Someone recently commented on this blog, asking if an innovative high school was simply a "minimum security prison." I'm not shocked by the comment. Lately, it seems that teachers have been compared to slave-drivers, prison wardens, thieves and child abusers. Yes, I've read about the industrial nature of schooling. Honestly, I agree that there are some real issues with compulsory schooling. But prison? Really? How many people who make that comparison have ever known a loved one who spent time in both?
The social and cultural realities are that my students have parents who work two or three jobs and they simply cannot un-school or homeschool. I don’t get to choose my students nor do they get to choose me. We don’t get to chose standards, either.
But . . .
I can do documentaries, independent projects, murals, blogs and all kinds of learning that they find interesting.
I can advocate a humane, meaningful relationship to replace traditional discipline.
I can shift my pedagogy to problem-based and project-based.
I can do away with grades and homework.
I can encourage free movement.
I can have honest dialogue that leads to small acts of liberation.
Some would point to me and say that it’s simply a “minimum security prison.” And at that point, it’s not worth it. When we disagree on metaphors, it’s pointless to have a conversation. Maybe it is a prison. Maybe. But if it is, I would hope that a seed can grow under the industrial pavement and something organic is happening inside a place that is designed to be artificial. I would hope (and perhaps I am naive) that authentic learning can happen anywhere – even within the prison walls. I would hope that if we are stuck in a box, we can repurpose that box.
If it is a prison, don't we need compassionate people working quietly to subvert it? Don't we need a few more Andy Dufresne bringing art and voice and beauty to a place that is so often at war against such things?