Gay Teen Graeme Taylor Speaks Out For Suspended Michigan Teacher

November 16, 2010 at 1:57 am | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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For more details on the story:

Profound Slam Poetry Performance by Four Students on Stardardized Testing (VIDEO)

November 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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Love Letter To Albuquerque Public Schools by Miguel Figueroa, Reed Bobroff, Olivia Gatwood, and Khalid Binsunni

“Against Homework” from 1860 ed. of Scientific American

November 13, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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This is from an 1860 edition of Scientific American:
Against Homework, Scientific American: A child who has been boxed up six hours in school might spend the next four hours in study, but it is impossible to develop the child’s intellect in this way. The laws of nature are inexorable. By dint of great and painful labor, the child may succeed in repeating a lot of words, like a parrot, but, with the power of its brain all exhausted, it is out of the question for it to really master and comprehend its lessons. The effect of the system is to enfeeble the intellect even more than the body. We never see a little girl staggering home under a load of books, or knitting her brow over them at eight o’clock in the evening, without wondering that our citizens do not arm themselves at once with carving knives, pokers, clubs, paving stones or any weapons at hand, and chase out the managers of our common schools, as they would wild beasts that were devouring their children.


Imagine a School (VIDEO)

November 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Posted in AERO | Leave a comment
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AERO member school, Voyagers’ Community School just released an excellent promotional video.  Watch the video below and find out more about Voyagers’ at

“Bursting the Bubble” Mathew Davis Keynote Address to AERO Conference 2010 (VIDEO)

November 13, 2010 at 11:36 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference, AERO Online Video Series | 1 Comment
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Mathew Davis

Mathew Davis grew up in Indianapolis and began community organizing when he was fourteen and he began public speaking at age fifteen. Mathew has also been performing slam poetry for over a year. Mathew attended public schools his entire life and has been critical of the ones he attended throughout his schooling career. He has expressed that his vocation is focused on social justice and simply helping people survive.

Mathew can be found on Tumblr at

The title of Mathew’s keynote was, “Bursting the Bubble.”


Find out more about AERO conference 2011, “Transforming Education & Our World” at


Part 1/2:

Part 2/2:

Jerry Mintz: “Mistakes in Education” (Op-Ed)

November 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Revolution E-News | 2 Comments
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In reference to:



It’s too bad that the school reformers and the billionaire funders have to make every mistake there is to make on their way to, perhaps, finding the real clue to how learning actually works.


I think they mean well. Probably they feel a little guilty about having so much money when so many people have so little. So some of them think that they can spend their way to making the current system of schooling work.


The problem is that they are doing all of this from the wrong paradigm, an old one that hasn’t worked well for a long time, a very long time.


There are lots of analogies, such as rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. I prefer an epigram that my grandfather wrote:” I feel like a spider in a bottle. I can see where I want to go but can’t understand why I can’t get there.


The answer is so simple that it is hard to see. The assumption that the current system seems to act upon is that children need to be pushed to learn. If you believe that to be true, then it follows that you need a lot of artificial means to motivate children to learn. That would include giving grades, homework, getting students to compete with each other, teaching them in uniform batches the way factories do. In fact, the current system operates pretty much on the factory model and the schools even look like factories, inside and out.


The reality that modern brain research supports is the children are natural learners. Think about babies and toddlers. By simply providing to them a rich environment of resources they successfully teach themselves to walk and talk. And what happens to them after that? Most of them are blindly put into a situation in which they are not supposed to move around or talk much, and that all future learning is to come from external sources determined by the teacher.  Human nature being resilient, children still retain the restless ability to learn on their own, but it is slowly extinguished. So, after six or seven years of this treatment, the paradigm that is used by the traditional school system becomes reality, a self-fulfilling process. Children, now tweens or teens, are no longer self-motivated. Having been punished for energy, divergent thinking and creativity for that long, they do now seem to need to be pushed to learn anything. And it doesn’t work very well. Even the best schools are only the best of a failed system. Their students are the best at listening to what is told to them, repeating it back, perhaps embellished a little, and the best at filling in the little bubbles on those mindless standardized tests.


