[permaculture] Subject: Sustainability and Invisible Structures

Jenny Katz jennykatz at sbcglobal.net
Wed Jul 12 14:07:49 EDT 2006

Kevin and Tom and everyone,

Thanks so much for your thought-provoking posts. I've been trying to figure
out how all of this plays out, or could, or should, in our educational
system. I have two boys, ages 6 and 9, who are currently in public school
and, like most kids I know, not enjoying it. I hate the lack of ecological
awareness in their school, of school in general, not just in terms of
content but, more importantly, in the invisible structures of the place and
the day and the year and the whole setup. You all know what I'm talking
about--"subjects" viewed as separate "things" instead of related processes;
a failure to value design and creative (as opposed to critical) thinking
skills; top-down, undifferentiated approaches and "solutions" that pay lip
service to diversity but reward conformity. The whole system breaks the law
of "produce no waste," and I am trying to figure out what to do about it.

My ex-husband, who's a professor of education with a PhD from Stanford,
insists that change happens only incrementally. (His advisor wrote a book
called "Tinkering Toward Utopia.") And, indeed, working at nature's pace
seems to dictate such slow change, working within the system with a patience
I'm trying hard (and sometimes in vain) to cultivate. On the other hand,
nature doesn't ALWAYS work slowly; Gore's movie showed that Antarctic ice
shelf collapsing over the course of three months. And what are we to make of
the fact that the era of mass education is basically congruent with the era
of petroleum? What if the two are structurally inseparable? In that case,
don't we need something different? But what? And how? And when?

I've been thinking about starting a school.. or an afterschool program... or
a local learning hub a la Ivan Illich... or homeschooling (though I'd have
to convince the aforementioned ex-husband, who thinks my determination to
work outside the system--i.e., to work at a paying job half-time and an
organic farm the rest of the time rather than taking a full-time salary--is
nutty, and because of his credentials would probably have the law on his
side if I challenged him in court--more invisible structures)... or running
for the board of ed... or becoming an adjunct to an existing school... or
maybe just killing myself. Haven't decided yet.

Any ideas?

many thanks,

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