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Another school shooting…

This time it was a university again.

Condolences to all those who lost a friend or family member. May all the coverage remember and honor the humanity and reality of what was experienced.

Thursday afternoon, February 14, 2008, 6 Students were killed at Northern Illinois University. For information and updates from the university, including counseling services, please go here.

I feel so sad about all these school shootings. I have been an education advocate, as well as a teacher in a democratic school. And, I feel like there are answers there that you can almost touch, if you just reach out.

[University President John] Peters said the gunman was a former graduate student in sociology at NIU, but was not currently enrolled at the 25,000-student campus about 65 miles west of Chicago. -AP story

One of the aspects that sticks out to me is always the size of the campus. In this case, the school included 25,000 students. The fact haunts me that when these students are attacked, they are among near-strangers. I can’t help but think that part of the problem is to gather together in smaller groups, to build community. I don’t think it is good to have factory-like and factory-size schools.

For a sense of hope and what to do next (among many ideas for what to do next), I will share some of my vision of how to make things better: Small school philosophy (usually applied on the high school level, though, with lessons for every level, I think) and a Small is Beautiful idea of human systems.

In peace and hope,
Kimberly
_

From the Small Schools Workshop, a resource for ideas. Please bring these ideas to your school district or your college or university: http://www.smallschools.com

Some thinking from Small Schools Workshop:

Size is one determining characteristic of a small school, yet small schools are about much more than size. In contrast to large, factory-model schools, small schools can create a more intimate learning environment that is better able to address the needs of each student and teacher. Students, teachers, and parents may all be better served when a school is small enough to allow for effective communication amongst educators, students and the school community. In small schools, meaningful relationships are fostered and opportunities for collaboration are cultivated.

A small school offers an environment in which students are more visible. When students are better known, teachers can more easily identify individual talents and unique needs of each student, offering a more personalized educational experience.

A small school staff size allows more opportunity for teachers to know each other well, more easily share information about their students, collaborate to solve problems, and generally support one another.

Small schools are a way of restructuring schools and the human relationships inside them.

More from Small Schools Workshop:

What do Good Small Schools Have in Common?

Each small school is unique to the community that it serves, however, there are some common features that often characterize good small schools.

*A maximum population of 250-300 students in a heterogeneous mix
that represents the local school community
*A non-exclusive admissions policy
*A consistent educational experience for students over an extended period of time (more than one year)
*A coherent focus and philosophy of education, and a curriculum that is integrated around that focus
*A cohesive group of teachers that collaborate and discuss the needs of their students
*A sense of shared leadership and investment among those in the small school
*Involvement of families in the school community

What do Small Schools Look Like?

Each small school is different. Small schools may be:

*Free-standing small schools: Small school with their own facilities and administration
*Schools-within-schools: One or more small schools which develop within a larger, “host” school
*Multiplex: One building specifically intended to house several small schools
*Scatterplex: Two or more small schools at different sites that share a principal
*Charter schools: Independent, often small, public schools, designed and operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs and others

Benefits of Going Small

Research shows that some of the benefits of small schools include:
*Higher student achievement
*Students are more visible
*Reduced violence and disruptive behavior
*Improved attendance and graduation rates
*Increased teacher satisfaction
*More cost effective

And…the book Small is Beautiful and the E.F. Schumacher Society

E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” is a wonderful background in why we need smaller systems. You can get the book at various places, including Powells books.

While the focus of E. F. Schumacher’s book is economics, it resonate with other lessons about human relationships and human systems. I picked it up to read once, though, I confess, I don’t wade all the way through too many books. Though, the small taste I received provided insight and poems that enlightened me about the need for community and small scale everything.

Here is a review quoted on the Powells web-site:

The classic of common-sense economics. “Enormously broad in scope, pithily weaving together threads from Galbraith and Gandhi, capitalism and Buddhism, science and psychology.”– The New Republic

Here are some words about the library, from the web-site:

The E. F. Schumacher Office and Library, located in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, has grown to a building housing a twelve-thousand volume, computer-indexed library of books, pamphlets, tapes, and specialized bibliographies. The subject matter focuses on decentralism, human-scale societies, regionally based economic systems, local currency experiments, and community land trusts.

2 Responses

  1. […] Some more info and links about this topic at a previous wilderside post: here. […]

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