EUDEC Newsletter November 2013


Dear Readers,

Now the time has come for the next newsletter.
Over the last couple of weeks many exciting things have happened.
Very exciting things, actually.
EUDEC's job announcement is just one of them.
May it be enjoyable, interesting and perhaps even funny.
Before this year is over and the next one begins.
Every newsletter is full of your stories.
Read and enjoy!

Hope you're great,
EUDEC Council

In this newsletter:

Update on fundraising for Parents of Sudbury school in The Netherlands
Should children be totally free from adult authority?
Free Anthology
UK Democratic Education Directory
Update from Croatia
Conversations for change - Interview with Rachel Roberts
Job for EUDEC

Update on fundraising for Parents of Sudbury school in The Netherlands

Parents of 3 families in the Netherlands were criminally convicted last May for sending their children to the Sudbury school De Kampanje. The appeal has been postpond to 4th February 2014.

For a successful preparation of the appeal 20,000€ are urgently needed before the 4th of February. The Fundraising is going very well. To date over 12,500€ has been raised. So another 7500€ is needed. If you want to support, see below or go to the facebook event .

This case is about restoring freedom of choice in education and reestablishing Human Rights in the Netherlands and Europe.

This is a very principled case with impact on all parents and students in the Netherlands and possibly outside.
Research Professor and evolutionary psychologist of the Boston College, Peter Gray provides more background in his blog in Psychology today on “The Human Right Struggle in Europe: Educational Choice” .
What We Need & What You Get
You can help us:

By a gift between 1€ and 100€ or by purchasing a bond between 100€ and 7,500€. When the appeal is won the bond will be refunded from the court allowance.

The Impact
We strongly believe in our right and that finally justice will be done to those who choose a different kind of education for their children. Everywhere in Europe, personal freedom rights are under pressure. In an era driven by accelerating technological change, globalization, and the emergence of a “knowmadic” society (Moravec, 2013a, 2013b), Sudbury schools are a necessary option for creating a near-future workforce that is creative, imaginative, and innovative in its application of personal-level knowledge. Sudbury schools provide a new approach to education, and they exist since 1968 and are accepted in other western democracies like the US, Belgium, and Israel and sometimes even subsidized by the State.
According to Peter Gray: This is a human rights struggle on a par with other human rights struggles throughout the ages. We have seen the struggles for religious freedom and for equality before the law regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, which are still continuing in many places. Now, in Europe, we are witnessing the struggle for freedom in education. Let’s keep a close eye on this and support these brave families in whatever ways we can. Let’s see if European countries can live up to their claims to be democracies that respect human rights.

Many thanks in advance.

An article by member Peter Foti

Should children be totally free from adult authority?
A.S Neil emphasized, that when he established his school in 1921 that he wanted to build a community where “children are free from the authority of adults”. On the other hand, Neil was famous for his provocative, often extreme, sometimes even dogmatic statements. All this might have given him popularity in the 1960’s, but he also lost it when the counterculture of the sixties burned out. Yet, there are a lot of truth in his basic ideas, which should be taken to heart and be considered. Because of this, it might worth to specify what should we say instead of “free from adult authority”.

Trusting adults is very important for children. It is essential for their survival from their birth to trust the adults around them. We can call this “turning to the adults with natural trust”, in other words it means adults have natural authority over children.

The trouble starts when this natural authority is not used, or used in a compulsory, aggressive way, or, if we phrase it differently, the adults rely on their compulsory authority. As a consequence children’s will trust them less and less, their natural authority the surrounding adults have will decrease. This is generally true: the more one relies on compulsion, the more he or she will lose his or her natural authority. There are many ways to keep this natural authority: asking the children’s opinion, honest discussion of problems, explaining external forces, and so on. If parents, and other adults are clever, they will keep the children’s trust and, and the relationship between the adult and the child will turn into one that will increasingly resemble a friendship. All this doesn’t mean that in a family the child will get the right to decide alone, or even having a vote in family matters, though these areas can develop with age. Naturally, problems will arise, when these rights are not tied with responsibilities, or they are extended to areas, where children are not mature enough, or keeping areas what the child could handle under control.

