Deschooling Society/ Creating Learning Communities

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The Newsletter of Life-Long Learning Vol. 1 No. 2 Winter 2003By BILL ELLISBefore I read of Ivan Illichsdeath, I had started to write acommentary on his contributionsand the ideas in his bookDeschooling Society. Now thatIvan has passed on, I am drivento finish this piece.I have felt that many home-schoolers, and even many Illichfans, miss the message he wastrying to deliver. Perhaps myown interpretation is enhanced bythe numerous opportunities I hadto talk with him, to hear his lec-tures, and to visit with his trav-eling crap game that met in vari-ous universities around the globe.Or it may be that his way ofdeveloping an idea was to stimu-late the listeners own thought,rather than to lay an idea out soclearly that everyone capturedexactly the same message. Deschooling Society wasmore about society than aboutschools. Society needs deschool-ing because it is a mimic of theschool system that it engendersand that engenders it. In our cur-rent society, individuals areexpected to work in dull and stul-tifying jobs for future rewards, asthey are trained to do in schools.By deschooling, Illich did notmean taking schooling into thehome, nor did he mean freeschools in which curricula wasset by the students. Schooling ofany kind that limits a personscapacity and desire to self-learnat all times anywhere is detrimen-tal to that person living a full life.All life, according to Illich,should be convivial. That is, itshould be lived in joyous collabo-ration with friends and col-leagues. Learning and work alikeshould be fun and fulfilling.They should be entered into as,and not differentiated from, playand recreation. A society thatdoes not create that kind of con-vivial learning and living is notliving up to, nor fulfilling thepotential of, humanity.In later works, likeTools for Convivialityand Shadow Work,Illich further developedhis theme of living thegood life. He tookgood in both of itsconnotations good asin moral and good as inpleasing. Vernacularwas the word Illichused to express thegood life. The vernacu-lar is the simple, thelocal, the communal.Every human and everycommunity has its ownnatural concept of thevernacular. It iswrapped up in what it isto be a human. It iswhat a person can dothemselves, in the placethey are, at the time itis, without dependenceon external assistance.The bicycle wasone hardware exampleIllich often used to exemplify thevernacular. The bicycle extendsones own capability and effortsfor transportation. It needs nomassive outside system beyondthat under its operators control.The automobile, on the otherhand, is not only a complex appa-ratus requiring a complex outsidesystem, but it also requires morework and effort than it producesin transportation. If you take intoaccount all the hours you spendworking to buy a car, to purchasegas and tires, to pay taxes for theroad, to insure and license it, toclean up its pollution, and pay forall of the other costs, your rate oftravel is less than that of a bicy-cle, and that doesnt count eitherthe hours, the costs, or the frus-tration spent in traffic jams andaccidents.In Medical Nemesis Illichtook the same concept to themedical system, showing that notonly did the medical professionnot cure ills but it created them. In every aspect of our lives,conviviality and the vernacularhave been overwhelmed anddiminished by what Illich calledthe disabling professions.Lawyers have increased crime,economists have created scarcityand poverty, teachers have dumb-ed us down, the farming profes-sion has increased world hunger.With this loss of the vernacularhas come the loss of the familyand the loss of community. Thesingle goal of humans hasbecome to make it by accumu-lating things in a materialisticglobal economy.In one of his most recentessays, The Cultivation ofConspiracy, Illich brought hisconcepts to a fitting climax. Thisessay was published in the bookThe Challenge of Ivan Illich, a2002 collection of essays bymany of his colleagues, edited byLee Honacki and Carl Mitcham.Deschooling Society/ CreatingLearning CommunitiesContinued on next pageThe book, Creating Learning Communities, and other material is available online at:www.CreatingLearningCommunities.orgDiscuss the future of learning andactions one could take at: LearningCommunities@yahoogroups.comLearningCommunities list is to discussyour ideas on the concepts of 'co-opera-tive community life-learning'.Action groups and people whoare actually creating a learningcommunity can join:CCL-LLCs@yahoogroups.comCCL-LLCs is for those active in develop-ing actual learning communities. Thiscan be: holding local meetings of home-schooler and/or self-learners, being a member of an operatinglocal learning community, exchanging information with otherlearning communities, working cooperatively with others onthis list to promote LC,s reporting on active learning commu-nities, developing information on LCs forthe "Resources Section," writing a "New Chapter" for theonline book, contributing money to help thisCoalition continue or operate. any thing else that will help bringLCs into operation. Also Inside:DeschoolingLIGHThouse opensCo-ops Chart New Course for EducationLearning systems: the good,the bad and the ugly Creating a CooperativeLearning CenterPlus Newsbriefshttp://www.CreatingLearningCommunities.orgmailto: LearningCommunities@yahoogroups.commailto: CCL-LLCs@yahoogroups.comCreating Learning CommunitiesIllich discusses friendship in this powerfulessay. The friendship he writes of is not justthat of being kind and cooperativewith your neighbors. It is a deeperconspiriatio.As in much of his writing, Illichgoes to great lengths to explore theoriginal meaning of the word, and ofideas and actions related to the word.Conspiriatio is breathing together.But breathing is not merely expellingair. It is about the breath of life the soul. Conspiriatio is the meld-ing of ones inner being with others. It is wellexemplified by the wedding kiss that symbol-izes, or more exactly is, the combining of twosouls. The wedding kiss is more than the cere-mony or the license of marriage. It is abovephysical love. It is the unification of twobeings by breathing together. This conspira-tio, or wedding of souls, (although Illich, aformer priest, doesnt use the word soul) is theroot of the vernacular and of the convivial.This exploration of Illichs concepts ismeant only to put his book and the idea ofdeschooling society into context. Homeschooling grew from the ideas ofIllich, Holt and others. During the 1970s, afew courageous scattered families broke awayfrom government schools and started home-schooling. By 1980, there were some 10,000to 20,000 such families homeschooling alone.As the numbers grew, these scattered home-school cells started linking up, establishingorganizations to provide resources, and to takeon special tasks like the legal defense of home-schooling. By 1990, the cells of homeschool-ers had become a soup and ad hoc linkingbecame normal. Homeschool support groupsspontaneously self-organized in many commu-nities and on the Internet. By 2000, there wasalmost no American community that did nothave a homeschool support group.But, in the practical day-to-day struggle tohomeschool their own children many, if notmost, early homeschoolers left behind thesocial idealism of Illich and Holt. Their universal cry was for government tojust leave us alone. They argued that theyhave parental rights to raise their children asthey wish. But as homeschooling is nowbecoming accepted by the mainstream, it isalso looking again at its roots and recognizingthat homeschooling alone is not enough.If deschooling is going to serve all ofsociety it must move beyond homeschooling.Fortunately, this new phase of deschoolingsociety is happening. Conviviality and the ver-nacular are arising within homeschool supportgroups. Some of them are searching out newways to organize. Some are considering howto extend the values of self-learning to all chil-dren and all adults. Others are filling in thegaps between the alternative education com-munity and the broader progressive movement,while from the other side many progressivesare recognizing that any social change willrequire a radically different learn-ing system and a way of introduc-ing future citizens into society.In 1971, Ivan Illichs bookDeschooling Society marked aradical shift in the way peoplethought about learning. His deathin 2002 marks a time for a radicalshift in the why, the how, and thewhat of learning. It is a time forall of us to throw off the remain-ing shackles of schools and allother disabling institutions and build our ownlives, our communities, and a new world root-ed in knowledge, self-learning and