There are a very small minority of parents, teachers, students and schools who have noticed that the emperor has no clothes and have rejected all that nonsense, and it is truly nonsensical. They have started various forms of educational alternatives, or decided to send their children to them. In some cases the students have discovered these options themselves. In some cases this is done as homeschooling. More than two million are now doing that, having checked “non of the above.” Others are in democratic or progressive schools, or other alternatives such as Montessori and Waldorf. These alternatives do recognize that each child is a unique person who can think for his or herself.


Unfortunately, those who are involved with these alternatives do not have the funding to let everyone else know what they have discovered. In some cases they may afraid to inform them or talk much about what they have found, because these approaches have often been attacked as they go against the mainstream.


You might ask, what about charter schools? I know Joe Nathan of Minnesota, who started the first charter school in 1993. He started charters because he wanted to take an alternative approach that would avoid the red tape and testing of the regular schools. He also wanted this available to all children, regardless of their family income. But, like many good ideas, thousands of charters schools have now been created. Some have stayed far enough from the norm to enable students to be respected and learn in their own way. But gradually charter schools have come to resemble the schools they tried to replace, as more and more mainstream bureaucrats and corporate interests got involved with them. And now most of them are required to administer the misguided No Child Left Behind guidelines in order to remain in existence.


In fact, I can list some of the very best charters and public alternatives that I have known. These would include:


  • Renaissance Charter in Florida, a K to 5th with democratic process and a farm component.
  • The Village Charter School, in Northfield, MN. They even helped a group of their students represent them at the International Democratic Education Conference in India.
  • Liberty Academy in Maine took advantage of a law that allowed parents in the area to send their children with vouchers to the democratic school.
  • Blue Mountain Charter School in Oregon was based on the famous democratic Sudbury Valley School, the only such charter in the country.


I can list several more. They were all forced to close by their local education administrators. Yes, it is dangerous to fully empower students in the current education environment.


But meanwhile perhaps some philanthropists have noticed the success of the independent alternatives. Bill Gates did and for many years he provided funding for big schools to break up into smaller schools, thinking, mistakenly,  that was the reason for their success. Gates just spent two million dollars just to publicize a new movie ,“Waiting for Superman,” which promotes charters.


Some think that if children are forced more strongly to memorize what they need to do better on the tests, though longer days, longer school years, and more rote memory, that this is the solution. Some charters schools are doing that. But independent studies don’t back that up. In fact, Newsweek recently reported that in the very crucial area of creativity American students are rapidly headed to the bottom of the heap. There is no measure for creativity on the NCLB tests.


Some minority families may fear getting off the normal education track and trying learner centered approaches as it might be harder for them to get back on if it didn’t work. But we have found that it works quite well for minority children who go to democratic schools.


WE who are involved with learner centered education approaches are ready and willing to share our knowledge and successes with all who are interested. Beyond that, our organization, the Alternative Education Resource Organization, a small non-profit, have as our mission the “Education Revolution.” We want to see all children have the opportunity to choose an educational approach that meets their needs.


Democratic School in Givat Olga, Israel (VIDEO)

November 5, 2010 at 1:23 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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A look at Givol, the democratic school in Givat Olga, Israel.


Parents Are People, Too (ARTICLE)

November 4, 2010 at 12:28 am | Posted in AERO | 1 Comment
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Michele Beach

Have you ever had one of those moments where you were attempting to be the most reasonable, democratic parent possible, but your mind was just screaming “…because I said so, that’s why!” I had one of those recently when my five-year-old son and I were disagreeing about where he should build his fort. He wanted to put blankets on the kitchen table, but I thought the basement would be a better location. I told him that I thought it would be in the way for dinner; he replied that we could just eat in the living room on the coffee table. I said that no, we didn’t use the living room for that; he countered by reminding me that we did, in fact, eat in the living room for a party just a few weeks prior. And that’s when I started to feel impatient. Why are his arguments so well thought out? Why doesn’t he just follow the rules? Why does he think he should have a right to stand here and argue with me about this? Why is he is so good at questioning the status quo? Oh… right. This is what I wanted him to do. I have actually encouraged him to think for himself, and to be his own person, and to question authority. So, I concede that he does have a good point, and after much more discussion we finally decide that building a fort in the kitchen and then moving it before dinner is acceptable to both of us.

