EUDEC Newsletter December 2014
many greetings from between the years. We hope you had some relaxed and joyful days. To continue those jolly times you may brew yourself the almost obligatory cup of tea and enjoy this newsletter.
We are excited today to share with you the stories of 2 EUDEC start-up projects and a testimony from Ramin, who joined the EUDEC council this summer. We hope that these stories will fuel you with some extra energy to continue helping our vision gain some visibility and momentum throughout Europe.
To facilitate the exchange between democratic schools and start-ups we want to set up a mailing list for members who work in a school or are in the process of founding one.
Enjoy the read!
Table of contents
“Never doubt...” — Start-up from Bulgaria
Magi Blagoeva, from Bulgaria
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead
My name is Magi Blagoeva and I’m a Chairman of Bulgarian Society for Democratic Education. In my life I grew up with the feeling that nothing depends on us, someone or something else rules our life and we just obey, follow, perform. It is a feeling that was spread all over my country - small land, located in the South East Europe and in particular in the north-eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula, between the mesmerizing Black sea, the Danube river, Greek and Turkish possessions and the Serbian land, at the crossroads of three continents. Land, which once was a place of great history, magnificent past and life from ancient times, honest, fair and freedom-loving people with great spirit, who gathered together and defended their right to free choice and life. But then difficult, dark and gloomy times occurred and nearly two centuries the land came under Byzantine rule, and later another 5 centuries under Ottoman and then years of socialism and suppression of individual spirit. Those years accommodated obedience and required following other’s wishes and desires. People’s free will and choice were lost somewhere in the road as well as their right to know who they really are indeed.
This small land, called Bulgaria, did go out of this situation more than 20 years ago. But just on paper. In people's mindset they continued to be slaves - slaves to someone else’s desires, choices and decisions, living the way someone else tells and thinking that nothing depends on them. It could be definitely called slavery of the mind. Democracy with passive and obedient society, democracy with no active and engaged citizens, democracy with people who believe their voice doesn't really matter and had stopped to express it long time ago.
People learn in school how to obey and follow orders, how not to think and ask questions, that are important for themselves, but are not in the program that someone decided is important for them all, how not to follow their wishes, interest, talents, aims, but to go after the school’s aims and choices.
But the scariest part was that most of the people didn’t follow their own desires and interests, so they didn’t get to a place they like. So it was full with people, who don’t feel ok with what they are doing, they don’t feel ok with their life and themselves, but believe that nothing can be done, because nothing depends on them.
This was a trap. It was an enraptured circle. Where was the beginning? I realised the beginning is exactly in the beginning. When a new life appears. The way we treat it. When we let him /or not/ know himself. When we let him /or not/ explore the world. It starts from the very beginning - from the first lessons a child learns in life: Does my voice really matter? Is it important what I have to say? Am I the one that controls my life? Do my opinion, desires, interest matter? Is it important who I am? Can I follow my own passion, my own feelings, my own path, myself? Do I have to compare with others or should I focus on building my own self? Is there anyone else, who says what is important for me or I am the one who decides for myself? Do I have the right to decide for myself? Who is responsible for my decisions and actions, for my life? If I make choices, who takes their consequences? How do I participate in a community with other people?
I found other people, who believed that:
in order to be free, you have to live in freedom
in order to find your own place in the world, you need time and space to search and look for it in a loving and free community, who support you the way you are and does not expect you to be something else.
in order to understand and really live the democracy, you have to grow up in a democracy
And we decided to act. We decided to build a place, where children will grow in freedom, right to choose their life and right to follow themselves at the moment and passion they are as long as they need. A place where they are equal. A place where everybody, regardless of gender of age are equal and important and significant and accepted the way they are. A place where they can test, experiment and explore themselves and the world in many possible ways - to play, to listen, to observe, to talk, to have a chat, to act…but it’s their choice, and it’s their responsibility.