learningcommunities.Ivan Illichs works are available on anumber of websites. You can read or down-load Deschooling Society websites include: wrote:Many students, especially those who arepoor, intuitively know what the schools do forthem. They school them to confuse processand substance. Once these become blurred, anew logic is assumed: the more treatment thereis, the better are the results; or, escalation leadsto success. The pupil is thereby schooled toconfuse teaching with learning, grade advance-ment with education, a diploma with compe-tence, and fluency with the ability to say some-thing new. His imagination is schooled toaccept service in place of value. Medical treat-ment is mistaken for health care, social workfor the improvement of community life, policeprotection for safety, military poise for nationalsecurity, the rat race for productive work.Health, learning, dignity, independence, andcreative endeavour are defined as little morethan the performance of the institutions whichclaim to serve these ends, and their improve-ment is made to depend on allocating moreresources to the management of hospitals,schools, and other agencies in question.Ivan Illich Deschooling Society (1973: 9)Bill Ellis is a physicist, futurist, farmer. Hisproductive (moneymaking) years were spent inscience policy with organizations such as theU.S. National Science Foundation, staff mem-ber of Congress, UNESCO and the WorldBank. He and his wife left the rat race earlyand moved to the home he was born in in aremote rural New England town in the lakes,forests and mountains of Maine on theCanadian Border. Here they live, to a largeextent, off the land. For nearly 30 years, hehas volunteered with a number of alternativeand transformational movements and currentlyfor A Coalition for Self-learning.Continued from previous page2 Learning Cooperative Quarterly Winter 2003But as home-schooling is looking again at itsroots and recognizingthat homeschoolingalone is not enough.LIFE Fest 2003is on the Way!As LIFE of Florida moves into its sec-ond year, it continues to grow both in mem-bership (now nearly 140, with twenty affili-ate groups throughout the state) and ininfluence. In November, Home EducationMagazine featured the story of LIFE Fest2002, and how we pulled together ininimitable grassroots fashion a small butsuccessful state gathering at no cost, in justtwo months.Our website,,has become a fantastic and continuallyevolving resource for state home and alter-native learners. Weve recently added aPrivate Schools for Homeschoolers page,expanded and updated state legislativeinformation, and feature the only compre-hensive listing (that we know of!) of directlinks to county school boards throughoutthe state.Our biggest news, though, is that LIFEFest 2003 is on the way, and promises to bea great event. LIFE Fest will be heldSaturday, March 22, from 10 AM to 4 PM,at the downtown branch of the OrlandoPublic Library, near food and parks (a bighelp for our frugal brown bag conference!),the history center and more. We have agreat line up of speakers and presentationsthat includes J.C. Bowman, director of theFlorida Department of Educations Office ofChoice; Rosemary DuRocher of the FloridaVirtual School; Susan Hubscher, of theKennedy Space Center (who is also provid-ing tickets to KSC as door prizes); engagingscience teacher Doug Scull; childrens his-tory book author, Alan Kay; an introductionto Earth Scouts, childrens programs andmore. Well also have a wealth of informa-tion on an incredible variety of resourcesfrom across the state and the nation at ourInformation Buffet. Affiliates are welcometo set up information tables and while therewill be no vendors, well happily set outany brochures, flyers or information aboutresources or products that are of interest tohome learners. And all for the same lowcost as last year: Absolutely Free!For more information, contact Terri pubmail@tampabay.rr.comWinter 2003 Learning Cooperative Quarterly 3Our Mission The mission of the Learning CooperativesQuarterly (LCQ) is to utilize the format ofa newsletter as a means to inform and net-work between individuals, groups, andorganizations seeking to create transforma-tion and change in education and learning. The basic premise of this change lies in theperception that we are progressing towardsan eco-society, an evolutionarily new socialorder or Gaian culture, in which all mem-bers of that society have a voice in the for-mation and maintenance thereof. Throughthis developing social order, members seekto live in harmony with the world aroundthem, decisions are made on local levelswith the consensus of local individuals, andevery individual has the right and respon-sibility to determine his/her own learningprocesses and vocations. Learning in such a society occurs at allages with students accepting responsibili-ties of a higher order, being problemsolvers, participating in democratic discus-sions and cooperative processes, and initi-ating their own learning. In order to sup-port this transformation and maintain sucha social order, learning techniques thathave successfully explored and developednew models of learning and new curricu-lum need to be encouraged and authors ofyet unknown forms need to be given avoice. As with all societies, parents, mentors,facilitators, and so forth, play a role inpassing on the ethical, moral, and socialfoundations of the society. These may attimes be unique to one group or another.LCQ does not promote or endorse any ofthese. In a free and open learning system,all options for learning and all informationare available by choice of the learner. Thisalso applies to articles and news briefs con-tained herein. It is the foundation of CooperativeCommunity Life-Long Learning Centersand the Coalition for Self-Learning that thecontrol of education needs to be returned tothe individual learner with support fromparents and the local community, and thatthese processes can best happen in the con-text of Learning Cooperatives, LearningCommunities, and Learning Centers in col-laboration with the individual as a self-directed learner. In summary, it is the intent of LCQ to pro-vide an outlet for authors to strategize, dis-cuss, define and share about programs oflearning that promote a transformationtowards an evolutionarily new social order,an eco- or Gaian society, through new con-texts in education and learning. The following Editorial appeared in theSchoolReformers column written by David Kirkpatrick.DeschoolingGovernment-owned and operatedschools not only exist in all developed anddeveloping nations, but are predominant.Only in the Netherlands do a majority of bothelementary and secondary students attendnongovernmental schools. This creates enor-mous inertia and vested interests tending tomaintain the system, although some chippingaway at the monolith is beginning to takeplace.In very general terms, those challenginggovernment-dominated education are found intwo broad categories: those who would modi-fy or create alternatives to the system, andthose who would abolish, or at least avoid,the system.The most obvious example of the latteris the homeschooling movement of the pasttwo decades, which has grown from an esti-mated 10-15,000 students in 1980 to1,500,000 or more today. These numbers havelong since achieved the critical-mass stage,producing support groups at the local, stateand national levels.There is a philosophical underpinningfor deschooling removing children fromschool and educating them in alternative set-tings which might not have evolved exceptfor the influence of three individuals whoacted independently, but not in isolation: IvanIllich, Everett Reimer and John Holt. Theterm itself perhaps first gained attention withllichs book, Deschooling Society (GardenCity, NY: Anchor, 1970). Illich, in turn, wasinfluenced by Reimer, whom he first met in1958 and who awakened him to thenegative aspects of schooling. Reimerpublished An Essay on Alternatives inEducation (Cuernavaca, Mexico: CentroIntercultural de Documentacion, [CIDOC]1971).Holt was the only public school teacherof the three. He became a reformer whoevolved into a deschooler as a result of hisfirsthand experiences with the system and itspractitioners. The most prolific and successfulwriter of the three, his books include HowChildren Fail, How Children Learn, EscapeFrom Childhood, The Underachieving Schooland Teach Your Own plus a newsletter,Growing Without Schools. Most importantlyhe inspired a movement which has continuedsince his death.Holt is thus the best known of the three.Illich, whose book was famous during the1970s is less well known today. Reimer, per-haps the original source of the deschooling orunschooling movement, died in 1998 andremains the least known of the trio. Using theGoogle