Interactions such as these constantly remind me that trying to parent in a democratic way, just like trying to teach at a democratic school, can be very hard. It is very time-consuming, it can be emotionally draining, and society is probably not going to pat you on the back for raising an activist. In fact, you’ll probably get many questions along the way such as: “How will he ever get a job if he can’t obey the rules?” or “How will he ever learn math if no one makes him?” You may at times even ask yourself some of these same questions. And as far as I can tell, there is no one handbook that will give you all of the answers. Many parents, especially those that have sought out democratic education for their children, are determined to parent in a very intentional way. This is extremely noble, but at times can cause parents to forget about themselves. You are an important part of your child’s world, and for the wholefamily to be happy, you must be happy, too.

We sometimes need to be reminded that parents also have ideas, and even rights! When playing with your children, you shouldn’t feel obligated to play exclusively by your child’s rules, or to always let them win, or to play only their games. When parents allow play to be too child-directed, the child doesn’t get a realistic picture of how the world works. I have heard so many parents say, “I just don’t think I can stand to play princess one more time!” Well, you don’t have to. If you give your child the impression that someone will always be interested in their game and will always follow their lead, they will be quite disappointed when they encounter peers who are also accustomed to getting their own way. It is much healthier for youand your child if you voice your honest opinion at least part of the time, whether it is, “I just don’t want to play princess today, but I’ll play something else with you” or “I am happy to play princess, but I want to have a turn being the queen” or even just “I’d really like to get the dishes done and then I’ll play in five minutes.” Besides ensuring that you are not powerless in the relationship, you are modeling ways to negotiate and compromise that children will pick up on and be able to use in their own social world. It is amazing to hear your four-year-old say to her friend, “okay you can be the queen this time and I’ll be the queen next time” rather than running off screaming, “no one wants to play with me!” Learning to adapt their play to include others’ ideas is well worth the momentary irritation your child may show when you don’t play by their rules. Plus, the playtime experience may prove to be more fun for both of you.

Read more at:

Lives of Passion, Schools of Hope: The Alumni Project for the Jefferson County Open School (ARTICLE)

November 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Rick Posner

***The book that came out this project, Lives of Passion, School of Hope, was published in November of 2009 by Sentient Publications

This project entails an in depth follow-up of the graduates of an unusual public school: the Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, Colorado. The Open School (as it is usually called) is a public school that goes against the grain of current educational practice. For nearly 36 years, the Open School has thrived as an alternative to conventional schooling. The pre K-12 school is non-graded, self-paced and experiential. No grade point averages or academic credits cloud its approach to the education of the heart, mind and spirit. Every student has a personal advisor on the staff or in the community as well as a personal learning plan with goals in the social, personal and intellectual domains.


Goals of the Open School
Rediscover the joy of learning
Engage in the search for meaning in your life
Deal with and understand the world that is
Prepare for the world that might be
Help create the world that ought to be


Students have a direct say in school governance and curriculum as well as in the hiring of staff and administration. Students move out of program levels based on the completion of rites-of-passage projects and their development as self-directed learners. In fact, they demonstrate they are ready to graduate or become members of the adult tribe by writing their own narrative transcripts. Thus, the skills and attitudes learned at Open School are not meant to be disposable. The idea is to create an educational experience that sticks with you, that you can actually use to live a full, meaningful life—a sustainable education, if you will.

Read more at:

Moving Forward with the Struggle: What Can We Learn From the Alumni of the Open School (VIDEO)

November 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Moving Forward with the Struggle panel discussion was facilitated by Rick Posner and featured at the 7th annual Alternative Education Resource Organization conference (AERO Conference).

From the original description:
My book, Lives of Passion, School of Hope, discusses the relations, influences and recommendations from the alumni of one of the longest lasting alternative schools in the public sector, Jefferson County Open School. This workshop will address where we’ve been, where we’re going and hopefully, how we get there. The workshop will include a panel of alumni, from different eras from The Open School.

Rick Posner taught public school for thirty years, eighteen of those at Jefferson County Open School (one of the longest lasting public schools of its kind) as a teacher, administrator and as a proud parent. He did his doctoral work at University of Denver, focusing on self-directed learning and rites-of-passage curriculum. Currently, he is an affiliate faculty member at Regis University and Prescott College. He has written a book about the alumni of the Open School entitled,Lives of Passion, School of Hope: How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning (Sentient Publications, Nov. 2009).

We had trouble embedding the videos here, so watch them at:

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