Our government, educational system and a big part of the society are a bit in shock of the idea and do not support it, it is a big change in the paradigm, a total revolution. Our laws do not allow it. But those were not obstacles. We worked hard for a year, made plans and strategy with steps, started to promote, talked a lot about democratic education, more and more people, who wanted this change and were ready for it, got inspired and joined the community. We became bigger and stronger.
And three months ago we opened a democratic school in Sofia - the capital of Bulgaria. It is very hard to describe the joy of our 25 students, the satisfaction in our souls, as well as all the difficulties that we face from now on as a start-up school – a lot of questions, no financial support, no legislation…
But faith in what we do and the belief that this is exactly what we want to do helps us see the light in the darkness and work with pleasure and love for our dream – it already exists, now we want to make it stronger and possible for more and more people.
Right now, it is a very important moment for our country, for the future of the educational system and for this place - for all the next generations and their lives. Right now a new law for school education is being prepared for voting. Right now we want from our government to provide an extensive discussion with citizens and organisations in order to achieve a better understanding of the need of new vision of education and better conditions for us to exist. Right now we enter the discussion and make a better future possible. Right now we change things. And we believe in their possible change. Not only for our children, but also for ourselves.
Room for Trust — Start-up from Germany
(Eine deutsche Version findet ihr unter dem englischen Text.)
In March 2013 a small group consisting of teachers, educators, educationists, and other critical people, began searching for paths to remake school as a free space after having made the respective negative experiences in the standard school system’s authoritarian structures. That free space should grant people the time and space to develop free, emancipated, autonomous, critical and happy personalities.
Engaging with Daniel Greenberg’s records initiated an exciting, inspiring and enlightening journey through the world of democratic education.
After a series of hospitations, including visits to the Kapriole Freiburg and the Schüler/innen-Schule in Vienna, we decided to embark upon that path ourselves by opening a free, inclusive, and democratic school as a seed for democratic education.
In December 2014, one-and-a-half years after that personal journey began, we have developed our preliminary educational concept, confronted countless clerical and bureaucratic obstacles, collected a lot of interesting and fruitful impulses through our own informational events and stands, and gained cooperations and a great many supporters.
Currently, we are on the verge of getting a home for our school and finishing up work on the necessary paperwork and requirements for the official approval process, and we are very happy about our future students‘ pre-registrations arriving here almost on a weekly basis and the great trust that people are putting into us.
We are very optimistic that we’ll open up in the 2015/16 term!
In the network of democratic schools we have found an extraordinary and inspiring community of fellow activists whose support is giving us each and every day the courage and strength to go down that road and make school a place that invites children to discover the joy of learning and, most of all, the joy of living.
Raum für Vertrauen
Im März 2013 begab sich eine kleine Gruppe bestehend aus Lehrkräften, Erzieher/innen, Erziehungswissenschaftler/innen, Pädagog/innen und anderen kritischen Personen nach einschlägigen Erfahrungen mit den autoritär geprägten Strukturen des Regelschulsystems auf die Suche nach Möglichkeiten Schule wieder zu einem Freiraum zu entwickeln, der Menschen den Raum und die Zeit gewährt, sich zu freien, emanzipierten, selbstbestimmten, kritischen und glücklichen Persönlichkeiten zu entwickeln.
Die Auseinandersetzung mit den Aufzeichnungen Daniel Greenbergs gab den Anstoß zu einer spannenden, inspirierenden und aufschlussreichen Reise durch die Welt der demokratischen Bildung.
Nach zahlreichen Hospitationen, unter anderem an der Kapriole Freiburg und an der Schüler/innen- Schule Wien, entschlossen wir uns, uns selbst auf den Weg zu begeben und eine freie, inklusive und demokratische Schule als Keimzelle demokratischer Bildung zu eröffnen.
Im Dezember 2014, eineinhalb Jahre nach dem Beginn unserer persönlichen Reise, haben wir nunmehr unser pädagogisches Konzept vorerst entwickelt, etliche verwaltungsbezogene und behördliche Hürden in Angriff genommen, viele interessante und fruchtbringende Impulse durch eigene Infoveranstaltungen, Infostände und Kooperationen gesammelt und zahlreiche Unterstützer/innen gewonnen.
