I am always hesitant to write about what I hear people talk about because I’m afraid of portraying them inaccurately, but I will do my best here.
So, a few days ago I went to a talk at the Mulberry School in Kingston, which is a Waldorf school, and listened to Les Black’s talk on Choice Based Education. The first part of his talk didn’t have much to do with me and I wasn’t very interested (he was talking about the associations and politics within Waldorf education), but his second talk definitely piqued my interested.
Generally, what he was arguing is that in a truly democratic society, everybody should have the ability to choose the kind of education they want. That is, the public education system is created as this “one-size fits all” sort of model, and although there are many alternatives out there (private / independent / alternative schools like Waldorf/Steiner, Montessori, Sudbury etc.), many of them cost extra because they are not part of the public education system, and are therefore funded by the parents. However, the people who choose these schools or have the ability to attend these schools are of a particular demographic (basically people who can afford it / can afford to make the sacrifices to send their kids there). However, Black is arguing that everybody should have the right to choose whatever education they want to send their child to, so that when all children come out into the real world there is a “diversity of thought”, in that people have their opinions and are taught differently that caters to their needs (or I suppose what their parents deem their needs to be).
Okay, so I know this sounds all fine and dandy, but of course there are a lot of logistical issues, but this is not what bothers me the most about it. I mean, I guess it makes sense … but I am bothered by it mostly because of my issue with Charter Schools (and my main frustration with them based on my understanding … although granted I’m not from the States so therefore may not actually understand the issue very well), is that some of these schools cost more money, and although funded by public money, are only afforded to the “lucky” (as evidenced by The Lottery). I haven’t done all my reading up on the Charter School debate, but it just seems like such a difficult thing to navigate. You have independent schools arguing that they should receive public funding, when essentially their curriculum is catered to a specific group. But then, that would mean that technically any group should be able to come up with their own curriculum to teach to a certain group.
But who gets to say that these forms of teaching / schooling are legitimate? He suggested a sort of auditing council that evaluate whether these schools are meeting their mission statements, and base the evaluations on what these schools put out as their goals. He also made a generalizing statement that obviously these schools are not meant to promote hate, but are mostly different based on pedagogy / ways of teaching … but I find this difficult ‘cause although our current public education system does not explicitly teach hate (actually sometimes it does … but in a more subtle way), it certainly is not well-rounded and critical as I think it should be.
Going to this talk really got the cogs in my head rolling … so much thinking … I need someone to talk to about this … to perhaps just get out my thoughts, or something.
(Also, to perhaps put this into more perspective, I am currently doing an alternative practicum at the Mulberry School in Kingston which is a Waldorf/Stiener school. I have been there for 1 week so far, and have 3 more weeks of this practicum, that’s how I found out about the talk and such because my host teacher invited me to attend).