IDEC 2013 Afterthoughts

I attended the IDEC 2013 (International Democratic Education Conference) http://www.idec2013.org/ specifically to participate in a workshop involving Jefferson County Open School http://www.jeffcoopen.org/. First I must say, the word “Democratic” does not mean the opposite of “Republican”. Of course the word itself has political implications, meaning every individual has a say, and political meaning the organization of people. In this context, however, we are speaking of education. This translates to mean, every person in the educational community has a say, intending to include the student.

I learned a lot about the changes that are taking place in education across the world, there were many attendees from Korea, inklings from Europe, China, and other parts of the US. I am sure there were attendees from other countries that I did not get the pleasure of meeting.

Some countries are on the verge of breaking, or at least trying to break free of oppressive governments, or oppressive ways of life that are taking a stronghold on their culture and future. These educators are working to make changes from within the educational institutions to empower the individual, and create the necessary paradigm shifts within their societies using education as a powerful tool. The northern European countries I encountered seemed as though they are not trying to break free from governmental control of education so much as they are seeking to further perpetuate the individual spirit and enlighten the mind through alternative methods, possibly creating a more self-aware learner. A learner that chooses what they learn and is aware of their interests by having the freedom of pursuit.

The individuals I met from the US were from a variety of different backgrounds. Some were not educators but worked with at-risk youth and this conference helped spur ideas for them to approach alternative methods of reaching out. Many were homeschoolers, or worked with/for organizations knitted to homeschoolers. Many were affiliated with organizations that are involved in education one way or another, but are not schools themselves, and the hybrids always exist.

There were certainly, and always will be the bulls#!%%3rs too. The sellers. The ones who don’t really have a contribution but want to be known, or want to profit from the event. I came across a couple but it was not overwhelming. Thank goodness for that.

I found out about a program in my area called Innovation Labs. The website is www.redefineschool.com, and I poked around a little before writing this. I just might have to get in touch and see what I can do to help the educational community in my school district.

And then there is AERO. The Alternative Education Resource Organization, which can be visited via http://www.educationrevolution.org/. This is a great network of alternative education resources, if you are interested in the alternatives in your area, or perhaps just in your interest it might be worth taking a gander.

In the end I can say there is a lot of movement within the realm of reforming education, and there has been for quite some time. It seems to be the conflict, however, that an alternative system only works for a small group of people. When you have a lot of students to manage, the oversight has to be systematic. And yes, the drawback is the uniformity of education, but the advantage is cohesiveness and coherency. I think what many educators who are involved in Democratic Education are pushing to change is the way we view our understanding of how the system should function.
The afternoon workshop I chose to attend was titled “Intersection of Formal and Informal Education”. There was some controversy as to whether there is even a difference, and the underlying assumption among all the participants (at least it seemed this way) was that an “Informal” education was better or more important in some way. Sometimes these things go unspoken, but are present and unquestioned.

In my Philosophical studies I have come to realize one very important thing about life, and I remind people of this on a regular basis. There is idealism- what things ought to be like, and there is realism- how things are. We can strive for the ideal but the realism sets in when we accept that there are practical limitations.

In the case of education, we have the application of “Democratic” education as the practical limitation. This means for each educator how to facilitate and manage, and oversee, and guide, and mentor a large body of individual needs. Every educator would be spread so thin the quality of their work would necessarily be undermined. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. The systems (or un”systematic” systems) that are present and successful in alternative education tend to be of the smaller student:teacher ratio, and of the smaller subset of the population.

One person being interviewed said it all in one word: money.

Until our educational systems are seen as relevant enough to warrant enough of our collective contributions, there will not be enough individualized attention in education. We will have systems in place that are best suited to address the more basic needs of every student, even if the approach is rigorous and boring. As my educator friend said to me, “how does 2 teachers take 80 students on a weeklong backpacking trip?” My answer, now clear to me, “you don’t.. we do”.

That is the key. Education is not something someone else does for us. It is something we all do together, and for each other. Education is not something that happens in a building, or on a chalkboard. I mean, it can happen there too, but real learning comes from everywhere and anywhere. We have to not only open our eyes, but our minds too. We all learn in many different places, of course. I think it is important to recognize when we are learning, and how we are learning so we can strengthen and perpetuate our methods to be most effective.

