Monday, December 11, 2006
Black Conservatives and Community Learning by Akindele Akinyemi
If Black Conservatives are going to fight for more educational choices in Michigan then they should look at what is not working first before they begin to push for more options.
Innovation by utilizing conservative technology is the key to rennovating educational options in urban regions across Michigan.
Some urban regional areas where conservative technology is taking place should think about utilizing community learning concepts for children beginning pre-school.
Community learning concepts would help integrate the learning of all subjects relevant to children's lives at each child's unique stage of development from daily experiences in the community. If we encourages kids of all ages to participate in the daily work activities of their families, family coworkers, and neighbors they would be exposed to a variety of learning activities available in the community. This would allow kids to choose those learning activities that they want to learn, in the style of learning that works for them (exploring and questioning the people around them), at the unique time that each child is receptive to learn an activity, and with whom they want to learn.
In contrast, traditional schooling sequesters children from the daily work activities of their families in the community by saturating their minds with irrelevant facts in a traditional curriculum (public, private, or home school) which are promptly forgotten because these facts are not applicable to their daily lives. Traditional schooling forces children to memorize and regurgitate back on tests those facts required by state educators, in a learning style that is inconsistent with their nature of learning (sitting in one place, listening to a teacher), at the same time for same-aged kids, and with teachers they may not find interesting. We can create conditions (community learning) that foster learning for our kids in the same way that the sustainable living community creates conditions (sun, water, soil, carbon dioxide) that foster growth for seeds.
Among indigenous societies, community learning concepts resulted in children's incremental participation in the economy by learning directly from fellow tribe members those skills needed for survival in their society (i.e. identifying and preparing plants for use as food). In contrast, our society puts kids through an extended adolescence occupied with schooling which delays their entrance into the economy. When kids are finished with schooling, they are thrust, abruptly, into an economy for which they are ill-prepared. A small proportion of curricula in schools are devoted to exposing kids to adults working in their communities. This may be helpful, but the children's exploration of the work environment is usually restricted by a curriculum that requires all kids to follow a uniform set of objectives, thus squelching each child's unique expressions of exploration and inquiry.
Traditional schools are based on educational systems that serves the needs of our production or consumption economy. Our economic system exploits the earth's resources resulting in a minority of people controlling the resources (i.e. food, water, energy, shelter) needed by a majority of the population. The majority are required to work very hard to support the centralized power of the minority by producing more things that people think they need to consume, which leads them to work harder to produce more, so they can earn more money to consume more.
In our economy great value is placed on the efficiency of production in the work environment. Therefore, our culture does not want its workers time "wasted" on teaching kids in the local community, when their precious time is "better spent" producing more things for kids to consume, for example. After all, kids "get in the way" of the adults efficient assembly line work. From our culture's point of view, isn't it better for the economy to keep kids as consumers for as long as possible? Why, if kids are able to learn to perform jobs that we restrict to adults, then we will have too many kids competing with adults for work in the job market. Then, we will not have enough kid-driven consumer demand to keep the production consumption economy going. Of course, kids don't need all these things produced by our economy for their consumption; rather, they need to establish a group identity associated with their daily involvement with adults and other kids in their community. Thus, our economy's value of providing things for kids, rather than the social and educational support they instinctively need from their community, appears to perpetuate our educational system of schooling.
One incentive for local businesses to provide learning opportunities for kids is to prepare kids to become future coworkers in their respective companies. Once again, Black conservatives should be leading in this critical effort. We talk about business all the time yet we barely support one another due to individualism. There will be no urban conservative regional power unless there is a fundamental change in our educational system. That must come from innovative minds not repeating the same mistakes.
The reason you hear me talking about the designation of educational empowerment zones and educational economic precincts is because we have to take the lead of creating 21st century School and Business Alliances. This is where the specialized charters come into play.
For instance, let's say we develop a specialized charter school that focuses on real estate. Students would be exposed to workplace simulations in schools that would provide them with learning opportunities that would otherwise not be provided in the traditional curriculum at no cost to parents or school districts. These include exposure to: valuable processes of work, such as cooperation in teams to earn a living; a variety of jobs that they find interesting; various means of living within a budget; and adults in their respective work environments via job shadowing, internships, and/or mentoring.
The bottom line is whencommunitygrate communty learning with our children we do three things.
1. Children benefit by discovering what they want and need to learn from their experiences with a variety of activities and people.
2. Taxpayers benefits by not having to spend so much money on expensive educational bureaucracies that yield such a meager return on investment because they prevent kids from learning in a manner community learning that is consistent with their human nature.
3. Local communities benefit by nurturing the development of their children into self-reliant, cooperative, and fulfilled members as they grow into adulthood. Thus, creating and perpetuating well designed, functional communities that do not generate the great suffering (i.e. isolation, depression, suicide, violence, crime, drug dependence, running away) that is so evident in our communities.
Black conservatives can only do this by the utilization of conservative technology as well as partnerships with functional businesses that will help students benefit from the communal experience of learning. This is why we break the cap off charter schools, control urban regional power and designate educational empowerment zones.