Tags » ‘change’

Fear and Loathing in Kindergarten

March 12th, 2009 by

Recently, Alfie Kohn came up with a wickedly wonderful bit of satire that you can read about here.

While the piece doesn’t deal directly with the world of Youth-Development based afterschool programs, the import should scare any after-school professional that isn’t already alarmed about the world of institutionalized education taking over the realm of out-of-school time.

It is a little scary that President Obama came out this week with ideas on Education reform- and managed to sound like he would have been right at home in the Bush administration on this one.  Using catch-phrase soundbites such as “tougher standards”, and raising the fearsome spectre that we are being “outpaced by other nations” (is this a winner-take all race?)… Obama has outlined plans that may include lengthening both the school day and the school year.  Heaven forbid that children actually have a childhood.

Kudos to the president for his willingness to put dollars toward Early Childhood Education… but as with all gifts from the government, we must ask, “at what cost”?  While it may sound silly to some, I firmly believe based on experience with federal (and state) largesse, that it will not be long before we have standardized testing in preschools.

And to what end?  Mr. Kohn, tongue not-so-firmly-in-cheek says:

We must never forget the primary reason that children attend school – namely, to be trained in the skills that will maximize the profits earned by their future employers.

Yes, that bit of satire might be much funnier if it wasn’t what was really happening.

Stuck In The Forest

December 31st, 2008 by

Free Interior Design

I recently learned of an experience where a Luisa, a community citzen, who had had two children go through the world of after-school care, offered to take on a project- for free -  to organize a volunteer interior designer and coordinate donations to transform the environment of a local SAC center into “something of beauty, something that would inspire the kids and the staff each day when they came to this place.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but most after-school sites I’ve visited (and, yes, I’ll include my own on this list) tend to be a bit institutional-looking, with hand-me-down everythings, and not much going on in the arena of aesthetic interior design.  I was excited to see how this project would progress. 

Do You Want It?

While she garnered the support of the director of the site, she encountered stiff opposition from the agency’s manager.  Reasons cited for the opposition ranged from concerns with state licensing to volunteer vetting to simply “that’s not the way we’ve always done it.”  I spoke with her after her meeting with the agency manager, and felt sorry for her.  She came to this agency with a “gift” in her hand, and was turned away- and told every reason why it wouldn’t work.  I encouraged her to find another agency or program and offer it again- not every agency could be as closed-minded as this first one, right?  Or could it?

I was upset at the lack of vision of the manager. 

Do I close off possibility?

And then I got to thinking.  How many times had I, at my own site, closed off vision, taken myself out of being present to possibilities when they’re presented to me?  Just a couple weeks ago, a staff member approached me with some thoughts about rearranging our site’s daily schedule… and what was my initial reaction?  It was a huge NO.  Of course, I didn’t yell that horrid two-letter word at the requesting staff member, but I made my firm opposition clear.  Inside my head, the voices were shouting and rebelling against the idea.

Fortunately, after my change-resistant, “we’ve always done it this way” internal dialogue finally quieted, I went back to the staff member and explained my reaction, apologized for being so instantaneously inflexible, and told her that I might need some time to digest the idea, but I wanted to leave it open for discussion.

How many times do we resist any change, any suggestion that possibilities exist for transforming what exists in the now into something more inspirational?  I challenge you to find your automatic “NO” spots, listen more closesly in the coming weeks for possibilities that call to you, and let things that move and inspire you have more space at the table than the comfort of “how it’s always been done.”

As for Luisa, I hope that she finds an organization or agency that is open enough to possibility to see what she brings as a gift- not a challenge to the status quo.  Thanks for your gift, Luisa.