Help Wanted: Better People

After careful deliberation this is what I have come to understand.

The World Needs Better People.

Who is the World?

It’s everyone!

Who is everyone?

It’s you and I.

What is a better person?

It’s you and I choosing better actions.

When?

Now. Oh, and tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives.

Why?

Things can only get better for all of us!

Where?

Everywhere you go.

How?

Consider everything you do. Then try your hardest to make the best choice.

The last time I checked, there is only ONE EARTH for us to live on. International communities are realizing that the only way to function is to maintain some sort of unity. We must all work together. The only way to do this is to consider one another, and those unspoken for, and make the right choices every time we can. We can’t let money override our values. We can’t let those with the biggest voices have the power unless we know in our hearts and minds that they are working and speaking on behalf of the rest of the communities. We can’t be persuaded to view the world in a way that seems unfit just because someone influences us to think that everyone else thinks this way too. This is TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY gone wrong and we will not tolerate it.

We all have brains, use them!
We all have hearts, use them!
We all have strength, use it!

Create the world as it ought to be
This is a goal of my lifelong education.
If I do it, will you?

Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado

This topic is a dicey one, eh? Should we line the state coffers now for future rehab programs? Perhaps the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program might need a little review, this was in my 5th and 6th grade public school curriculum.

Interestingly enough, I am not overly concerned about  my children’s future when it comes to this particular law. The negative effects will reveal themselves, if there are any. To be clear, people are already addicted to pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana might be a better choice. Consider it a step in the right direction.

The fear is it will only make drug abuse more common, prevalent, and overwhelming. If we give our kids a good head on their shoulders, hopefully they will make the right choices when they are given the chance. It’s all about creating the kind of leaders the world needs to be a better place.

Regulate the driving laws if you want to make a positive change. Not just for marijuana levels though, for all drugs. All prescriptions that recommend against driving should have some control measures. Should we place a ridiculous fine for driving while under the influence of anything mind altering, we already pick on alcohol like it is poison- oh wait, it is poison.

Driving is not a right, it is a privilege. Don’t forget folks, you can take your kids license away too. We have veto power because we are responsible for their actions until they are adults.

My most concerning worry is my kids (or myself) will be killed in a car accident by someone under the influence of something. This is far more likely, right?

Let’s get some perspective from others on why this is a good or bad move for Colorado.

The consensus of philosophers

This is interesting, and the comments ad the end made by the author are funny. I always wondered if my professors believed all the stuff we studied, or which ones were playing devil’s advocate in light of the general consensus among the student body. They critical analysis offered by philosophical undertakings does present a generally atheistic overview. Probably one of philosophies biggest questions is whether or not there is some sort of omni-presence.

Why Evolution Is True

Over at his website, Sean Carroll has called my attention to a paper by David Bourget and David J. Chalmers called “What do philosophers believe?” (free download here, reference below). I must admit I’ve only scanned the paper, but the interesting results (highlighted by Sean) reflect whether or not the philosophers agree with various viewpoints and claims.

The survey population is this:

Instead, we chose as a target group all regular faculty members in 99 leading departments of philosophy. These include the 86 Ph.D.-granting departments in Englishspeaking countries rated 1.9 or above in the Philosophical Gourmet Report. They also include ten departments in non-English-speaking countries (all from continental Europe) and three non-Ph-D.-granting departments. These thirteen departments were chosen in consultation with the editor of the Gourmet Report and a number of other philosophers, on the grounds of their having strength in analytic philosophy comparable to the other 86 departments. The overall list included 62…

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Why I Chose Philosophy

When entering college (the first time) I was pretty vivacious.

The fire that ignited from my very wonderful high school years at http://www.jeffcoopen.org/ made life a very out of the ordinary experience for me.

By the way, view the about page if you think you understood educational goals before.

After seeing where my love of learning stemmed from, you might see the common struggle in what Open Schoolers refer to as “the real world”. Funny thing is we all had to go through this awkward early 20’s experience where we had to try to be part of the existing social paradigm, and as adults we grow to realize it’s not as important as we thought to be part of this different community. I am finding myself engage with other like-minded individuals, rather than trying to conform to who I thought the rest of the world wanted me to be. I think we are all better off by doing this, but it takes time and reflection.