This also means, that parents are also the teachers of their kids, in a good way, as George Dennison said in relation to schools:
The idea of school not perhaps in its present bureaucratized form - is one of the most powerful social inventions that we possess. It rests squarely on the deepest of necessities and draws on motives we could not disavow even if we wished to. Teaching is one of the few natural functions of adults. Vis-à-vis the young. We simply cannot escape it. Too, our legitimate demand of the young - that in one style or another they be worthy inheritors of our world - is deeply respected by the young themselves. They form their notions of selfhood individual pride, citizenship, etc., in precisely the terms that we put forward, converting our demands into goals and even into ideas of glory. I cannot believe all this is so feeble that we need to rest the function of education upon acts of compulsion, with all the damage this entails. (George Dennison: The Lives of Children 1969)

As the children grow, the moment will arrive when we have to confront as they want to teach the child who was just taken out of the family, is taught in a way based on compulsion, and would not take into consideration that the foundation of development is the natural authority and freedom from compulsion. Those adults who meet the children at a later age will not have this natural authority over them. More specifically, if the parents relied solely on their natural authority, the child will approach other adults with a certain trust, which again, might be called natural authority. However, if the parents relied on their compulsory authority, the resulting distrust will show, and the child will not trust other adults either, and listen only to compulsory orders. Nevertheless, every adult has the chance to build a good, trusting relationship with the child, which, once again can be called natural authority. The ways of doing it are similar to the parents keeping their natural authority. Joint activities without compulsion, discussions, debates, listening, and so on. One of the most important part of all this is how the school is organized by the adults and teachers. A crucial point in building a natural authority could be to run a real, working self-government. The true self-government lessens compulsion. With self-government interpersonal conflicts can be solved without aggression, school-meetings can serve justice with creating and keeping school-laws. It is the school’s self-government which can affect even problem children, prompting their trust to grow toward surrounding adults. The result of this growing trust will be their developing self-confidence, which leads to their growing interest toward the world around them. This interest then can be called “desire to learn”. This desire to learn is not the same the compulsory school tries to induce in children with so called motivation. This motivation comes from within, and its base is trust and self-confidence. Naturally not every school with self-government is capable of this: there is no use of having certain organizations, if they don’t serve justice, if they can’t sort out interpersonal conflicts to the satisfaction of all parties. In that case children will lose their trust, they will lose their self-confidence and their desire to learn will die. Dennison phrased the same thing in the following:
You don't discover who you are I don't know where this vocabulary came from. You see it all the time in proposals for free schools, creating a climate of freedom so you can discover who you are. When someone says, I want to know who I am, what he really means is that he hasn’t found the activities, the friends, and the loyalties that he can give himself to. These are not inside the self. They’re all outside. And you discover them by looking outside. And when you find them, you don t feel that you’ve discovered yourself, you feel that you’ve discovered friends, activities, and loyalties.
In conclusion, we could say that Neil would have handled the problem better if he pointed out the difference between natural and compulsory authority, and would have written that he wants to build his school with eliminating the compulsory authority, as he actually did. Maybe when democratic schools can communicate those better, they will win over more supporters, who, having their natural authority intact will be more inclined to open democratic schools or join existing ones as a parent or as a teacher.

(translated by Anett Veg)

Szóljon hozzá!

The original can be found here .

Free Anthology

The Phoenix Education Trust, which is working towards promoting democratic education in the UK, is launching a project to compile and publish a book of creative writing from people around the world connected with democratic education!

The project aims to inspire students to develop their English and creative writing skills, will compliment teaching curriculums and is a chance for students to become published authors and showcase their talents! We plan to advertise, launch and distribute the anthology next year, to celebrate and raise awareness of democratic education.

The initiator of this project is Danny Whitehouse. He is checking this email inbox regularly, eager to hear from you! He will offer individual feedback, ideas to stir up enthusiasm in schools, proverbs about freedom, and free-range chicken recipes, should you require sustenance. Danny would even be willing to visit and deliver a day-long seminar to stimulate writing for the anthology. Please contact us if you would like to invite him to your school/ organisation.

Please feel free to visit our website where you can look at the ‘How it All Works’ document, for further details or learn more about the workshop. We would also be very grateful if you could print and display the poster around your school/ institution and promote the project.

