The Modern Day Slavery of Black Boys & Men

{Originally published on elephant journal here}

Black men bear the brunt of racism in America today, as they have since the era of African American slavery.

Despite the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans are still discriminated against today, both in school and in the so-called justice system.

Statistics from a 2015 report show that among black young men, one in nine were in prison, compared with less than two percent of white young men. Black male students are the group most likely to be labeled as intellectually, emotionally, or behaviorally disabled, and least likely to be nominated for talented and gifted programs. They are, by far, the most likely to be in disciplinary trouble in the majority of schools in America.

Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity by Ann Arnett Ferguson explains how the stereotype of the African-American “bad boy” came to be. The author analyzes the disciplinary system of punishment at Rosa Parks School, an intermediate school (grades four to six) in Arcadia, California.

Ferguson believes that troublemaking is reclaimed on the part of the students to “recoup a sense of self as competent and admirable in an institutional setting where they have been categorized as problems or failures.” Ferguson points out that “for one boy [the white one], ‘fooling around’ behavior provides the balance between being a ‘real’ boy and a ‘goody-goody’. While for the other [who is black and at-risk], the same type of conduct is seen through a different lens as ‘inappropriate, loud, disruptive.’”

Ferguson also explains that when white boys break the rules, school officials attribute “innocence to their wrongdoing,” and claim that “they must be socialized to fully understand the meaning of their acts.” In contrast, when black boys perform their masculinity, their acts are adultified, their transgressions bestowed with a “sinister, intentional, fully conscious tone that is stripped of any element of childish naïveté.”

Black English is not recognized by Rosa Parks School as an acceptable medium of communication and is typically described by teachers as “bad English” or “ghetto talk.” Received Standard English is expected to be used in school settings, and African-American children and teens are frequently punished for using African American Vernacular English (also known as Ebonics) in the classroom.

Ferguson argues, “Many black children are forced to choose between identification with school or with family and social group…a decision must be made to adhere to one source of knowledge and become alienated from the alternative. Most children become bidialectical or bilingual, switching between the two.”

When Alice Goffman was given an ethnography assignment as a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, she dove in head first.

Her 2015 book, On the Run: fugitive life in an American city, was the result: an account focusing on the impact of probation and parole practices on one community, where living under fear of capture and confinement shapes community members’ lives. The book hones in on the existence of the men who go in and out of prison, detailing their incessant maneuvers to evade being recaptured, and investigating how their fugitive behavior affects their lives, families, partners, and communities.

Goffman moved into an apartment in a mostly-black, low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia and became a part of the community. She witnessed 24 police raids, including one in which the author herself was handcuffed.

The principal figures are Mike and Chuck, two 20-something black men with whom the author became close friends and roommates at times. Chuck and his two younger brothers were familiar with the local jails and juvenile detention centers due to their mother’s problems with crack addiction. Although Mike’s family upbringing was more stable, he, too, resorted to selling crack after losing a warehouse job. During the one and a half years he was not behind bars over a five-year period, Mike was required to appear in court 51 times, living under the constant shadow of warrants for his arrest.

Goffman discovered patterns amid the chaos and recognizes that the young men in this community feel hunted and spend most of their energy attempting to avoid the police.

Chuck advises his 12-year-old brother: “You hear them coming, that’s it, you gone. Period. ’Cause whoever they looking for, even if it’s not you, nine times out of 10 they’ll probably book you.” She describes how the boys and young men chase each other through the neighborhood in order to practice escaping from the police.

Goffman acknowledges that her title phrase, “on the run,” describes only half of the story and explains how the phrase is used interchangeably with the term “caught up.”

Once a person is booked in the correctional system, it is nearly impossible to escape being on the run from, or caught up and compromised legally. She depicts the police threatening and using violent force or destroying the property of family members who refuse to reveal incriminating information about their loved ones. Police interrogation tactics often involve “threats of arrest, eviction, and loss of child custody.”

Due to the disturbingly misguided “war on drugs” policies that have dominated society for over 20 years, the criminal justice system has invaded the lives of young black men, among others. States are empowered to be punitive and give unfairly different sentences to those caught with powdered cocaine versus crack cocaine. The war on drugs seems to have resulted only in astounding numbers of men in prison. There is no end in sight for poverty or the drug trade.

After six years of up-close observation, Alice Goffman concludes that “a climate of fear and suspicion pervades everyday life,” with the result that “a new social fabric is emerging under the threat of confinement: one woven in suspicion, distrust and the paranoiac practices of secrecy, evasion and unpredictability.”

