Dear friends… For the sixth year now, I will be riding in the North Valley Caring Services 2014 bike-a-thon to raise money for this great community organization that supports the poor mostly Hispanic community in Panorama City, just a couple miles east of where I live.
Please support my effort by making a donation of $25, $50, $100 or whatever amount you can give by clicking the “Donate” button below! My goal this year is to raise $1000 for them!
To learn more about North Valley Caring Services and the great work they do, go to their website at www.nvcsinc.org.
Eric & Jane
I was born on April 2, 1955 in the maternity ward of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor Michigan. My mother, Jane Roberts Zale, was 32 years old, older than many first time mothers in those days. My father, Eric Michael Zale, was six years older than Jane. Theirs, I would later learn, would be a very unorthodox style of parenting, much more egalitarian than conventional practice, giving me a greater amount of freedom than most kids were blessed with. But given particularly my mom’s childhood story (I know little about my dad’s) that gift of an independent childhood had been passed through the generations.
As I get older, I am more and more amazed about the story of how my mom decided to go to Ann Arbor. An unlikely odyssey in 1947 for a single young woman of 23, but one consistent with her independent spirit, well nourished in her own childhood, that started a chain of events that led to my birth. Another thirty-two years later in 1978, I would embark on my own comparable odyssey to Los Angeles, coincidentally at age 23 as well.
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Public education in the U.S. has featured state control of human development since Horace Mann and other educational “reformers” within the New England Protestant elite brought this novel approach of Prussian state-run universal compulsory schooling to America in the 1830s. Canadian educational policy followed a similar “melting pot” social engineering of immigrants path while accepting a greater role for Protestant and Catholic education in the mix with secular public schools. Today in both countries the bulk of public schools chart their course in sync with (or under the yoke of) continuing state efforts at high-stakes OSFA (one size fits all) standardization, though more so in the U.S. than in Canada.
I find this top-down “command and control” approach to public education at best boring and at worst very depressing, based on how I believe it diminishes the human imagination in particular and the human spirit in general. So as an advocate for what I call “many educational paths”, I celebrate and take heart from those rare educational alternatives that manage to find a way to exist within the leviathan of standardized public education. Sure there are a fair amount of private schools (for the more economically privileged among us) that follow these more human development supporting educational models, but I take my hat off to a community that can conceive and support a public school that challenges the hegemony of conventional standardization.
One such school that I recently read about in an online discussion on the AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) listserv is the Alpha II school in Toronto Ontario. It is the more recent incarnation of the original Alpha school, set up in 1972 in the heyday of the progressive education movement in Canada and the U.S. A movement that produced alternative public schools in many communities, including two – Earthworks and Community High School – begun a year earlier in my own hometown of Ann Arbor Michigan. FYI… Earthworks eventually merged with Community High and the latter is still going strong, but many of these unorthodox public schools have been forced to close due to the increasing standardization of education over the past twenty years.
The story of Alpha and Alpha II in particular I find fascinating, an insight into a chapter of education history and highlighting perhaps a somewhat more open-minded approach to public education in Canada. The story is courtesy of AERO members Carol Nash, a co-founder of the unorthodox school, and Deb O’Rourke, the school’s current volunteer coordinator.
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