Do forward this and tell more people from the democratic education free school world about it! And send your entries, questions or ideas into Danny: freeanthology at phoenixeducation.co.uk
Thank you for your time. You are now free to stop reading this, and get writing!

UK Democratic Education Directory

The Phoenix Education Trust have just launched the UK Democratic Education Directory. It is an interactive online map on which schools, organisations and individuals which work towards democratic education can place themselves and say a bit about what they are doing. This directory will show what is going on where, so that like-minded people can make connections and support each other.

Anyone who practises or supports democratic education is welcome to appear in the directory. And, it's free and easy to add yourself - just go to www.democraticeducation.co.uk

It is not surprising that in the 21st century schools and organisations practise elements of democratic education to greater and lesser degrees. Teachers implement democratic activities in the classroom where they can and trainee teachers aspire to do this when their time comes. Other supportive and interested individuals research, write and contribute to democratic education in a multitude of ways. Many parents seek a more democratic form of education for their children and don’t know where to turn. The Phoenix Education Trust sees that there is a lot of good practice in the UK. It is also apparent that there is not much awareness about this within the mainstream. Even people involved in democratic education do not necessarily know about each other.

This means that you, or anyone you know in the UK, belong here if you are working towards objectives such as these:

  • giving members of your school community a genuine say in decision-making
  • creating a culture of respecting difference and promoting tolerance which enables the community to work collaboratively and engage in collective decision-making
  • believing that sound learning and responsible behaviour are rooted in equality and respect in and out of the class room
  • letting your students follow their own interests and learn because they wish to
  • enabling your students to make choices which have a real impact on their every day lives,

Such objectives may involve the whole school, or may be expressed through a single project. For the purpose of the directory scale is not a deciding factor.
If you want to know more about it or have any questions contact rachel at phoenixeducation.co.uk
All the best,
Rachel Roberts (Phoenix Education Trust) and the EUDEC Council

Update from Croatia

News from Karlovac (Croatia):
As far as the school project in Karlovac is concerned, I wish I could give you more positive news, but I can not. I have been rather successful in spreading the democratic education virus in Croatia and there are now 2 start up groups (one in Istria and one in a town near Zagreb) + the one I coordinate in Karlovac.
All of us are stuck because of the fact that we can not find a solution to the accommodation problem. However, even if we found suitable buildings, we would still be stuck with enormous fees that parents would need to pay (we are talking about as much as 400-500€ per month to cover all the costs and salaries as there are no (zero) options for subsidies from either the State, the County, or the City authorities. The country is in such Dire Straits that it is becoming very depressing. Anyhow, my hope is still not depleted of all energy and I would like to do an info session in January/February 2014 to present the project with the business plan based on renting the school venue and having parents pay all the costs and I would like to invite City and County (possibly State as well) officials to that event so we can finally face the facts and see if starting a democratic school in Croatia now is feasible and if there is a leave-way to secure subsidies that are needed for this. I am also hoping to have someone experienced in school starting projects to come and give a short presentation at this event. The idea is to present a success story and to show to the authorities that democratic schools actually exist in Europe and can be both accepted and funded by the state. Currently I am in contact with several people about such a presentation.
I'll be back with more and hopefully more positive news after the information campaign in January/February. Image

All the best from Croatia.
Dragana Boljesic

Interview with Rachel Roberts

Conversations for Change explores the relationship between Art, Politics and Education in terms of creating moments of potential and possibility for change. Possibility is, in this context, a condition that leads to thinking differently or imagining things otherwise than they are. ‘Conversations for Change’ creates discursive spaces in which to ask the questions: Is it time for change? What change is required? What is to be done? By whom and when? How can thought, imagination and language become action for change?

The following question was explored through a ‘Conversation for Change’ with:
Rachel Roberts: Director – Phoenix Education Trust
Location: London - 2013
‘What is a democratic education and what is its capacity for learning and social transformation?’

The interview was carried out by Deborah Mills as part of research on the democratic school

Q: As an introduction to our conversation, what would be your definition of democratic education?
My definition of democratic education would be that it has two strands, or two pillars, which support it. One pillar is about self-directed learning and the other is about the decision making processes in which the whole school community have a say. Democratic education is about schools in which every member of the community has a genuine say about how the school is run and about what is affecting them. The students also have a say in guiding their learning.

