, dee jay, producer and CEO of his aptly named company Triple Threat Productions, J-Live’s music has been a staple of inspiration for listeners of underground hip hop from New York to Cali and around the world. His discography spans over 10 years and includes four full length albums “The Best Part,” “All of the Above”, “The Hear After” and “Then What Happened?” as well as EPs “Always Will Be” “Reveal The Secret”, a collection of earlier singles “Always Has Been” and countless guest appearances and features. In support of these records J-Live has toured around the country as well as Canada, the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

You can find out more about J-Live at: or

Here is video from J-Live’s performance at the 2010 AERO conference:

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Music from the 2010 AERO Conference: Austin Willacy (VIDEO)

August 16, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference | Leave a comment
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Photo © dotgal

Austin is a member of The House Jacks, a groundbreaking vocal rock band with whom he has produced seven full-length albums, conducted international a cappella master classes and toured extensively.  Austin is a board member of CASA (The Contemporary A Cappella Society) and The Freight & Salvage (A Traditional & Folk Music preservation non-profit).  For the past 12 years, Austin has directed ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ co-ed teen a cappella group.  In this time, he has produced 4 award-winning recordings.  In January, 2010 Austin was recognized with an Avanti Award, and given a 3-year grant, to help him continue his work in teen a cappella.

You can find out more about Austin Willacy at: or

Here is video from Austin’s performance at the  2010 AERO Conference:

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