Coming from modest means I wanted to get the biggest bang for my buck in college. I attempted grants and scholarships, but funny thing is we didn’t have grades in high school. No grades = No GPA… applications alone were enough work because of this. I tried to skirt classes by taking others, for example: I didn’t meet the math entrance requirements for College Algebra but didn’t want to waste a $emester on pre-algebra (my mom tutors math) so I took College Algebra based Physics. Not sure why I thought this was a good idea but I passed, even got an ‘A’ my second semester. So then I thought physics was fun and worked towards all the prerequisites to be a physics major. After failing my Calculus based physics course, miserably at that, I figured maybe it wasn’t in the cards. After all, I only kind of liked it and the career prospects were not really going to fulfill my life-long desire to understand the parts of the world I was truly curious about.

Philosophy spoke to me.

I would get up extra early to study philosophy. I was waiting at the door of the coffee shops until they would open so I could get a warm cup of joe and sit in with my next new assignment. Philosophy was always the first book I would pick up to study when I had the time. I would highlight the excerpts because I was unquestionably going to keep this textbook.

Philosophy is not a class, it is a discipline.

People always say to me, “oh, I loved that class.” I find this amusing because it is not just one class you had to take in college. It is the thinking that transformed and created every other discipline. It is what inspired psychology (philosophy of mind), science (hello Aristotle), political science (ever heard of Plato- “The Republic”, perhaps Macciavelli rings a little true in our given political climate), and all others.

Philosophy gives you the tools to critically analyze and truly understand.

We question everything in philosophy. Our biases become apparent through this experience. We can free ourselves from them, or we can back into a corner defending them. In philosophy, the process of setting up your problem to solve must be precise and accurate. There is no b.s. allowed, it is obviously baseless and intentionally confusing.

The stigma isn’t true.

Philosophy majors don’t just care about what the bark on the trees is made out of, please remind my spouse. We are concerned with the nature of this world, hint, hint. We are trying to figure it all out, and we demand rigor and deep analysis. Often we explore things we consider unknowable, yet further examination won’t hurt. We feel gratification when reading the works of a great thinker who came before us and there is an “aha!” moment, we connect with the message. We get it, because it makes sense. This isn’t to say we have to agree whole-heartedly with the view.

We have to defend our reasoning to seasoned professionals, every time.

People think it’s just a bunch of hippies sitting around with nothing better to do, wondering about the world. Not quite. This is a very intense discipline. You won’t succeed with mere fascination. There is application of self, and critical analysis of everything that comes into or out of your mind. Professors of philosophy got as far as they did because they are practiced, and you have to prove to them you understand and can expand. The nature of things examined in philosophy don’t already have a script, and if they do, you aren’t really doing philosophy. You write the new script by doing. Reading is reading, engaging as it is, it is reviewing and trying to comprehend past works.

Career training doesn’t matter to philosophy majors.

Ok, this might sound scary. We aren’t training for a specific career, but we are learning very important things that will carry us forward into the right career. You might work as an advocate, a speechwriter, a poet, or even the person who makes all the cool quotes for a tea company. We all (meaning everyone, not just philosophers) shape the world, and philosophers know it. People often giggle, and wonder why even bother. Philosophy will only make you a better person. The jobs/careers for philosophy majors are plentiful, you just have to know what you are good at.

Philosophers aim to make the world a better place.

This is why I chose philosophy.

‘Epic’ phenomena

Language tends to catch on with trends.
The latest: ‘Epic’.
What message are we sending with the common usage of this term? The irony is that quite the opposite is being conveyed in my opinion at least. When you use a word that means something so incredible, and incredible is supposed to be rare (which is what makes it incredible), you can only rarely use the word.
The sensation it has become, dilutes the essence of its intended usage.

The only other thing I notice with this word choice, it makes your audience think that your experience was above and beyond any every day occurence. So please, don’t make me think your life is always epic, leave some epic-ness for the rest of us to enjoy.

Have an epic week!

What other words do we grasp on to for emphasis, further diluting their strength?