A major restructuring of the systems of education and penalization in the United States is urgently needed in order to produce thoughtful, actively questioning citizens and a fair and just society.

“The question we now need to ask is clear: How do we emerge from the wreckage left by a public policy that posited young black men as the enemy?” ~ Malcolm Gladwell

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24 Inspiring Quotes on Learning to Change Your Mindset

  1. “The primary goal of real education is not to deliver facts but to guide students to the truths that will allow them to take responsibility for their lives.” ~John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling
  2. “Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.” ~ Nancy Astor
  3. The home-schooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents; last month the education press reported the amazing news that, in their ability to think, children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers.” ~ John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
  4. “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. ” ~Kofi Annan
  5. “As society rapidly changes, individuals will have to be able to function comfortably in a world that is always in flux. Knowledge will continue to increase at a dizzying rate. This means that a content-based curriculum, with a set body of information to be imparted to students, is entirely inappropriate as a means of preparing children for their adult roles.” ~ John Taylor Gatto
  6. “I’ve never let my school interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
  7. “School is about learning to wait your turn, however long it takes to come, if ever. And how to submit with a show of enthusiasm to the judgment of strangers, even if they are wrong, even if your enthusiasm is phony.” ~ John Taylor Gatto
  8. “Great education means self-education, but as some point it must also mean having a great mentor. In the history of the world, the combination of classics and mentors has been the method of obtaining all of the necessary knowledge, traits and skills.” ~Oliver Demille
  9. “A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is.” ~ Lao-Tzu
  10. “All problems in life-whether they are international life, in the collective life of a nation, or in the life of an individual-are the problems of education. And the problems of education are the problems of knowledge.” ~ Maharishi
  11. “Food is a perfect microcosm of learning. Anyone who does not eat well has failed in his or her own ability to systematically learn. Learning is impossible without being fed. The act of growing according to one’s genetic blueprint supersedes the act of learning. Students who are adding inches to their height are biologically different from people who are not, and the same eating schedule will not accommodate other. Every stated goal of an educational institution (or real goal of a parent) is predicated on a student’s lifelong health, which requires good food as a foundation.” ~ Clark Aldrich

These final 13 quotes come from J. Krishnamurti’s brilliant essay, Education and the Significance of Life:

  1. Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult.
  2. Reaction only breeds opposition, and reform needs further reform.
  3. It is only when we face experience as it comes and do not avoid disturbance that we keep intelligence highly awakened; and intelligence highly awakened is intuition, which is the only true guide in life.
  4. As long as education does not cultivate an integrated outlook on life, it has very little significance.
  5. All of us have been trained by education and environment to seek personal gain and security, and to fight for ourselves. Though we cover it over with pleasant phrases, we have been educated for various professions within a system based on exploitation and acquisitive fear.
  6. Education is not merely a matter of training the mind.
  7. If education leads to war, if it teaches us to destroy or be destroyed, has it not utterly failed?
  8. To bring about right education, we must obviously understand the meaning of life as a whole, and for that we have to be able to think, not consistently but directly and truly.
  9. To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education.
  10. The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and, therefore, intelligent.
  11. Intelligence is the capacity to perceive the essential, the what is; and to awaken this capacity in oneself and in others, is education.
  12. What is the good of learning if in the process we are destroying ourselves?
  13. The individual is of first importance, not the system.

Why We Don’t Believe in School Anymore

Although we are grateful for our educations and experiences as students and teachers in traditional schools, here’s why we don’t want to work within schools anymore, ever again, nor want our children or grandchildren to be subjected to the tyranny of the classroom.

Michelle’s Story

School worked for me. I was always on the honor roll, a teacher’s pet, a nerd, an academic achiever, a lover of reading, writing and math (until trigonometry). I liked school and made many wonderful friends there. I graduated near the top of my gigantic class in 1998 in a suburb of Austin and immediately matriculated at the University of Texas, all of 20 miles from my childhood doorstep.

Going back into the classroom in 2004 as a substitute teacher and then in 2006 as a certified, full-time, bilingual elementary school teacher for me, at first, was like a sweet homecoming, bringing back cheerful memories of my early school days. So why wouldn’t I want that same experience for my daughter?

Well, even though the 1980s weren’t that long ago, our world has changed drastically. The internet mushroomed. The planet is facing dire environmental crises and by that I mean the System and the ecosystem are on the verge of destruction. We cannot, should not and will not stand back and watch helplessly.

