The Design a School as well our Summerhill Democratics consultancy are offered to kick start a new phrase: Activation Not Inspiration. Here are some Thoughts.
Thoughts From Leonard
Activation not Inspiration
I’ve seen waves of inspiration, waves of media attention ( especially in the early 70’s), waves of joyful, inexperienced educational pilgrims come and inevitably leave during my 47 years in Democratic Free School education. And, yes it is true Democratic Free Schools are mildly more plentiful now: a light dusting twinkling here and there in the landscape; plus a few long term survivors. Most are effectively unknown, and just as fragile, just as liable to ideologically difficulties, prone to collapse, or to be hounded and crushed by governments now as in 1925, 1947, 1972, 1985, 1995 and so on. I read a book recently published in 1947 that answered questions about a democratic school posed by visiting adults who might as well have come to take a look at a Moon Station. 95% of the general public would feel the same way now.
That is not substantial progress.
I am mystified and frustrated why we don’t relentlessly share hard, factual, insider information and experience. We do have what might be called a Guild of Practical, Experienced Elders and we do have several long- lasting successful schools; those who have been through the good, the bad and he ugly and come out on top. That know what the structures are behind what a visitor observes. And I emphatically don’t mean the flit-about attend every conference Key Note Speaker Clique, or the author of the alternative book of the season.
The ‘Celebrity’ types that conference organizers are always desperate to sign up.
Many have never founded a Democratic Free School or worked in one for any extended period of time by the way. If someone is a Democratic Free School rock star with fans then they don’t understand the purpose of Democratic Free School philosophy. If you sense ego, turn away. There are better choices.
So ban Key Note Speakers. If your conference needs Key Note Speakers you have failed to organize a useful conference.
You don’t need a line-up of Edutainers. You want the workers, the nitty gritty founders to come together and give workshops, teach and share clear, concise info and give an un-spiced serving of the plain and practical. What you want is to enlist the people who don’t want to come to conferences. People who are no fun at all, unless making a real difference to education and democratic states is why you are attending
Don’t Bring the Kids
We have way too many ‘come one, come all, bring the kids, we will find some time between macramé and juggling and excursions and dances and singalongs to celebrate Democratic Education! Don’t worry it won’t be serious! ’ We tend toward Jamborees and Glastonbury Happy conferences. That give us the old Music Festival high. But do not offer in sustained, critical sessions what’s needed to Activate with Skill and Confidence the building of hundreds of Transitional Models. We gotta grow up.
What we need are thousands of functioning Democratic free Schools. Of all sizes. To create something solid and most of all long lasting; that will challenge the mainstream in such a way that large numbers of ‘non alternative’ parents will see through the status quo, become unafraid and be motivated to Activism; will group together, march, demand, go on strike, boycott for an education that is fit and proper for a Serious Democratic State.
The public won’t do that without successful Transitional Models that they can pointed to. Where they can say, “Why not for my child?”
Without serious grassroots knowledge of the basics of Democratic Free Schools that can then start to create movements along the Diem25 model, the Corbyn Labour model, the Bernie Sanders model, the Barack Obama model, the Saul Alinsky Model we will not be secure.
Activists from the 70’s to the present day have totally missed education. A tragic error of our times. Those in Democratic Free School Education have mostly traded Hard Edged Activation for the belief that Inspiration and High Hopes will conquer.
A second tragic error. But one we can correct.
Make Activation our Inspiration. Hard, relentless, nuts and bolts analysis, lobbying, constructing, learning and doing our Inspiration. If doing the work and then more work doesn’t make you happy, we will never move forward. And be bold and leave the kids at home. Obama did, Bernie did, Corbyn did, Diem25 does. We very often will need to do the same.