internet search engine for each of thethree will lead to original source materialfrom them that is still as challenging as any-thing written since.In the Introduction to DeschoolingSociety, Illich wrote, Universal educationthrough schooling is not feasible. It would beno more feasible if it were attempted bymeans of alternative institutions built on thestyle of present schools. The results ofattempts to reform schooling in the past thirtyyears, including providing it with vastlygreater sums of money, provide much credi-bility to that view.As for the possibility of meaningfulreform, Holts view was that The schools arenot going to be reformed from within; theirserious reform is a political matter and will beaccomplished, if at all, with votes ... (P. 164,Escape From Childhood, NY: E. P. Dutton,1974) Note the if at all qualification. Holtwas overly optimistic in his predictions. In aSeptember 30, 1971, letter he said, Nothingin the future is certain, but one thing seems tome as certain as any, and that is that 25 oreven 10 years from nowschools will not be anywhere as promi-nent in American life as they are now. Helived long enough to realize that his 10 yearprojection was invalid and 28 years later hislong-term prediction remains unrealized.As the need for reform remains, so theeffort continues, as indicated by a recentemail from A Coalition for Self-Learning.Spontaneously organized on the Internet in1999, the Coalitions purpose, as its titleimplies, is to promote individually directededucation. It published Creating LearningCommunities in August of 2001 and fol-lowed with a Guidebook in November 2002,although its membership is still only a fewhundred, few of whom have met face to face.The first issue of its newsletter,Learning Cooperatives Quarterly, is avail-able on its website, and may be downloadedand/or printed.The Coalitions General Coordinator isBill Ellis, PO Box 567, Rangeley, ME 04970,tel. (207) 864-3784; email, The groups website those interested in going a step fur-ther and considering discontinuing the publicsystem, there is the Alliance for Separation ofSchool and State, 4578 N. First, #310,Fresno, CA 93726, tel. (559) 292-1776.The founder/director is Marshall Fritz,whose email address The website,, is particularly interestingbecause to date more than 21,000 individualshave signed on to Marshalls position and allof them are listed so you can see if any fromyour state or community are there.As both of these efforts demonstrate, theInternet is proving to be a valuable price-less asset to challengers to the status quoin education, not to mention other fields.John Holt was right; what the citizenryhas in greater numbers than the establishmentis votes.What, to date, they havent had is theenergy and will to organize and take advan-tage of that fact.David W. KirkpatrickDaveK@SchoolReformers.commailto: tranet@rangeley.orgwww.CreatingLearningCommunities.orgmailto: marshall@sepschool.orgmailto: DaveK@SchoolReformers.com4 Learning Cooperative Quarterly Winter 2003By KRISTEN PEPPERMany different strengths came together tofulfill an educational vision on October 2,2002, when the LIGHThouse opened its doorsin East Meadow, NY. The LIGHThouse is aLong Island homeschool resource center thatserves members of Long Islanders Growing atHome Together (LIGHT). Every Wednesdayand Friday, children of all ages come togetherto learn from other parents and each other. Itis entirely a cooperative, volunteer effort thatis truly building an educational community.The story behind its creation involves manygroups of people, and many educationalphilosophies, all united under child-centeredalternative learning.Some resource centers evolve from onegroup of friends with similar philosophies. Forthe LIGHThouse, however, it was as thoughdifferent forces, rather than individual people,put the resource center together. A group offamilies from the Long Island Action Group(LIAG) provided the drive. An establishedcommunity of homeschoolers, LIGHT, provid-ed the mass membership and defining struc-ture. A group of parents of preschool home-schoolers within LIGHT provided the open-ness and enthusiasm. The Workmens Circle, agroup that is exploring alternative Jewish edu-cation, provided the actual location. Othergroups that want to start an alternative learningcenter may also want to look for these sameforces, even if it means looking outside theirown group. This developing community was createdthrough a circuitous path, withmany obstacles to overcome. Ashort chronology of the events thatled up to the resource center willillustrate how all the needed ele-ments came together, and whatobstacles were in its path. It willalso explain how one resource cen-ter can satisfy the needs of familieswith diverse learning philosophies.Most importantly, it will show howthe community built by theLIGHThouse makes all the effortworthwhile.The concept of a resourcecenter started more than a yearbefore the LIGHThouse opened. The seed forthis center was planted on July 24, 2001, at ameeting of the Alternative Education ResourceOrganization (AERO). Parents who saw theirchildren stagnating in public school joined ameeting with homeschooling parents and alter-native educators. The LIAG was formed toexplore the creation of a homeschool resourcecenter or a child-centered democratic school.They also explored the possibility of starting aSudbury school. The parents of public schoolchildren eventually became convinced thattheir children were natural learners with hid-den talents waiting to be uncovered. The groupdid not grow quickly. It resolved into a fewfamilies and some educators.During this period of discussion andpreparation, the group took a major turn. Someof the parents with children in public schoolsstarted homeschooling. They became less com-fortable with a democratic, child-centeredapproach and more concerned with ensuringtheir children kept up the learning pace of theirpublic school friends. This is a common con-cern with new homeschooling parents, espe-cially those who turn to homeschooling out ofdesperation, instead of being drawn to home-schooling with all their hearts.The families in LIAG became membersof LIGHT to get the support they could.LIGHT was already a community of home-schoolers meeting for special events. It nolonger offered a resource center, though it hadin the past. The LIAG families wanted evenmore support than LIGHT offered, no longerdue to a desire to create a school, but now justdue to their need to work in a closer knit com-munity with a stronger support system.As the LIAG members formed friendshipswith other LIGHT members, they spoke tothem of their desire to create a resource center.As it turned out, LIGHT had just reached astage in which it had a large mass of member-ship of 6-12 year olds that could use a resourcecenter. Many of those families were also newto homeschooling, further adding to the needfor more solid support. It also had a group ofvery active parents of preschool children underfive. This group was actively com-munity building, with events held atleast once a week in different loca-tions throughout Long Island. Thisgroup was very interested in the pos-sibility of a resource center, becausemost members were still investigat-ing exactly how they were going tohomeschool. This made them veryopen to the idea of creating theirown resource center.The parents in the LIAG recog-nized that their own group was notgrowing quickly enough to support acenter soon. A resource center needsenough members to provide a mix of childrenevery day. It also needs a large enough finan-cial base to support renting some space. Theyalso saw that they could not create a resourcecenter outside of LIGHT, and just draw itsmembers mostly from that community.The parents in the LIAG had to decidewhether to continue to grow their own group,or align with an existing group that alreadyhad the mass membership a resource centerneeded. This might also mean accepting thedirection the new group chose. The familieswith children in the LIAG agreed to stopworking within their own group and start overcompletely within LIGHT.The plans for a resource center startedmoving quickly after these familiesapproached LIGHT directly. To help make afresh start, a LIGHT leader facilitated a kickoffmeeting. The group quickly defined theirvision. They decided to look for a rented spacewith at least two rooms. A general discussionof finances resulted in deciding that memberswould pay some fee to cover rent. No teacherwould be hired. They surveyed people for dis-tance guidelines, to determine the best locationradius for the people at the meeting. They alsoelected a core group to meet weekly in order towork out issues. Finally, they discussed whattype of structure to set to each day. They