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IF and ABC partner for democratic discussions in education

Allison Brown Consulting (ABC) and the Interactivity Foundation (IF) have officially partnered to offer facilitation services utilizing the IF democratic discussion method to schools and communities.  The partnership will allow for key stakeholders – educators, administrators, students, families, and others – to define issues that are unique to their local education system and then discuss possibilities related to the issues they have defined.

On Thursday, October 4, 2012, the ABC Advisory Group met to discuss the ABC-IF partnership and to explore the possibilities contained in the IF Future of K-12 Education Public Discussion Guide.  We met at the ABC office in Washington, D.C., and we covered three of the five possibilities presented in the IF K-12 Education report.

Possibility 5 (Real Public Education) was first.  Participants noted that this possibility does happen – students take ownership of their communities and communities take ownership of their schools.  One of the educators shared that the students at a STEM-based school in Washington, D.C., regularly volunteer in the local hospital and teach community members how to work with computers.  Community members are also invited to take part in beautification projects at the school.  Others agreed that it can be difficult to encourage community members to take ownership of school buildings when, thanks to gentrification, students are spread all over the city so that students’ neighborhood school or school closest to their home may not be the school that they attend.  We then discussed Possibility 3 (Coordinate Education Policy with Anti-Poverty Policy).  One of the educator participants was adamant that it is not schools’ obligation to deal with or fix poverty.  Although educators must be able to deal with children and families who live in poverty, this educator said she is encouraging teachers to take a stand against the level of responsibility some forces try to impose on educators to eradicate poverty, including for instance conducting home visits.  She said that teachers have to say ‘no’ when they are asked to go above and beyond their regular duties in order to lend a hand in fighting poverty.  She believes that other people, other agencies, also must fulfill their obligations to help address poverty.  The other educator in the room acknowledged that, in order to do the job well, teachers will likely end up responsible for helping to fix or address the circumstances that poverty can create.  Finally, we discussed Possibility 2 (Aim Higher to Compete).  One of the educators in the room posited that goals of educational attainment, such as graduation and college readiness, as articulated across the spectrum may be identical, but motivations for those goals may differ.  He said that college is a goal that he and his colleagues have for many of their students because he wants them to do well in life in the long-term, and also because, in the short term, he wants to make sure that his students can leave the city environment and abandon the negative influences that threaten their success.  One panelist raised the notion of “collateral damage” in education.  Teachers have to consider how much one student or one circumstance is demanding their time and energy to the possible detriment of other students and circumstances.  One of the educators acknowledged that, while he routinely gives of his personal time and energy to assist students in poverty, his is a big-picture strategy – he must see something of promise in a student in order to go out of his way to help that student.  He is also willing to sacrifice one or two students who are unwilling to comply with his program or the program of the school for the sake of the larger group.

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