But what can we do? We can and we must… connect with our local communities and increase the sustainability of our lifestyles through becoming way more mindful about the foods we are eating, the liquids we are drinking, the clothes we are wearing, the products we are purchasing, the mode of transportation we are using… and the education (formal and informal) that we are giving our children.

As a teacher, I gradually became more disillusioned each year of my career. After just three years in a low-income, public elementary school in south Austin, I fled the district, state and even country. Working at an elite, private K-12 school in Guatemala City for the next three years, I had access to incredible resources and made some amazing friends, yet I felt more and more clear on the fact that the traditional, “American-school” style of classroom education was not for me. My last stop on the education career merry-go-round was at a small, private school in rural Guatemala, near the shores of gorgeous Lake Atitlan. My first two years there, in retrospect, felt like utopia to me, thanks to small class sizes and a caring, close-knit community of fabulous folks. In contrast, my third year was a nightmare. Leadership and almost the entire staff changed, as did much of the student body, and we were left without the core of compassionate community that had sustained us.

I realized that even a very small, progressive school that teaches “global citizenship” and promotes peacemaking (in theory, at least), is still a school, and still just simply does not work for the vast majority of learners.

I am still a teacher and a mentor. I am also a mother, which clearly did help shift my perspective on education as I contemplated what I want for my girl. I am excited to never again have to coerce kids to sit still, nor make them line up like little soldiers, nor force them ask my permission to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. I am blessed to have this opportunity, yet I have also made it happen through my choices which have led me to drop out of the system and to try and encourage others to unite in a new learning experiment here in our neighborhood. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Kat’s Story 

School also worked for me. Because I was a hard worker. Apparently, I was even well-rounded. I was the top academic athlete in my school year after year. I even got a full ride scholarship to play soccer in the U.S. After the degree came the career, the house, the car, the husband… then the depression, illness, divorce and desperation to figure out who the hell I really was and what this “real” world was really about.

My teachers and coaches were right. Hard work did bring me success, but I wasn’t satisfied with society’s superficial version of happiness. By this point, I had read, travelled and seen too much injustice and exploitation to accept the textbooks’ versions of truth. Everything I had ever learned and worked for was a lie, an illusion, complete bullshit. I was angry, fragmented, full of contradictions. That didn’t feel like me either, so through trial and error (and reading, writing, hiking, relaxing and meditating – and yes, counselling), I learned to love.

Once upon a time, school worked for me, so much so, that I had decided to work for it. Initially, I wanted to help students gain opportunities to further their education, like I had. It was my way of giving back. But at the end of the day, between mandatory tests, curriculum, and policies and procedures, I felt I had little left to give, regardless of how creatively I approached the content. Some teachers do somehow manage to create more than consumers from within the educational system. Maybe, for some time, I was even one of them.

But when it came time to relocating, again, and submitting my collection of certificates (this time to teach in B.C., Canada, not the U.S. or Guatemala or Costa Rica), I noticed that my heart wasn’t in it (maybe it never had been and I had previously let my mind boss me around). When my teaching certificate became due for some upgrades, I got trained in NLP instead; courses in unlearning seemed more intriguing than learning about lesson plans and assessments. There weren’t even teaching job openings here anyway, so this time, everything – but school – worked out.

I fell in love – not only with myself or with life this time. I started writing more. I moved, again, this time to a small town in the mountains. I spent more time at home, learning how to garden and preserve food. I began to dream of having a child, an integrated child who will be free to become who he or she is. I’m not claiming a happy-ever-after, but this could be the beginning of a new way…

Where did you go to school? What are your feelings on your school experiences? What would your ideal learning environment look like?

Centering, Circles and Spirals

When we can connect with our inner selves and quiet our minds, this enables us to connect with the loved ones and community members around us. Peace (and conflict) begin internally. Peace is a practice that requires patience, slowing down, deep listening and compassion. When we feel peaceful, happy and content, we are the richest people in the world.

I feel blessed to have encountered the formal practices of hatha yoga, meditation and mindfulness relatively early in life and to have had the time, energy and motivation to implement them into my daily life, as both formal and informal practices. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that yoga, meditation and mindfulness have literally saved my life by enabling me to connect with my inner silence, my voice, my breath and body and my Spirit-ed soul.

Last summer, I read Self Design: Unfolding Our Infinite Wisdom Within by Brett Cameron. Major paradigm shift. It is the story of a new way of learning, one prompted by the learner. It has much to do with mandalas and spirals of development. Its core message is common sense yet revolutionary.