basi-cally agreed to a vague combination of a dem-ocratic school with optional classes held byparents or students.The last major element fell into placewhen one of the members found a building torent. She had been looking for a space for overa year, but this opportunity appeared just whenthe group was finally poised to start immedi-ately. It was a Jewish cultural center thatoffered alternative Jewish education, and theywere interested in helping another alternativelearning group. This space was perfect, avail-able with the right rooms in the right locationat the right times. They agreed to charge a veryreduced rent while the center began. Therewere two floors available. The bottom floorhad a large room with a stage, plus a fullkitchen. The top room had a foyer with twoclassrooms. The place was availableWednesdays, Fridays and some Saturdays,until 3:00.Now that the groups had joined forcesand found a viable location, they had to quick-This developingcommunity wascreated througha circuitouspath, with manyobstacles toovercome.LIGHThouse opensContinued on next pagely learn to work well together, in spite of theirdifferent philosophies. Some were new, reluc-tant homeschoolers; some were unschoolers;some were working parents; and some hadfinancial constraints. The resource center hadto satisfy everyones needs.The group decided to start the first monthwith only the original ten families, so that theycould work out basic issues. That was a verygood idea, since ten families, who had mostlyjust met each other within the pastyear, provided more than enoughissues. They opened the resourcecenter on Wednesdays and Fridaysfor their families, and held meetingsweekly. These meetings resolved alot of small, easy-to-handle issues.The group also became stuckon some big issues, such as whetherto get insurance, the best method forsetting rules, whether to allow non-members in the center, and whetherto have a drop-off center. Making itthrough these issues was sometimesa painful challenge.The insurance issue was notfully resolved. A rider to the build-ings insurance was purchased, and incorpora-tion and full liability insurance is still beingdiscussed. Until this issue is resolved, onlyLIGHT members are allowed to attendLIGHThouse activities. Allowing nonmem-bers in the center involved discussions onwhether to hold parties, how to raise funds,and the desire to have a community of com-mitted members. The group voted to allownonmembers of the LIGHThouse to participatefor a fee.Some parents wanted a drop-off center,and others wanted every parent to have to staywith their children. A compromise wasreached. Parents can leave their children withanother adult designated to babysit them.This arrangement would be made between par-ents, and not be part of the LIGHThousesresponsibility. The LIGHThouses requirementis that every child have either a parent, or aperson that the parent has designated, respon-sible for their child at all times. TheLIGHThouse, itself, is never responsible for achild. This rule will be open to change whenthe insurance issue is settled.Determining the best method for settingrules brought out the differences in everyonesparenting and schooling styles. Unschoolerswanted their children to be free to playand interact with other children. The morestructured schoolers wanted their children tocome to attend classes, with socialization andthe possibility of some unrelated educationalspark resulting from the interaction a second-ary goal. This was resolved by setting a formalclass schedule, but not insisting that childrenattend classes. Children were allowed to runand play in some rooms, but not others.After a month, with some issues stillunresolved, the LIGHThouse opened to allLIGHT members. A grand opening party onOctober 24 introduced the LIGHThouse. Mostnew members came from the enthusiastic pre-school group. The little ones were alwayswelcome, but Wednesday mornings were set astheir special congregation time.The center is currently running a few aca-demic classes, such as science workshops,math, French, American historyand reading. Most of these classesaccommodate children of all ages,with older children helpingyounger children. The classes areshort, and always include hands-on work. Holding an optional classwith children of many differentages requires appealing to the stu-dents interests and being flexibleenough to accommodate all thestudents.Students between the ages of9-12 are teaching some of theseclasses. Having the children teachthe classes works well for bothstructured schoolers and unschool-ers. The children are naturally interested inwhat the older child has to say. The olderchild has a unique motivation to learn the sub-ject matter well, and also gains public speak-ing, teaching and leadership skills.The center also runs some great artisticclasses, such as dance, yoga, and arts andcrafts. These are often the classes that makethe students ask to come to the resource center.These are all taught by people from the centerwho excel in the area they teach, which isgreat exposure to the subject for the students.In addition, there is a lot of free time for play-ing games and spontaneous activities.The families involved are currently work-ing very hard to make the center work, butalso reaping enormous benefits. The childrenand parents together are forming a community.The parents get support through having otherparents watch and teach their children.Children are forming friendships and learningfrom each other. Over the years to come, theLIGHThouse members hope that the commu-nity bond will continue to grow and becomecement to form the base of the LIGHThouse.Kristin Pepper is an adjunct professor of com-puter systems at Molloy College and AdelphiUniversity and runs Octagon, a small comput-er consulting firm. She is one of theLIGHThouse founding members. She recentlybegan homeschooling her 12- and 3-year-oldgirls.This article reflects her view of the events thatled up to the creation of the LIGHThouse.LIGHThouse opensWinter 2003 Learning Cooperative Quarterly 5Now that thegroups had joinedforces and found aviable location, theyhad to quickly learnto work well together, in spite oftheir different philosophies.The LIGHThouse sells merchandise for fundraisingat By, they were able to get a full line ofmerchandise online in just minutes.Continued from previous Learning Cooperative Quarterly Winter 2003By JEANNINE KENNEYLast month, a new charter high schoolopened in Osseo, Minnesota. OK, maybethats not big news in the world of education.But this is this is no ordinary school. Theeight teachers who work there are members ofEdVisions Cooperative. They and the other117 teacher-owners of the co-op are putting anew twist on the charter school movement thathas gained ground over the last decade. Theteachers dont own the schools they work in,but their co-op contracts with charter schoolsto provide educational services. In essence,they own the learning program. And thatseems to make all the difference.We wanted to see if educators would actdifferently if they were owners rather thanemployees, says Doug Thomas, former presi-dent of EdVisions Cooperative and now thedirector of the Gates-EdVisions Project ofEdVisions Inc., a non-profit associated withthe cooperative. We wanted to know if, pro-fessionally, it would change how they thinkand act. The co-op, founded in 1994, is oneof only two teacher-owned co-ops in the coun-try, which provide educational services at 10charter schools.The charter school movement began inthe early 1990s as states began to look at inno-vative approaches to education approachesthat would provide flexibility in learning pro-grams and advance student achievement.Today, some 2,400 charter schools serve250,000 children nationwide, according to theU.S. Department of Education. Thirty-eightstates, the District of Columbia and PuertoRico have approved charter school legislation.And earlier this month, Education SecretaryRod Paige announced an unprecedented $198million in federal funding for 2003 to aid thedevelopment of charter schools. Community groups, parents, teachers oruniversities can petition school boards to cre-ate new charter schools, which are oftenorganized around a specialty (i.e., technology)or type of learning program. The schools aregoverned by the chartering organization, notthe district school board, and receive publicfunding. But, in exchange for greater account-ability, charter schools are subject to fewerregulations than traditional public schools andare more autonomous and independent. Toreceive federal funding, the chartering entitymust be a non-profit and the school must bepublic and free to all students. Experts cautionthat charter schools should not be confusedwith the more controversial school