The Weekly Newsletter of Educational Alternatives -
Groundbreaking Gathering In Colombia Connects us With South American Alternatives
250 Students and Teachers at one of the Forums

On Monday
 I returned from one of the most important gatherings I've ever participated in. For six days I was at the 
International Week of Alternative Education in Bogota, Colombia. There were more than a thousand participants from all over South America.  Of the invited core participants I was the only one from the United States,  the only native English speaker.  It reminds me of the time I went to the First New Schools Festival of the Soviet Union in August 1991, opening up dialog between the West and Eastern European educational alternatives for the first time. The last day I was at Yeltzin's White House. The next day,  by the time my return train reached England, Yeltzin had faced down the tank in the very place I had been standing, the coup collapsed, and there was no more Soviet Union.
AERO featured in wall info graphic
I did not go lightly to this event in Colombia. It was the first time I had flown anywhere since my heart attack. To me it was nothing short of the discovery of life in another world. There are amazing educational alternatives developing all over Latin and South America. For the most part we have not known about this here because of the language barrier. But they do know something about us.
Much of this was arranged by filmmaker German Doin, who made the groundbreaking movie   La Educaci√≥n Prohibida, The Prohibited Education. Among other things, he convinced the Minister of Education of Bogota to fund the whole conference, including the invitation and transportation of many from other countries.

Jerry with Secretary of Education Oscar Jaramillo
My trip included participation in forums, communication with many people who have started educational alternatives, a meeting with an indigenous tribe that wants to start a survival school, and a visit to an amazing AERO member school in the mountains an hour from Bogota.
Of course I need some time to write up the details, so we'll put the full description in next week's e newsletter.  
"Sorry, I'm Not Taking This Test"
By Kristina Rizga

ONE HOT MORNING in May, Kiana Hernandez came to class early. She stood still outside the door, intensely scanning each face in the morning rush of shoulders, hats, and backpacks. She felt anxious. For more than eight months she had been thinking about what she was about to do, but she didn't want it to be a big scene.

As her English teacher approached the door, she blocked him with her petite, slender frame. Then, in a soft voice, she said, "I'm sorry. I'm not going to take the test today." The multiple-choice test that morning was one of 15 that year alone, and she'd found out it would be used primarily as part of her teacher's job evaluation. She'd come into class, she said, but would spend the hour quietly studying.

he teacher stared at her dark-brown eyes in silence while students shuffled past. "That's a mistake," he said with a deep sigh.

By her own estimate, Kiana had spent about three months during each of her four years at University High in Orlando preparing for and taking standardized tests that determined everything from her GPA to her school's fate. "These tests were cutting out class time," she says. "We would stop whatever we were learning to prepare." The spring of her senior year, she says, there were three whole months when she couldn't get access to computers at school (she didn't have one at home) to do homework or fill out college applications. They were always being used for testing.

Kiana had a 2.99 GPA and is heading to Otterbein University in Ohio this fall. She says she did well in regular classroom assignments and quizzes, but struggled with the standardized tests the district and state demanded. "Once you throw out the word 'test,' I freeze," she tells me. "I get anxiety knowing that the tests count more than classwork or schoolwork. It's a make or break kind of thing."

Read the rest here.
Last Call for School Starters
AERO School: The Knowing Garden, Redondo Beach, CA

The AERO School Starter Course is almost filled so this may be our last announcement. If you register for the course in the next 24 hours we'll honor your registration even if we go a little over our limit. 

The school starter webinar can still be seen here  here

The Case for Teaching Ignorance

IN the mid-1980s, a University of Arizona surgery professor, Marlys H. Witte, proposed teaching a class entitled "Introduction to Medical and Other Ignorance." Her idea was not well received; at one foundation, an official told her he would rather resign than support a class on ignorance.

Dr. Witte was urged to alter the name of the course, but she wouldn't budge. Far too often, she believed, teachers fail to emphasize how much about a given topic is unknown. "Textbooks spend 8 to 10 pages on pancreatic cancer," she said some years later, "without ever telling the student that we just don't know very much about it." She wanted her students to recognize the limits of knowledge and to appreciate that questions often deserve as much attention as answers. Eventually, the American Medical Association funded the class, which students would fondly remember as "Ignorance 101."

Classes like hers remain rare, but in recent years scholars have made a convincing case that focusing on uncertainty can foster latent curiosity, while emphasizing clarity can convey a warped understanding of knowledge.

In 2006, a Columbia University neuroscientist, Stuart J. Firestein, began teaching a course on scientific ignorance after realizing, to his horror, that many of his students might have believed that we understand nearly everything about the brain. (He suspected that a 1,414-page textbook may have been culpable.)

Read the rest here.
Tackling the deadliest day for Japanese teenagers
"My school uniform felt so heavy as if I was in armour," said Masa, who was bullied as soon as he started high school.

"I couldn't bear the school's ambience and my heart was pounding. I thought about killing myself, because that would have been easier."

Masa, which is not his real name, had an understanding mother who did not force him to go to school. Otherwise, he wrote for  a newspaper for children who refuse to attend school, "I would have chosen to kill myself on 1 September when the new semester started".

Masa was not alone in thinking so bleakly in Japan, which has one of the world's highest suicide rates.

Last year, for the first time,  the most common cause of death of those aged 10 to 19 in Japan was suicide.

Read the rest here.
NewsNews, Resources, & Calendar
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Thank you for your ongoing support. With your help, we will make learner-centered alternatives available to everyone!


Jerry Mintz
Executive Director
Alternative Education Resource Organization

tensignsThe Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child
Many parents don't realize that the education world has changed drastically since they were in school. Schools and class sizes used to be smaller, dropout rates lower, in-school violence almost unheard of, and teachers weren't terrified of showing affection to their students, or of discussing moral values. Of course, even then, school was far from perfect, but at least the teachers-and usually the principal-knew every student by name, something that is increasingly rare today.

Because our public school system has deteriorated considerably, many parents, teachers, and individuals have taken it upon themselves to create public and private alternatives to that system; and it is important for parents to know that they now have choices.

So how do you know that it's time to look for another educational approach for your child? Here are some of the signs:

1. Does your child say he or she hates school?

If so, something is probably wrong with the school. Children are natural learners, and when they're young, you can hardly stop them from learning. If your child says they hate school, listen to them.  

September 1st, 2015
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