This summer, I am rereading it and thinking practically about how I’m going to implement many Self-Design inspired ideas and concepts in my non-classroom in our new non-school starting in less than two weeks. I like to think of it as a learning experiment. As we embark on this new adventure, I hold space for wonder, openness and curiosity and continually ask the question, what is an enlightening education?

I wonder what is going to happen this year? I wonder what we are going to learn? Of course, there is nothing that we ‘have to’ learn, nothing we ‘have to’ do. I wonder what we are going to create this year on our journey of lifelong discovery. ~Brett Cameron

Currently, I am also reading another amazing book called Sacred Ego: Making Peace with Ourselves and Our World which quite magically and perfectly landed in my lap recently, thank to the author reaching out and offering me a free copy! Her name is Jalaja Bonheim and I have a feeling we are destined to meet someday. I’m feeling the subtle process of another significant paradigm shift even as I read. Stay tuned for a complete review of her wonderful book in the next month or two.

Who is in your inner circle? How do you get centered and connect to a sense of inner peace and silence within? What do you wonder about? What are you passionate about? What would you like to be learning?

Learning to Connect, Connecting to Learn

At some point in the history of humanity and schooling, “academics” became a separate, stand-alone category, considered the most essential part of school, the “instruction” and “learning,” in today’s parlance.

The reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, along with science, social studies and all the other arbitrary subject areas. “Academics” as opposed to art, athletics, or extracurricular activities.

Imagination and spirit were oppressed. The notion of connecting with our own inner spirit or soul (or heart or shadow) at school was distilled and deformed down to the debate over “prayer in schools”—i.e. whether or not it was okay for Christian prayers to be recited at school or  school-sponsored events such as football games. (It wasn’t, thanks to separation of church and state and the right to religious freedom, though religion still creeps into plenty of public schools.)

Learning to connect is the key to learning, but with what? Our own inner selves—our personalities and all their quirks, strengths, needs, passions, interests. Our breath and bodies. Our minds—emotions, thoughts, ideas and plans. In summation, our total being, and that includes spirituality.

Can we do this within a school or learning community without venturing into the realm of religion? The growing popularity of mindfulness and yoga in schools indicated that the answer is yes. Regular practice of non-dogmatic techniques of meditation can help people of all ages better handle stress and maintain good health and overall well-being.

By connecting, we learn, in a conscious way, every day, all the time. By knowing ourselves and thereby being able to learn what we want and need to learn, we ourselves can blossom and flourish and help others to do the same.

How can we connect with nature? Our own selves? Family and friends?

How can we learn to connect with the flow of Life, or God, or the Universe (that trickiest of things to name because it is so immense and unnameable)?

By connecting in these ways, what do we learn?

ARCHIVE

August 2015

A Spiritual Connection
Centering, Circles and Spirals
Disconnect & Reconnect 
How to Own Your Shadow

The Best Education in the World?

Both Cuba and Finland have created effective educational systems based upon the simple idea that every child would have free access to a good public school. In both cases, this idea and its implementation came out of an urgent need to for the nation to survive and thrive, economically, politically and culturally.

Schooling in Cuba and Finland is evolving yet maintaining focused on lifelong learning that provides quality, free education from preschool to post-graduate studies as well as informal adult learning.

cubaIn Cuba, education is required for children from the ages of 6 to 16. In Finland, compulsory schooling takes place from ages 7 to 16. In both countries, students attend primary school for six years, after which they proceed to high school. Both Cuban and Finnish teachers are highly qualified and respected. A majority of Cuba’s 150,000 teachers have a minimum of five years of higher education; about half have a master’s degree. All teachers in Finland are required to have a master’s degree.

When the Cuban Revolution brought the rule of Fidel Castro, the education system in Cuba became 100% government-subsidized, enabling all Cuban students to attend school for free. This has helped enable Cuba to achieve universal literacy.

Castro stipulated that anyone who received this free education would have to actively promote government policies. As Cuba became officially socialist, children were taught to follow the Marxist tenet of combining work and study. This was achieved through widespread school and community gardening and agricultural cultivation efforts.

According to a 2014 World Bank report, Cuba has the best education system in Latin American and the Caribbean and has achieved great success in the fields of education and health, with social services that exceed those of most developing countries. The three main factors that have allowed Cuba’s education system to perform so well are: 1) continuity in education strategies, 2) sustained high investment in education, and 3) a comprehensive and carefully structured system. According to UNESCO, Cuba spends a generous 10 percent of its central budget on education, compared with 4 percent in the United Kingdom and 2 percent in the United States.