vouchersprograms where parents receive public fundsto send their kids to private schools. But the charter school movement hasgenerated some controversy of its own sincemost chartering entities are allowed to contractwith for-profit businesses, like publicly tradedEdison Schools Inc., to run the school, hire theteachers, and deliver the educational services.In some high profile cases around the country,thats exactly what has happened, producingheadlines about financial mismanagement,charges of education for profit, and criticismfor poor student performance. While EdVisions Cooperative is incorpo-rated as a for-profit cooperative underMinnesota law, it turns the notion of corporateeducation on its head. The co-op and its 125teacher-owners contract with nine charterschools in Minnesota and Wisconsin for a totalof $4.3 million. The co-op takes one percentof that to run the co-op; the remainder goesback to teacher-owners at individualschools to pay salaries, operatingexpenses and purchase supplies and tech-nology.Though the chartering entitydecides what it will pay for the servicesin one lump sum, the co-op members atthe individual schools decide what theywill be paid and what they will spend onthe learning program. That kind of deci-sion-making throws a wrench into theargument of union groups concerned thatcharter schools may erode collective bar-gaining rights, Thomas says. That theEdVisions teacher-owners determinetheir salaries baffles them, Thomassays of the unions. Its so radical that itbumps up against traditional notions of exclu-sive bargaining rights.Ownership & InnovationIn many ways, says Ed Dirkswager ofMinnesotas Center for Policy Studies and edi-tor of the new book Teachers as Owners: AKey to Revitalizing Education, a teachers co-op is much like professional practice groupsfor lawyers, doctors and accountants. The fun-damental idea, he says, is that if teachers cancontrol their professional lives and be account-able for results, theyll offer better services.The co-ops not only offer some ability todetermine what teachers will be paid, they alsooffer the opportunity for educators to innovate.It was the desire to offer a specific typeof innovative teaching program that led to thecreation of the nations only other teacher-owned co-op, IDEAL Cooperative inMilwaukee, Wis. According to John Parr, oneof the co-ops founders, IDEAL stands forindividualized, developmentally appropriatelearning-a flexible approach which allowsstudents to move among different learninggroups and grade levels depending on theirknowledge and abilities in different subjectareas. The teachers who formed the co-op hadpreviously taught at another public schoolusing the IDEAL approach, until that schoolchanged educational directions. The teachersand parents who didnt want to give up theindividualized learning petitioned theMilwaukee Public School System (MPS) toform their own charter school-IDEAL CharterSchool (K-8). In forming the charter, the 10co-op members and the parents also decided tolimit attendance to no more than 300 students.Any bigger than that, Parr says, and youdont get to know the kids. That was impor-tant to the co-op owners and to the parents,who continue to play a key role in the schoolthrough the parent governing council thatapproves budgets proposed by the co-op.Limited school and class sizes are thingsyoure less likely to see at a school operatedby a for-profit company. Educational innovationwas a key motivator for theteacher-founders of MinnesotaNew Country School (MNCS) one of the states first char-ter schools who went on tocreate EdVisions Cooperative.The teachers at MNCS creat-ed a unique, ungraded, proj-ect-based learning programthat has captured nationalattention. Students dont takeclasses. Instead, either indi-vidually or in groups, thestudents choose topics, plan,research, and complete aca-demic study via hands-on projects that pro-duce tangible results, according toDirkswager of the Center for Policy Studies.Students have personalized workstations, nottraditional classrooms, and the school providesopen space for project discussions. It providesone computer for every one and a half stu-dents-a resource decision the teacher-ownersmade. And there are no administrators; insteadthe school has a flat management system. New Country received national mediaattention when one group project-known as theNey Frog Project-discovered frogs withdeformed legs in the states wetlands andponds. The finding launched an ocean of uni-versity and government research projects todetermine the cause of the developmentaldeformities. Dirkswager says these are theeducational innovations that arise when teach-ers literally own the educational process andtheir intellectual property.Co-ops Chart New Course for EducationContinued on next pageWe wanted tosee if educatorswould act differently if theywere ownersrather thanemployees. Doug ThomasWinter 2003 Learning Cooperative Quarterly 7Kinks in the SystemEdVisions Doug Thomas says thatfor the most part, the teacher-membershave bought into the co-op concept.About one-third of them really get it,he says, another one-third understand theco-op but dont really have time to partici-pate. The remaining one-third still thinkmuch like employees, though they areowners. Still, he considers this to be astrong validation of the teachers as own-ers concept.Though charter schools run by co-opsare highly flexible, the rigid educationaland legal systems in which they operatestill pose a few problems. MilwaukeesIDEAL Co-op has no principal; overalldecisions on the budget and learning pro-gram are made by the teachers as group,with help from a parent governing council.But that is a hard concept for the tradition-al educational system to swallow. MPScant deal with a school without a princi-pal, says Parr. So, the co-op assigns alead teacher to interface with the schoolsystem even though that teacher is not amanager for the school.IDEAL also cant set its own salariesfor its teacher-owners as EdVisions does.To keep their pension benefits, state lawrequires the co-ops teachers to beemployees of MPS. So while the teach-ers own their educational program and theco-op itself, they are still technicallyemployees of the school system, not theco-op. But in Minnesota, where most ofthe EdVisions schools are located, thestate teachers retirement association offerspension benefits to all licensed teachersworking in public schools-allowing themto work for the co-op and still save forretirement. And EdVisions Cooperative is chang-ing its structure in January 2003 becauselaws relating to liability and unemploy-ment withholding arent flexible enoughfor this unique co-op application. BecauseEdVisions Cooperative is the sole con-tracting entity for several schools, liabilityfor problems at one school will imposecosts on all of the schools - increasingtheir cost of doing business. Likewise, alayoff or termination at one school willincrease the unemployment compensationwithholding rates for all the schools runby EdVisions. To address the problem, the co-opmembers that teach at each of the nineschools will form individual cooperatives,with service provided by EdVisions-soonto be a co-op of co-ops. Is the co-op model a trend for charterschools? It may be too soon to tell, butDirkswager of the Center for PolicyStudies has high hopes. He believes theco-op model is highly adaptable to thecharter school concept and can helpresolve concerns about the for-profitmotives of some charter school serviceproviders. To make a co-op work, youdevelop a culture where people understandthere is accountability for their actions andthat they are here for a higher purpose,Dirkswager contends. Culture and leader-ship are the key to making [charterschools] work. And the co-op brings thatto the table.For more information on EdVisions,visit 2002 National CooperativeBusiness Association. Reprinted with per-mission from the Cooperative BusinessJournal, October 2002, published byNCBA. For subscription information,visit Kenney is director of com-munications and public policy at theNational Cooperative BusinessAssociation. In that capacity, Kenney pro-duces the organizations publication TheCooperative Business Journal, published10 times per year, directs the communica-tions program, and oversees NCBAs pub-lic policy initiatives for all cooperativesectors. Kenney spearheaded the grass-roots and public relations campaign tosupport NCBAs proposal for a new, dedi-cated top-level Internet domain for coop-eratives, approved in November 2000.Prior to joining NCBA, Kenneyserved as a public affairs specialist for theU.S. Department of Agricultures NaturalResources Conservation Service, as pesti-cide and food safety policy analyst forConsumers Union, publisher of ConsumerReports, and