Aktuell stehen wir kurz davor ein Zuhause für unsere Shcule zu finden, die Arbeit an den notwendigen Unterlagen und Vorgaben für den Genehmigungsprozess abzuschließen und freuen uns über die nahezu wöchentlich eintreffenden Vorabanmeldungen unserer künftigen Schüler/innen und über das große Vertrauen, das uns entgegengebracht wird.
Wir sind guter Dinge, im Schuljahr 2015/16 zu eröffnen!
Im Netzwerk demokratischer Schulen haben wir eine außergewöhnliche und anregende Gemeinschaft von Mitstreiter/innen gefunden, deren Unterstützung uns jeden Tag aufs Neue den Mut und die Kraft gibt, diesen Weg zu gehen und Schule zu einem Ort zu machen, der Kindern die Freude am Lernen und vor allem am Leben eröffnet.
Fragend schreiten wir voran!
My beginnings with EUDEC: a world of new possibilities — Ramin Farhangi
~ Ramin Farhangi, EUDEC Council member since August 2014
I remember how I felt right before arriving at the Copenhagen conference, having still tons to learn about democratic education, but already convinced that it would be an exciting adventure. Today, this adventure has turned into a life quest.
When I arrived at Copenhagen, I saw a community of people I had only imagined in dreams. The peace and respect, the listening and sincerity, the healthy questioning and debating, the joyful and creative banter, the feeling of togetherness… All of this might seem rather obvious and taken as granted for many reading this story, but for me, it was an absolute shock in the positive sense. Since I graduated from college, I spent 3 years working as a consultant in general management for multinational companies, and the next 3 teaching Math and Physics in a conventional school setting. So you can now imagine, from my perspective, how this week in Copenhagen shook me up and revealed some further enthusiasm.
This enthusiasm turned into a strong motivation to help EUDEC in any way I could within the first day of the AGM. I feel very grateful for the opportunity of working with the Council now, and since september, I lived many fun and creative experiences in this team. I feel that our working atmosphere is friendly and laid back while being valuable and productive. I feel that I'm listened to and that my contribution is appreciated. For example, I've been involved with questioning the community about the EUDEC Diploma, and wrote this synthesis out of 15 interviews, which have given us a lot of ideas and motivation to improve the value of the Diploma.
Since the Copenhagen conference, I also worked on 2 other fronts to promote democratic education and unschooling :
I launched a new start-up in Paris, a club for unschoolers + a democratic school, which are receiving strong support, and we are already starting some activities with young people in January 2015. I decided to resign from the school world before Christmas to dedicated myself fully to this project.
I started spreading the democracy virus in the conventional school I've been teaching in (Colegio Brains in Madrid), by organizing meetings with a few students and teachers to talk about "whatever we want", and by writing open e-mails like this one. The success after 3 months is such that "democratic meetings", as we call them, are naturally spreading more and more, and the directors finally took the courage to start listening to what students have to say about authority, pedagogy, the uniform… in brief, any matter that concerns them.
I hope that if anything, my little story illustrates that many are now ready for a different message about education, and that a whole world of possibilities is open for action and change.
Thanks for reading!
Exchange between democratic schools and start-up groups
The number of democratic schools and start-up groups is growing all over Europe and we see an increasing number of requests for sharing of experience on Democatic Education. To facilitate this exchange for EUDEC member schools and start-up groups, EUDEC wants to set-up a dedicated mailing-list and possibly regular Skype chats.
The aims are to share experiences and information, foster free and candid discussion of school-related issues, and help resolve questions and concerns raised.
If you are interested to join and are a staff member and/or a founding member of a democratic school please indicate your interest by mail to info at eudec.org
You will then receive an invite by mail for the mailgroup by 20th January latest.
We wish you a good start!