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Re-imagining education: School as art

By Julia Pointer Putnam

At the Re-Imagining Education conversation hosted by the Boggs Educational Center on July 12 (as part of the Re-Imagine Revolution gathering in Detroit of activists from around the country), we asked the participants to respond to the prompt, What if school were a place where…

We received 120 responses from people ranging in age from 14-97, including students, teachers and parents.

Reading the responses felt like walking through the gallery of an art museum, gazing at practical, yet hopeful images of school, designed by the people who have been most affected by current educational policies that define school as a place to test your competitive drive, endurance skills and capacity to conform.

I invite you to walk the gallery with me. Go slow. Note what the images say about the future of education. Note what the questions say about the current state of education. Let the images help you feel the pain of young people, stuck in ugly buildings and locked in ugly boxes that don’t fit them.

Imagine the possibilities. Feel the hunger for community, the thirst of parents for safe, loving and lovely spaces for their children.

Let the images open you up to a new idea of school. Allow them to form into a picture of the kind of education we know our children deserve. Pick a favorite.

What if school were a place where…

Students and teachers break bread together.

There’s space and time for emotions.

We could learn how to turn negative energy and/or mistakes into positive energy.

Love, empathy and a passion for life are the foundation for education.

Student Council was actually a body of people that made decisions for their school.

Students and teachers are equals.

Students don’t just master what is known, but also imagine what is not known.

Students are solution-oriented.

Students feel “I can make a difference in my community.”

What you learn is relevant for who you are.

Parents are connected with resources that meet their needs.

“Someone takes time to understand and work with my child.”

We are allowed to think outside the box.

I can be myself.

We could help our community.

We could learn to love education.

The community supports.

There is time for thinking and analyzing.

The curriculum is exciting.

I learn about myself and my relationship to the world.

Smaller class sizes mean better interpersonal relationships.

We are able to talk about tough topics.

We actually make stuff.

Interdependence fostered independence.

Whole families are engaged.

The concept of someone being “smarter” doesn’t exist.

Students actively participate in creating the curriculum.

The physical space is beautiful and welcoming.

Facilities are open to the community.

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