for five years as a legislativeassistant for Senator Russ Feingold ofWisconsin. While working in the Senate,Kenney specialized in food and agricultur-al policy, and other issues affecting thestate. Kenney began her career inWashington D.C. as an economist for theU.S. Department of AgriculturesEconomic Research service and laterjoined the National Milk ProducersFederation, an organization representingdairy cooperatives, where she served as aneconomist and legislative representative. Kenney received her B.A. in econom-ics and political science from theUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988.She later conducted graduate studies inagricultural economics at the same uni-versity.Co-ops Chart New CourseContinued from previous pageIn BriefThe Learning Cooperatives Quarterly receivedthe following announcement of a new book written bya community of teachers, parents, and students in aninnovative elementary school. It has just come out inpaperback:Learning Together: Childrenand Adults in a School Community,Barbara Rogoff, Carolyn Goodman Turkanis, &Leslee Bartlett. New York: Oxford University Press,2001.The central idea is that children (and adults)learn effectively when they are involved with otherswho share their interests, building understandingtogether. In such a community of learners, childrencontribute to planning learning activities, as do adults,and adults learn from their involvement with the chil-dren as well as fostering childrens learning. Children(and adults) are motivated to be involved in learningfor the sake of accomplishing meaningful, productiveactivities.The principles of learning together are illustratedwith observations in a public elementary school inwhich collaboration among children and between chil-dren and adults is central to the curriculum. (It is apublic school in which parents spend 3 hours perweek in instructional activities in the classroom.)Learning Together was written collaborativelyby teachers, parents, and students to inspire readers toconsider their own ideas about how children andadults learn, and how their learning can be fostered, inways adapted to the interests and resources of differ-ent communities. (Proceeds from the book go to theschool.)For information, look at Oxfords site: for Personalized Education TrustThe Centre for Personalized Education Trustwebsite, managed by Roland Meighan, includesCreating Learning Communities among its links ofinterest along with many other important sites.Check it out at: following new chapter was recentlyadded to Creating LearningCommunities website:Knowledge as a Complex Evolutionary System: AnEducational Imperative by Derek Cabrera. It can be read it at this link: 8 Learning Cooperative Quarterly Winter 2003By ROLAND MEIGHANIt was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Mayand I went down to the beach with my partnerJanet to relax. A week-long festival and con-ference for home-based educating families wasabout to start and about 1500 people of allages would be in attendance. My task was tostart the conference with a keynote presenta-tion on Natural Learning and the NaturalCurriculum but I was not yet clear how to setthe scene.We gazed with interest at the scene infront of us. Two young surfers were develop-ing their skills on their miniature surfboardson the incoming waves. Just beyond them twoyoung canoeists were in action, too. Twoyounger children were enjoying jumping thewaves as they petered out near the edge of thebeach, the smaller one sensibly retreating if aslightly larger one came her way.Three adults went in front of us andpaused at a pictorial display on local fossils,enjoyed talking about it for a minute or twoand then went on their way. Along the beach ayoung boy of about eleven years was workingwith what appeared to be his grandfatherbelow the fossil cliff. Somebody else wasreading a book, another reading a newspaper.Other people of all ages were swimming,paddling and making sandcastles. Parents wereon hand everywhere generally keeping awatchful eye but not interfering unduly. Arock pipit appeared close to us and we spent alittle time observing it and talking about itsappearance and behaviour.Everyone seemed relaxed and happy andnobody was infringing the rights of others tobe doing their thing; indeed, it was a miniaturedisplay of democracy in action as diversityand variety were cheerfully celebrated. It wasalso a demonstration of natural learning andthe natural curriculum.But then we began to speculate what aguardian of unnatural learning, a schoolinspector perhaps, would have to say about thesame scene. Well, as regards the surfboarders, therewas no sign of professional input. No trainedteacher was present to set appropriate tasks,attainment targets and tests. The same appliedto the canoeists who did not seem to be work-ing to a graded plan of skill development.The adults were rather casual about thefossil display and no follow-up work or con-solidation appeared to be in evidence. Thegrandfather and child working by the fossilcliff were from quite different key-stages, ifkey-stages had yet been devised for grandfa-thers. The book and newspaper readersseemed very casual and put down their bookor newspaper whenever they felt like it. Andwas the book on the approved listfor study anyway? Next, adecent teacher wouldhave had a rock pipitwork-card for when thebird appeared so thatappropriate written workcould be undertaken.So, out of the conver-sation with Janet, the beachscene could be seen as an interestingexample of a learning system naturallearning in action. I had my introduc-tion for the presentation: on the beach.My interest in learning systemsbegan when, as a young teacher, I setout to make my classroom a learninglaboratory and tried out a variety of learningsystems. I found a learning league table fromthe National Training Laboratories,Bethel, Main USA. It was an attempt torank a number of micro-learningsystems on how much the learn-ers remembered afterwards.Average Retention RateFormal teaching5%Reading 10%Audio-visual 20%Demonstration 30%Discussion Group 50%Practice by doing 75%Teaching others 90%Immediate use of learning 90%Some key propositions have emergedfrom my life-long study of learning systems:1. There exists a variety of learning sys-tems, each producing different results.When prompted, most people can listquite a few learning systems. Here is a list ofsome familiar ones: playgroups,nursery/kindergarden, junior school, highschool, college, university, early childhoodnatural learning at home (or on the beach),home-based education/homeschooling, Scouts,Guides, the Public Library, the Army, SuicideBombers Camps, Terrorist Schools, LearningClubs for Judo, Table Tennis, Tennis,Athletics, Dance, Book Circles, Learning Co-ops, Community Learning Centres, andschools-without-walls.But first wemust havea clearideaofthe kind ofperson wewish to producebefore we can haveany definiteopinion as tothe educationwhich we considerbest. So, first decideyour intentions, thenchoose an appropri-ate learning system.Those intendingto produce ter-rorists mustselect astrictauthoritari-an systemand a hate-filled curricu-lum.But supposingwe took the view thatthe worlds most pressingneed is to produce people who will do noharm, to the environment, to each other or tothemselves, and maybe even do a little good.Any learning based on competition wouldhave to be replaced by one based on co-opera-tion.The first learning system we encounter isthe natural learning system of the home.Parents soon find out that young children arenatural learners. They are like explorers orresearch scientists busily gathering informa-tion and making meaning out of the world.Most of this learning is not the result of teach-ing, but rather a constant and universal learn-ing activity as natural as breathing. Our brainsare programmed to learn unless discouraged.A healthy brain stimulates itself by interactingwith what it finds interesting or challenging inthe world around it. It learns from any mis-takes and operates a self-correcting process.We parents achieve the amazing feats ofhelping our children to talk, walk and makesense of the home and the environment inwhich it is set, by responding to this naturalLearning systems: the good, the bad and the ugly Continued on next pageWinter 2003 Learning Cooperative Quarterly 9learning process. All this isachieved, with varying degrees ofsuccess, by us so-called amateurs the parent or parents, and othercaregivers such as grandparents.What we discover as parents isthat, if supported and encouraged,children will not onlybegin to make sense oftheir world, but canalso acquire the atti-tudes and skills neces-sary for successfullearning throughouttheir lives.But, this processof natural learning canbe