[ProgressiveEd] conversation

Jane Bedell [email protected]
Tue, 28 Jan 2003 14:01:32 -0500

Dear Jane,
We do need to think about the language we use.  Maybe we'll use "networks" 
instead of "learning zone".  We've never said that only we could have a 
learning zone.  That should be open to others too.  But it may be 
Hey Bruce--
Just as I figured, you're way ahead of me.  I see what you are saying about 
the potential for progressive networks (or learning zones), and maybe in a 
weird, convoluted way, these new changes (whatever they really turn out to 
be) will allow a window of opportunity to make this happen if there is the 
right combination of organization and agitation around this.
One concern I have is that we not alienate other constituencies (for 
example, I think we need to be mindful of language.  If we say we are 
creating a "learning zone," what does that make the other places where 
other kids go to school -- the no-learning zones?)  Things that sound right 
from my point of view as a parent are -- being able to choose, having the 
pedogogy and the structure based as much as possible on the best quality 
research, and then the things that (I think) are pretty well proven : ie 
small class size seems to make a difference no matter what the teaching 
philosophy is, when parents are involved kids do better, teachers need time 
for meaningful staff development, etc. etc.
In any event, I want to think about how to make these issues real and 
vibrant for parents, so that even though we are not experts on this stuff 
we can speak from our voices to support progressive education and encourage 
the Dept of Education to allow us to have meaningful educational choices 
for our children.
I'm glad you had originally planned for small group work, and I agree that 
large meetings also serve very important purposes, not the least of which 
is to let people get their "stuff" out on the table.
--On Monday, January 27, 2003 12:37 PM -0500 [email protected] wrote:
> Dear Jane,
> Thanks for writing.  A couple of responses:  We had to shift our original
> plan for last Wednesday's meeting, because people had school emergencies
> and  didn't get there until we'd already started.   In fact, we'd
> intended to work  in small groups.  But there was something substantial,
> I think, in keeping  the group together -- for the first public meeting.
> It gave everyone a  chance to speak and to hear the overall agenda for
> the organization.  I  really appreciated hearing your comments.  (I'm
> just sorry I'm no longer at  CPE 2 to benefit more directly from your
> insights.)
> I have some thoughts about our focus.  First, we came together because we
> were concerned about the state of progressive education in New York City.
>  There has been a steady march towards undoing so many of the things we
> have  put in place in our schools that work for children, parents, and
> staff.  I  know I wanted a public voice for progressive schools.  CCE had
> started out to  be that voice but got sidetracked (and somewhat
> discredited) along the way.   I wanted to join with the other voices out
> there and make one powerful voice.   I'll speak for myself.  I wanted to
> create a kind of training school for us  to deepen and develop our ideas
> about children's learning and to hone the way  we preesnt these ideas.
> There are only a few who can effectively speak on  behalf of the larger
> issues in education, especially only a few who can face  the screaming
> mobs who are labeling everyone a bureaucrat and telling those  of us
> who've devoted our lives to our work that we're in it only for the
> money.  (Brecht once wrote, "Sad is the country that needs a hero."  We
> need  lots of people who can articulate the ideas they've developed from
> their work  with children and who can insist on the kinds of
> learning/teaching situations  we've developed in our schools.)
> We developed the demands for progressive learning zones and official
> recognition of our schools in response to what we saw (and anticipated)
> as  the latest attacks.  This was before the mayor/chancellor made public
> their  plan to reorganize the school system.  We want to protect our
> schools.  It  will take a progressive organization, agitating people
> along the way, to do  that.  We want to engage people who are in the
> small progressive schools  (parents and staff), and people who identify
> themselves as progressive who  may not be in the small schools (yet).
> So, I see simultaneous goals:  One is to create an organization.  The
> other  is to (use this organization to) agitate for our schools and for
> networks  that can sustain them.  Getting these networks in place is
> going to be a huge  job.  Our networks must help us in real ways to
> progress.  For instance, each  of our schools does its own staff
> development.  Are we able to look at  children's learning (and our
> learning about children's learning) in deep  ways?  When we exist by
> ourselves or in opposition to meaningless staff  development, we tend to
> turn off part of our learning.  We deal with the most  recent problem or
> situation, without looking at the larger learning issues.   We need to
> use the power of our multiple perspectives and ways of looking at
> children and children's work to develop ever-deepening understandings.
> Our  schools have to be communities in which everyone learns.  The
> networks have  to help this to happen.
> What do you think?
> Bruce