Q: What would you say are the learning and societal benefits of democratic education and do you think this form of learning has the potential for social transformation?
I think that one element is that in a democratic school you learn in everyday practice how to participate in democracy and you are then more likely to want to go out into the world and participate in the democracy that you are part of. This is because you experience the impact of democracy in your everyday life and find out what using your voice can actually achieve. When you go out into the world with the view that ‘I have a right to use my voice and if I use my voice I will be listened to’– therefore you go out and use it and this has immense potential in terms of social transformation.
Another element is around the experience of how you are learning, the fact that you are identifying areas that you are interested in and what needs to be done in order to learn in those areas and developing your skills according to that. In this way you are learning how you learn best. You are learning how to learn, you are learning how to respond to information around you and develop your learning based on that.

Q: It would be interesting to know more about your own personal experience of democratic education and how has this has influenced your career?
When I came to a democratic school at the age of 13 I had become very unconfident and very disaffected – I wasn’t speaking or participating in anything and I was incredibly anxious because of the pressure of tests and achieving what I should be achieving and for me the very immediate experience as a teenager of democratic education was a huge sense of relief, along with a huge sense of empowerment.
I felt able to participate because I was able to participate in a way that worked for me, so I became very quickly active within the school community and took on roles of responsibility and led activities and initiated ideas, so it gave me a space to feel able to achieve and to do things and it also allowed me to develop a more diverse range of skills and interests, because I wasn’t being told that something was more important than something else. It was just as important that I was writing lots of poems and talking about poetry as it was that I was doing experiments in science as it was that I was spending time on the climbing wall and climbing every single day and that I was creating art work as well as learning about maths. It was all there and it was all equal and for me. That meant it gave me an attitude that I will just look at wherever I am and will take what I can from wherever I am, embracing the idea that I am learning from where I am and I see the value in whatever it is that I am experiencing.

Q: Returning to the work of the Phoenix Education Trust, how do you seek to promote democratic education in schools?
What we do in the schools often involves training for the school about how to improve their student voice practice or how to have more democratic processes in place. We have different training packages that are around confidence and communication, campaigning, peer training, citizen juries, and decision making processes. What we do is tailor the training to the school needs, so for example school wanted to have their students involved in the recruitment process and wanted to know ‘how can we have a system here in which pupils can be involved in the process and genuinely be influencing the process and be doing that responsibly and effectively?’. So the Trust went in and offered training to help them develop the skills and the structure in order to put that practice into place.
Another element we are currently working on with schools is student teacher feedback - how you can use resources in lessons in school in order to give the teachers constructive and appropriate feedback, because students are in many ways the experts in being taught. They know what works and what doesn’t work and often the way they express that isn’t that helpful for the teachers, so it is about working with the students and the teachers to look at how to develop systems that will work effectively.
Please contribute to the conversation by emailing your thoughts and comments to:
‘Conversations for Change’ – email: conversations7 at aol.com
For more information about the Phoenix Education Trust, please visit: www.phoenixeducation.co.uk

© Deborah Mills

You can read the full interview here .

Job for EUDEC

Last but - Oh boy! - not least. We are excited to announce that EUDEC has a job to offer! Feel free to forward this to any person who might be interested and ready for the job, or apply yourself!

Job announcement

Are you looking for a job where you get to support democratic education in an international organization connected with schools all over Europe? EUDEC is democratically run and based on the principles of individual freedom.
Are you someone who can take on responsibility and give a clear estimate of your strengths and weaknesses?
Are you able to work on your own and work together with a group of 9 volunteers that make up the EUDEC Council?

Do you think you can find creative solutions within a democratic system and understand the workings of formal institutions and governments? Are you able to communicate well in English, and do you have a good Internet connection and, most importantly, the drive to help our organisation reach its aims.

Please write why you are interested in democratic education and send us your motivation letter and CV in English by January 12 2014. Please send all application materials to info at eudec.org.
The following are some of the tasks and responsibilities you may have as the coordinator

  • Fundraising
  • PR and marketing
  • Services for members
  • Networking at international level
  • Research
  • Coordinating projects

This is a part time job for 12 months, starting February 2014
Remember the deadline for applying for the job is January 12 2014.