hindered or haltedby insensitive adultinterference. Sadly,the schools available tous, whether state or private, areoften based on an impositionalmodel which, sooner or later,causes children to lose confidencein their natural learning and itsself-correcting features, andinstead, learn to be dependent onothers to school their minds. Inthe process, one writer, E. T. Hall,concluded, Schools have trans-formed learning from one of themost rewarding of all humanactivities into a painful, boring,dull, fragmenting, mind-shrinking,soul-shrivelling experience.A prize-winning New Yorkteacher, John Taylor Gatto,describes this kind of schooling astraining children ... to be obedi-ent to a script written by remotestrangers ... Education demandsyou write the script of your ownlife with the help of people wholove or care about you.Until quite recently in humanhistory, this natural curriculumwas sufficient to keep most of usgoing throughout life. But then,about 150 years ago, an institutioncalled the compulsory school wasintroduced. And suddenly, thenatural curriculum was misplaced.The natural questions becamereplaced by an imposed curricu-lum based on THEIR questions,THEIR required answers, andTHEIR required assessment. Themessage is dramatically changed:Your experience, your concerns,your hopes, your fears, yourdesires, your interests, they countfor nothing. What counts is whatwe are interested in, what we careabout, and what we have decidedyou are to learn. (John Holt, inThe Underachieving School, p.161)2. We need to classify learn-ing systems to understand thembetter. John Holt proposed twocategories. They were, indoctri-nators who worked ON childrenand educators whoworked WITH chil-dren. There are severaltwo categoryattempts of this kind tobe found. They allhelp us make a start.Here is a more com-plex approach I devel-oped which classifiedsystems asAuthoritarian,Autonomous andDemocratic, alongwith a fourth category ofInteractive.The Authoritarian View ofEducation or You will do it ourwayIn authoritarian education, inits various forms, one person, or asmall group of people, make andimplement the decisions aboutwhat to learn, when to learn, howto learn, how to assess learning,and the learning environment. Allthis is usually decided before thelearners are recruited or met. Asan exclusive method, it isfavoured by totalitarian regimesbecause it aims to produce theconformist mentality.The Autonomous View ofEducation or I did it mywayIn autonomous educa-tion, the decisions aboutlearning are made by theindividual learners. Eachone manages and takesresponsibility for his orher learning pro-grammes. Individualsmay seek advice orlook for ideas aboutwhat to learn and howto learn it by research orby consulting others.They do not have toreinvent the culture, butinteract with it. As anexclusive method it isfavoured by liberal orlibertarian regimes toproduce thinking indi-viduals.The DemocraticView of Education orWe did it our wayIn democratic education, thelearners as a group have thepower to make most, or even all,of the key decisions, since poweris shared and not appropriated inadvance by a minority of one ormore. Democratic countriesmight be expected to favour thisapproach, but such educationalpractices are rare and often meetwith sustained, hostile and irra-tional opposition.The Interactive View ofEducation or We did it in a vari-ety of waysIn the interactive approach toeducation, the authoritarian, dem-ocratic and autonomous ideolo-gies are used in a variety of pat-terns. They may be alternated orrevolved or used in some order ofranking.3. A key lesson from thestudy of learning systems is thatHOW you learn is as importantas, if not more important than,WHAT you learn.The manner of learning is ascritical as the learning itself.Thus, it is assumed that literacy isautomatically good. But, learningliteracy in a bully institutionmakes you a literate bully.As governments world-widebang the drum for more educa-tion, Don Glines ofEducationalFuturesProjects,USA,introducesa soberingthought:...themajority ofthe dilemmasfacing societyhave beenperpetratedby the besttraditionalcollegegradu-ates: environmental pollution;political ethics; have/have notgap; underemployment (infact) the sixty-four micro-prob-lems which equal our one macro-problem!So, if many of the highachievers are responsible for thevarious major problems the worldfaces, perhaps we need less com-petition and more wisdomthrough co-operation?The US radical, Nat Needlewrote in response to PresidentClintons call to US citizens toprepare themselves to compete inthe most ruthless century yet:... if the 21st centurybecomes the story of humanbeings around the world pittedagainst each other in a strugglefor well-being, even survival, thiswill only be because we failed toimagine something better andinsist on it for ourselves and ourchildren.I dont care to motivate mychildren by telling them that theywill have to be strong to survivethe ruthless competition. Idrather tell them that the worldneeds their wisdom, their talents,and their kindness, so much sothat the possibilities for a life ofservice are without limits of anykind. (AERO-Gramme, No. 25,Fall 1998)Learning systems: the good, the bad & the ugly In democratic education, the learners as a grouphave the power tomake most, or evenall, of the key decisionsContinued from previous pageContinued on next page10 Learning Cooperative Quarterly Winter 20034. Choosing to operate a mass, coercive,standardised learning system inevitably stiflesvariety in achievement.In the Smithsonian research into thelearning regimes of the genius,H.G.McCurdy of the University of NorthCarolina identified three key factors:1. a high degree of individual attentiongiven by parents and other adults andexpressed in a variety of educational activities,accompanied by abundant affection,2. only limited contact with other chil-dren outside the family but plentyof contact with supportive adults,3. an environment rich in, and supportiveof, imagination and fantasy.McCurdy concluded that the mass, coer-cive schooling systems of the world based onformal methods, coercion and inflexibleorganisation, constituted a vast experiment inreducing all these three factors to the mini-mum. The result was the suppression of highachievement.In my book The Next Learning System,the ten or so time switches of change that arelikely to move learning systems into morefluid patterns are described. Five are ofmajor significance:a. We now have an information-rich soci-ety with direct access to information throughcommunications technology.When mass schooling was established,people lived in an information-poor environ-ment. Since then, radio, television, the explo-sion of specialist magazines, computers,videos and the like, have all provided themeans of making most of the products of theknowledge explosion readily available to any-one who wants them.b. We now know much more about howthe brain actually works.The new technologies allow us to watch aliving brain at work. As a result, most of theassumptions of behavioural and cognitive psy-chology are in question. The brain, amongother things, is better at pattern-making thanpattern-receiving.c. We now know of thirty dif-ferent learning styles in humans.It follows that any uniformapproach is intellectual death tosome, and often most, of the learn-ers and is therefore suspect.d. We now know of at leastseven types of intelligence.Howard Gardner in his bookThe Unschooled Mind (1994) reports his workon multiple intelligences. Seven types of intel-ligence (analytical, pattern, musical, physical,practical, intra-personal, and interpersonal) areidentifiable. Only the first is given seriousattention in most schools. Yet, we now knowthat so-called ordinary people are capable offeats of intellectual or creative activity in rich,challenging, non-threatening, co-operativelearning environments and the narrow compet-itive tests currently in use to achieve the rais-ing of standards just prevent this from hap-pening.e. Home-based education has proved tobe remarkably successful.There are a clutch of reasons why this isso, but a significant one is the use of purpo-sive conversation as a learning method, in sub-stitution for most formal teaching. Self-man-aged learning to replace teacher-directedinstruction is another. A learner-friendly set-ting, efficient use of time, toleration of differ-ent learning styles, multiple intelligences, areamong others.In the end, the verdict ofwhich learning systems are good,bad and ugly is wide open todebate. Those of us proposingcommunity learning centres toreplace the domination-riddledschool systems see that the nextlearning system will need to offeralternatives for everybody, all thetime. Only a flexible, humane,personalised and democratic learn-ing system will produce peoplewho seek to do no harm to others, the environ-ment or themselves, and who try to build aculture based on such things as co-operationand fairness. NOTES ON THE AUTHOR:Roland Meighan D.Soc.Sc, Ph.D.,B.Sc.