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.


What content do you most want in our weekly e-newsletter? (POLL)

October 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Revolution E-News | Leave a comment
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We are always looking to distribute the most pertinent, helpful, useful, and highest quality e-newsletter possible. To make this happen, we need your help! Please answer the following poll regarding the content provided in the e-newsletter. Don’t see your answer listed? Select other and leave a comment. Choose as many options as you would like!

Summer Book Blowout! (BOOK SALE)

June 4, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Revolution E-News | Leave a comment
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In preparation for the AERO conference, we are clearing out our stock prior to ordering hundreds of books for the event.  We are offering a coupon which will give you a 20% discount on every title in the store.  All you have to do is enter “summerblowout” when checking out where it gives you the option to add a coupon.  Remember, every purchase you make helps AERO!  In addition to 20% off every title, we’re offering a small selection of books at incredibly low prices (while supplies last)!

Remember, members still receive 10% off sale prices and you can combine your member discount with the 20% off coupon for a total savings of 30% off every title!

The sale ends Monday, June 7th at midnight!

The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Out Children and What We Can Do About It (Hardcover)
by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish
List Price: $24.95 Sale Price: $9.95

Free to Learn: A Radical Experiment in Education (Documentary – DVD)

List Price: $18 Sale Price: $13.45

The Happy Child: Changing the Heart of Education
by Steven Harrison
List Price: $9.95 Sale Price: $4.95

Watch Yourself: Why Safer Isn’t Always Better
by Matt Hern
List Price: $19 Sale Price $9.95

SUPER Sunday Sale!

February 7, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Posted in AERO, Education Revolution E-News | Leave a comment
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It’s Super Sunday in the United States as the most watched sporting event in the world takes place.  We’ve decided to to give everyone something to cheer for (even those non-football fans) by offering up a Super Sunday sale!

Every book in our store is on sale!  Some up to 60% off!  We’ve decided to offer a special this week (ends next Sunday) on our top five selling books at 25% off!

Turning Points: 27 Visionaries in Education Tell Their Own Stories

Jerry Mintz & Carlo Ricci

The Self-Organizing Revolution: Common Principles of the Educational Alternatives Movement

Ron Miller

How to Grow a School: Starting and Sustaining Schools That Work

Chris Mercogliano

Lives of Passion, School of Hope: How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning

Rick Posner

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

John Taylor Gatto

Visit our store at

Don’t forget to check out our clearance titles at

Turning Points: 27 Visionaries in Education Tell Their Own Stories

June 16, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Posted in AERO, Education News, Education Revolution E-News | Leave a comment
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Turning Points

Turning Points

Turning Points:

27 Visionaries in Education Tell Their Own Stories

Edited by Jerry Mintz & Carlo Ricci

Foreword by Alfie Kohn

Pre-Order This Remarkable New Title Today!

Contributors Include:
Sharon Caldwell, Riane Eisler, John Taylor Gatto, David Gribble, Yaacov Hecht, Helen Hegener, Matt Hern, Helen Hughes, Don “Four Arrows”Jacobs, Mark Jacobs, Herbert Kohl, Mary Leue, Dennis Littky, Deborah Meier, Chris Mercogliano, Ron Miller, Jerry Mintz, Pat Montgomery, Susan Ohanian, Kirsten Olson, Wendy Priesnitz, Carlo Ricci, Tim Seldin, Herb Snitzer, Len Solo, Lynn Stoddard, and Zoe Weil

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?

Twenty seven visionaries in education have answered these questions and more!

Turning Points is a collection of stories about education from those who have dared to do things in different ways. The common theme behind all of the contributors’ stories is that mainstream schooling needs to be transformed—how we think about and implement education, learning, and teaching needs to change.

This book is about celebrating and understanding the diversity of possibilities in the hopes that people will be inspired to act. It’s about showing what can be done. By bringing together a wide range of alternative mainstream schoolers, homeschoolers/unschoolers/life learners, free and democratic schoolers, Montessori and Waldorf schoolers, we hope that we can learn from each other, and that you as readers will be inspired enough to join in, in whatever ways you feel will make the greatest difference within your context.

This book is a call for social change, a call to help us move toward hope and history and away from determinism. We trust that the conversation will continue.

“The teacher would often lock me in the shed, as punishment for my behavior . . . I felt that there surely must be a better way to educate children. A way without dark sheds, without arbitrary punishment, and with respect. I didn’t know then, that I would devote most of my adult life to the search for this way.”
—Yaacov Hecht

AERO Director Jerry Mintz Meets Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

May 2, 2009 at 11:37 am | Posted in AERO, Education News, Education Revolution E-News, Education Revolution Magazine | 3 Comments
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Arne Duncan Accepting Obama Nomination

Arne Duncan Accepting Obama Nomination

I am in Washington, DC, at the Education Writers Conference. I decided to come down here on the chance that I could somehow communicate to Arne Duncan, Obama’s new Secretary of Education something about the need to get rid of No Child Left Behind. He talked for about 25 minutes to the large audience of education writers from all over the country. I stood in the line at the audience microphone but almost got stopped. The secretary of the organization came over to tell me that the line was just for reporters. Obviously she knew who I was and thought I might be a loose cannon. I told her that I was a reporter, for Education Revolution Magazine! She backed off, reluctantly.

Duncan seems to be an affable man, confident in himself but not too arrogant. He’s tall, and, in an answer to one question, sometimes plays basketball with Obama. For a while he talked about when he felt he had accomplished in Chicago, but a lot of it sounded to me like it was supporting No Child Left Behind.

Finally it was my turn. I said, “I’m Jerry Mintz from Education Revolution Magazine. Our audience is public and private alternative schools. We have a database of over 12,000 of them. In your talk you said that President Obama supports innovative charter schools. But those schools and others in our network find that No Child Left Behind makes innovation and change very difficult. We don’t feel that it measures the things we feel are most important. We want it scrapped. Will your administration do that?”

He replied that there were some things he didn’t like in the law and some things he liked, that he would have to look at it in detail.

I repeated, “We want it scrapped. Will it be scrapped?”

He replied,”I don’t know. But the name No Child Left Behind is toxic. We will at least change the name!” Afterward I said to John Merrow who does the Merrow documentaries on PBS. “So he will keep it but change its name?” He nodded knowingly.

I gave our latest Education Revolution Magazine and a copy of my book to Dunncan’s nearby PR man who was pointed out by Merrow, and the PR man gave me an e mail address through which I could contact him to follow up. I then came up and shook Duncan’s hand, reiterating our position. He acknowledged it. Surprisingly, I had accomplished what I set out to do when I got on the train this morning at Penn Station in New York. I hope it helped a little.

Jerry Mintz

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

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