The Cuban school system makes every effort to reach all students, regardless of where they live or whether they have special learning differences that require extra support and services. Distance education is available for students in Cuba to study for a professional career and obtain a degree in history, law, finance and accounting, economics, science, and technology. “Mobile teachers” are even deployed to homes for children who are unable to come to school.

Of course, Cuba’s education system is not free from problems. Many teachers are leaving the classroom in favor of jobs in higher-paying industries such as tourism. The government still has much control over its citizens who wish to enter into higher education. Before they are allowed to take the university entrance examinations, students require clearance from the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. Those with a “poor” political standing may be blacklisted from furthering their education.

Despite the December 2014 agreement between the United States and Cuba, the Cuban government is unlikely to release its monopoly on education materials and its control of the curriculum. Informal opinion polls report that Cubans support the free public-education system developed under the revolution.

finlandOver in northern Europe, the transformation of the Finnish education system began in 1963, when Parliament chose public education as a key part of their economic recovery plan as they emerged from decades of Soviet influence. Most children left public school after six years. Only the privileged and fortunate were able to receive a quality education.

Finnish educators didn’t realize how successful their efforts had been until the early twenty-first century, when standardized test scores put them at or near the top ranking globally in reading, math and science. Schooling in Finland began making more headlines after the 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman contrasted it with dysfunctional public schools in the United States.

There are no required standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of high school. There are no rankings or competition between students, schools or regions. As in Cuba, Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of highly trained educators. Because teachers are required to have master’s degrees, Finnish teachers enjoy equal professional and societal status as doctors and lawyers.

“The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

According to a publication produced by the Finnish Board of Education entitled “Finnish Education in a Nutshell,” educational autonomy is high at all levels. Education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of education. There are no regulations governing class size and the education providers and schools are free to determine how to group pupils; local authorities determine how much autonomy is passed on to schools. In addition, the report avows that every child has a subjective right to attend early childhood education.

All 6-year-olds have the right to participate in pre-primary education; it is free and voluntary for children, but municipalities are required to provide pre-primary education. Finally, the report affirms the value and importance of teachers, stating that teachers are recognized as keys to quality in education, therefore continuous attention is paid to both their pre-service and continuing education.

Finland continues to adapt and evolve its education system to the needs of modern society. They are moving away from the traditional subject and toward a more integral method of teaching by topic. Subject-specific lessons on isolated subjects like history, geography, math, and science are already being phased out in Helsinki’s upper schools and being replaced by “phenomenon teaching,” which means teaching by topic, e.g. a “food services” lessons, integrating elements of math, language arts, writing skills and communication skills or a project on the European Union merging elements of economics, history, languages and geography.

How do the systems in Cuba and Finland compare to the one in your country?

What makes for an ideal education system?

How is public schooling evolving to become more effective for learners? (Or is it?)

Our Human Right to Education

Imagine a world in which all humans had the right to free, quality, lifelong education that develops our personalities to their fullest potential and promotes human rights and freedom.

Education is the foundation of us as individuals and society. What we learn, do and practice colors our experiences, relationships, communities and cultures.

I am a teacher and a mother. My daughter is just 2 and a half now, but soon enough she will be “school-aged.” I want her to make decisions about her own learning, so I will most likely wait until she’s six or seven before sending her to school, and then only if she wants to go.

I myself went through the Texas public school system and came out alright, but as an alumni and a former teacher in that system, I would not consider putting my daughter in public school in the US. (And here in Guatemala, the public school system is way worse.)

Even most private schools seem unappealing to me as a parent. I don’t want my kid confined to a classroom all day and conditioned to be a sheep. Although we live in rural Guatemala, there happens to be a Waldorf school in the nearby village. I could send her there to start. I might.

And yet there are other options…

I am excited about a new initiative I’m undertaking beginning in September. I’ll be teaching English/Language arts to a small group of four 5th graders here in my neighborhood. Two hours a day, four days a week. Mindfulness, reading, writing, literature. It should be fabulous.

My hope is that with time, we can expand this project and create a little home-school of sorts for children of various ages who live in this area and whose families are seeking a different form and paradigm of learning. We shall see…

I’ll leave you with some inspiring excerpts on education from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

 Article 26

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

(4) No one may be compelled to belong to an association

(a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all;

(b) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

(c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

(d) Fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education;

(e) The development of a system of schools at all levels shall be actively pursued, an adequate fellowship system shall be established, and the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved.

(5) The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

(6) No part of this article shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principles set forth in paragraph I of this article and to the requirement that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.

Article 29

1. Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

(c) The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.

2. No part of the present article or article 28 shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principle set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article and to the requirements that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.

A Teacher and Student in Transition

Transitions typically occur when or shortly after we experience a moment of truth. I think this is why we so often avoid the truth because it requires that we change an aspect of ourselves and our lifestyles even if we don’t feel ready or know what is next. The way I see it, change is always occurring anyway, so why not acknowledge the truth so we can be in a position to choose our next move rather than having our past, our fears or someone else dictate it for us?

We are taught learning is about building, progressing and acquiring: knowledge, transcripts, experience, credentials, certificates, careers, material wealth…

But what if learning is actually a process in letting go? What if it is through letting go that we are able to be fuller expressions of ourselves, know who we are and why we are here, do the things that make us feel alive and have the things that really matter to us or at least have the choice of how to spend our time?

This isn’t a journey about becoming something. This is about unbecoming who we are not, about undeceiving ourselves. In the end, it’s ironic. We don’t end up anywhere other than where we have always been, except that we perceive where we have always been completely differently. We realize that the heaven everyone is seeking is where we have always been…. Everything is already inherently complete, already fully Spirit. We are already as much as we will ever be. But the question is – do we know it? Have we realized it? If we have not, what is it that’s causing us to perceive otherwise? And if we have realized it, are we living it? Is it becoming actualized? Is it functioning in our lives? And so one of the most important steps is to come into agreement with your life so that you’re not turning away from yourself in any way. And the amazing thing is that when we are no longer turning away from ourselves, we find a greater amount of energy, a great capacity for clarity and wisdom, and we start to see everything we need to see. – Adyashanti

Whether we are having “success” by a linear and accumulative approach to “learning” and “living” or not, there is no denying that society is structured this way. Just because many adults and even teenagers are caught up in the business of being busy, does this mean economic success should be our only concern for the next generation? Is that what we really want for them? Is this what we really want for us now? Did we ever really want the kind of lifestyle that is required to sustain this unsustainable way of life or did we simply never see it as a choice, a series of choices?

Some of us are now realizing, no amount of education will pay off; it might take years to pay off the student loans, and what about all that time and energy invested in our training to not think for ourselves. Was all that just so we could work a job that makes us feel powerless, except as consumers? Degrees are only equivalent to a diplomas now anyway, so are educational standards actually rising as new tests and technologies promise? And what about the freedom we were all promised, the freedom we traded in for responsibility and hard work; when can we cash in on that, once we are sick and dead? Are we really evolving through endless education and certification programs or are we grasping to find our place and stay relevant in this fast-paced world? At what point do we stop buying in to this business of higher and higher education?

I don’t have the answers to these questions on a societal level, but I have been asking myself when will I be, know, do and have enough? Really, the question is when will I learn to just let go of all that I am not?

The answer to that is that I have been letting go and I will continue to do so by not buying into businesses that promise me anything and by continuing to allow opportunities that support who I already am or what I am already doing.

And every time I let go of something (anything — an activity, an idea, a belief, an old emotion) I let in something else: freedom, creativity, curiosity, love.

What is something that you have let go? As a result, what did you let in or simply let be? Is there anything else that you are willing to let go?

I’ve been a student and avid reader for three decades. I have been a certified teacher since 2004. I’ve been a participant in workshops, training programs, webinars, open learning courses related to learning (and unlearning) regularly for the last three years.

Institutions and the internet make the acquisition of knowledge easy, but I have finally accepted that no one can offer what it is that I really want. By acknowledging that I already am who I want to be and that I am already where I need to be and doing exactly what I need to be doing, I can start choosing how I want to spend my time, money, and energy.

My teaching certification is due for two semesters worth of upgrading (which is nothing compared to the work I have already done), but after much contemplation, I have finally decided that I love learning too much to be a student or a teacher again.

Ok, really this decision isn’t about the education system or whether I stay certified as a teacher or not, it is about identifying patterns, our personal patterns and the systems we reinforce, the systems that we carry within us in the form of an inner-critic and/or limiting beliefs. By identifying a pattern, we are in a position to let it go in order to be more of ourselves and to do more of the work we believe we are here to do.

My unconscious pattern was seeking confidence in the form of certificates. Along the way, intelligence became a defense mechanism for me, a way of avoiding healing my heart and expressing my emotions. School reinforces this pattern for me, so I am choosing not to go.

Education has no business being a business anyway.