(Soc)., L.C.P.., Cert. Ed.Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.Writer, publisher, broadcaster, and con-sultant/researcher on learning systems, pastpresent and future. His work on The NextLearning System has been translated intomore than twelve languages. Director ofEducational Heretics Press, Director ofEducation Now Publishing Co-operative Ltd.Director/Trustee of the Centre forPersonalised Education Trust Ltd. FormerlySpecial Professor of Education at theUniversity of Nottingham. Formerly Lecturerand then Senior Lecturer in Education at theUniversity of Birmingham.Author of several books including:Natural Learning and the NaturalCurriculum;Learning Unlimited; The Next LearningSystem: and why homeschoolers aretrailblazers;John Holt: personalised education instead ofuninvited teaching;Flexischooling; Theory and Practice ofRegressive Education; and the classic text - A Sociology of Educating.Monthly columnist in Natural Parentmagazine until its recent demise.He is an acknowledged educationalheretic for his view that mass compulsoryschooling is an obsolete and counterproduc-tive learning system which should be phasedout as soon as possible and replaced withsomething more personalised and humane.Roland Meighan edheretics@gn.apc.orgLearning systems: the good, the bad & the ugly Continued from previous pageIn the end, the verdict of which learning systems are good, bad and ugly is wide open to debate.Pioneers of ChangePioneers of Change is an emerging, self-organising, global learning community ofcommitted young people, in their mid-20s to early 30s, from diverse cultural, social,and professional backgrounds. Pioneers of Change numbers over 1000 individual pio-neers in over 70 countries, who have made a personal commitment to continuous learn-ing and contribution.Pioneers organise in learning teams, project groups, and local networks as part ofthe flexible structure of the organisation. A series of learning programs form the core ofour activities.For more information on Pioneers of Change, see learn more about the background beliefs and philosophy of Pioneersplease visit: the Pioneers of Change Newsletter, see: In Briefmailto: edheretics@gn.apc.org GUIDELINES: ARTICLESLearning CooperativesQuarterly invites read-ers to submit articlesfor publication. Articles should coverany subject of interestto groups and individu-als worldwide involvedin or researching learn-ing cooperatives, learn-ing communities,learning centers and allissues relating to self-learning. These articles should beno more than 2000words and should beaccompanied by a shortbiography of 40 wordsor less. Learning CooperativesQuarterly reserves theright to edit for reasonsof clarity, but articleswill not be edited forcontent without per-mission of the author.Please send articlesthrough email to marbleface@aol.comNEWS BRIEFS As part of LCQ's com-mitment to networking,we welcome shortupdates and informa-tional news briefs fromlearning cooperatives,learning communities,and learning centers.We also encourageinformation concerningconferences or other organizational func-tions and activities thatmight be of interest toour readers. Please limit theseentries to 400 words orless and include con-tact information.Learning CooperativesQuarterly reserves theright to edit for reasonsof clarity. Please sendnews briefs throughemail to marbleface@aol.comAll material submittedto LCQ are the proper-ty of LCQ and may notbe published withoutthe editor's writtenpermission.Winter 2003 Learning Cooperative Quarterly 11Creating a CooperativeLearning Center Homeschooling author Katharine Houks book,Creating a Cooperative Learning Center, (LongviewPublishing, $16.95) promotes itself somewhat verbosely as apractical, realistic, yet inspirational guide for homeschoolersdesiring a gathering place designed specifically to enhancethe home education experience. While the writing is awk-ward at times, and some of the reflections by LearningCenter members seem rather like space fillers, the book man-ages to live up to most of its promises. It provides compre-hensive information and resources that should help make thetransition from homeschool group to Learning Center bothachievable and efficient. It takes Houk a while to get to the point of the book, asshe recounts the history of her own learning center; but onceshe gets to the heart of her mission, Houks working outlinefor creating a viable community educational resource isinteresting and eye-opening. Subtitled An Idea Book forHomeschooling Families, the book is chock full of samplecontracts, parent-student agreements, by-laws, registrationforms and more.Houk takes readers through the process of incorpora-tion, program planning, registration issues, corporate struc-ture, decision-making processes, legal considerations, financ-ing and the variety of challenges facing any group of peopletrying to create a democratic school model in any communi-ty. Houks candor throughout the book regarding the pitfallsof her efforts, as well as her triumphs, is both refreshing andhelpful for its insights. I appreciated the honest assessmentsof growth issues and management problems and the creativesolutions developed to address them. I especially valuedHouks treatment of the groups necessary dynamism andhow it continues to adapt to meet changing needs. Change is the learning centers constant, observesHouk. As a process rather than a thing, TALC (TheAlternative Learning Center) looks different from one ses-sion to the next, and would look different in different envi-ronments. The evolving nature of TALC can be a majorsource of frustration to those who long to settle on the oneright way to do it, yet if it becomes ossified, that would leadto a different set of problems.Overall, Creating a Cooperative Learning Center is ahandy reference and a good starting point for small groupsconsidering upgrading to a community-based learning center.Ill certainly keep it on my bookshelf and refer to it often aswe evaluate the growth and focus of our own local home-school group.Terri Willingham and her husband Steve have home-schooled their three children for the past nine years. Theylive in Tampa, FL, where Terri writes a Home Learning col-umn for the St. Petersburg Times, as well as a variety of arti-cles for Home Education Magazine, Life Learning and otherperiodicals. Terri helps direct the state support and network-ing group, LIFE of Florida ( forhome and alternative learners in Florida, as well as a localLIFE chapter in Tampa. You can contact Terri Publication ReviewBuilding co-operative communities is what the Learning CooperativesQuarterly is all about. An important resource for them is CommunitiesJournal of Cooperative Living (Rt.1 Box 156, Routledge, MO 63563,USA; $20 4 issues). Communities is primarily of, by, and for intentionalcommunities. But its articles, and the books it publishes, are relevant toanyone attempting to create, form or maintain a community of any type.Its Fall/Winter 2002/2003 issue is mostly about the economics of commu-nities. How do they support themselves and how do its members supportthemselves. The options are enlightening for any communal practitioner.The spring 2003 issue will concentrate of EcoVillages. Anyone wishing toinput to it is invited to contact Communities Magazine, 52 Willow St.,Marion NC 28752 USA, or communities@ic.orgThe Learning NetworkThe Learning Network, South Wales, is still at the planning stage withan initial investment of 9 million pounds from the National Assembly forWales on the table.We are developing a partnership of five local authorities, learningproviders, including higher and further education, community educationand other agencies involved in learning.The network will create about 50 main community learning centres(Learning Action Centres) with many more satellites and access pointsin community centres, schools, libraries, museums, supermarkets, etc.The network aims to be learner centred with full learner representa-tion on the partnership board and the Learners Voice taken seriouslythroughout so that learning opportunities really are geared toward whatpeople want and every effort is made to remove barriers to learning andincrease motivation for learning in a range of settings.Contact information:John RogersCommunity FacilitatorUniversity of Wales College Newportc/o TradeteamFestival DriveEbbw Vale, Gwent, NP23 8XFTel: 01495 350283, Fax: 01495 308178Email: marbleface@aol.commailto: marbleface@aol.comhttp://www.lifeofflorida.orgmailto: pubmail@tampabay.rr.commailto: