Intrigued one turned to the Interwebs to find out more….
Nancy Dupree was a music teacher in New York in the 1960s. Seeing that the children had no interest in the official bland and boring curriculum she encouraged them to start writing their own songs related to their lives while introducing them to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone et.al…
They produced enough songs to record a whole album which they called Ghetto Reality. Encountering Moses Asch she badgered him into releasing the album on his Folkways Records label.
She was eventually sacked from the teaching job, ostensibly for refusing to wear the required high heels, and was alarmed to see the school call the police to remove the children protesting about her departure.
She subsequently worked in various jobs, made recordings of her poetry, associated with the Black Panthers, wrote a play and died of leukaemia at the age of 44.
Who does not love learning something new? I know I do and these days we have so many opportunities to satiate our lust for learning. Alas for most children they do not get to learn very much as they go to school. Why this is still the case remains a mystery. There can be no logical reason for herding children together who have nothing in common other than the fact that they were born around the same time and live in the same area. It is a patently silly idea that has never worked and never will work. Successive governments keep coming up with some novel idea they claim will make it work – usually involving doing more of what is not working now… more testing, longer hours, shorter holidays etc.
Fortunately here in the UK one need not bother with such nonsense. The law requires that parents provide their children with a suitable education. This can be in any form that suits the child and the family. Attendance at school is not a legal requirement. The original thinking was that there would be an education service along the lines of the health service – available to all as and when required.
A good school, in short, is not a place of compulsory instruction, but a community of old and young, engaged in learning by co-operative experiment.
Such a radical idea was crippled by the machinations of the church, existing school system and the limitations of post war funding and was, alas, never realised in the 1944 Education Act and that “triumph for progressive reform” was a pallid interpretation of what was envisaged and possible.
One looks forward to the day when the nonsensical schooling system is disrupted and we can start to build something better.