Archive for Assembly

Whistlepig 2001 Photos

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Back-to-School Reading for Parents

Alternatives to the traditional four-year university are the subject of two interesting books published recently. The books, "DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education", and Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work are two different perspectives on paths young people can take to finding livelihoods. Parents of kids who are not marching along the path of admission to a four-year college should find either book, or both, interesting and helpful. Shop Class will be of particular interest to anyone who knows (or is) someone who is not interested in college at all, and DIY U is a must-read for the rest of us.

When the New York Times Magazine published an adapted essay from Shop Class, The Case for Working With Your Hands, it was an unexpected sensation. Written by Matthew Crawford, a man who inhabits the worlds of academia and garages, the essay makes a (somewhat) simple case for the satisfaction that comes from making a livelihood from solving puzzles through your hands. In some ways, the essay is better than the book; it's that word 'somewhat' that can be a problem. In his little blurb on the University of Virgina website, where he is a fellow, the synopsis of this book reads:

Matthew is currently writing a book for The Penguin Press that will explicate the experiences of making things and fixing things. These activities illuminate the mutual entanglement of mind and hand, and thereby shed light on certain permanent requirements of human flourishing that material culture must answer to.

And, I'm sorry to say, this isn't just UV Institute for Advanced Studies In Culture claptrap, a good bit of the book reads this way. If this is how your brain picks through words then it's a really great read. The essay is much more palatable, but like a good dessert, isn't as nutritious. Mr. Crawford's background in philosophy is evident on every page, for example when he makes the case that "The trades are then a natural home for anyone who would live by his own powers, free not only of deadening abstraction but also of the insidious hopes and rising insecurities that seem to be endemic in our current economic life. Freedom from hope and fear is the Stoic ideal."  The thought that choosing a career that is free from ambition could be liberating is certainly novel in our culture, and it is a neat trick.

It might take me the rest of the summer to finish this (my kid is 14 - there is no hurry and there are mysteries to be read), but every time I pick this up I'm glad for the time I spend in this guy's head, glad for the new perspective. I'll finish with a paragraph from an early chapter that summarizes a thought that is not new to those in the Sudbury world, and makes this book reassuring:

"So what advice should one give to a young person? If you have a natural bent for scholarship: if you are attracted to the most difficult books out of an urgent need, and can spare four years to devote yourself to them, go to college. In fact, approach college in the spirit of craftsmanship, going deep into liberal arts and sciences. But if this is not the case; if the thought of four more years sitting in a classroom makes your skin crawl, the good news that that you don't have to go through the motions and jump through the hoops for the sake of making a decent living. Even if you do go to college, learn a trade in the summers. You're likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information systems or low-level "creative." To heed such advice would require a certain contrarian streak, as it entails rejecting a life course mapped out by other as obligatory and inevitable."

One might add that if you feel that you can spare a great deal of money, go to college. But we'll get to that in the next post, when we cover "DIY U".

Copyrighted text used with permission, Penguin Press c. 2009

End of post.

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Potluck & Craft Night

Clearwater's Community Building Committee plans and organizes regular evenings for our community of parents, students and staff. The events always include a potluck combined with an activity such as discussing a topic of concern to parents, playing games together or making crafts.

On December 1, the committee organized a holiday craft night that a number of families attended. Members of the committee set up different craft tables and most people made crafts of every kind to take home.

Making paper snowflakes

Designing melted bead ornaments

Yarn for pom poms

Trimming a pom pom

After working up an appetite, everyone gathered in the kitchen for some delicious potluck food.

End of post.

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Diploma Presentations

This is The Clearwater School's 13th year, which means that those students who started at age five are now graduating. Fittingly, our graduating class this year is the largest ever. So far, four of six aspiring graduates have completed their diploma presentations. Each event has been so different from the one before--and I know that the next two will also be unique.

This past Saturday, I watched Ian Freeman-Lee present his paper and demonstrate his skill at writing, design, art, and production. He showed us a preview of a video game he is creating in collaboration with another student. As I listened to Ian's informative and entertaining talk, I was impressed by so many things--his timing, his humor, his accomplishment, and his confidence.

Code for Ian's computer game. Prototypes & rules for related card game

(Click on "Read entire post" for more.)

With a now familiar sense of awe, I was also impressed with Claire, Betsy and Gabe in their presentations this year, and the graduation presentations of all the students who have gone before. It is always moving to see children grow into themselves, and graduation from high school is a very moving transition.

Clearwater's graduation presentations provide a very public reflection of the process of growing up--as experienced by one individual. I continue to learn from the graduates how being at Clearwater can be a completely different experience for each student.

Samples of Ian's art portfolio

Each Diploma presentation includes a question and answer section. As I listened to the questions asked on Saturday, I was reminded of how grateful I feel for these presentations, for what they give to me and the rest of our community.

Audience at Ian's diploma presentation

The dialogue between the Clearwater community and the graduates is a wonderful exchange of curiosity, admiration, caring and connection. The questions are often specific to the presenting student, but the issues raised speak to larger philosophical issues about what it means to gain an education and take on the responsibilities of being an adult in our culture.

Those of us who attend the presentations this year get to learn about students' passions that range from hula to visual art to jazz guitar, from poi spinning to computer gaming. We get to hear how students master the academic tasks of reading and writing, become better at communicating, push themselves to be more outgoing or more focused, and most centrally, how they get to deeply know and fully be themselves. It is a highlight of my year to celebrate our students' accomplishments, and thank them for what they have given to us personally and as a community.

Some former, current and future Clearwater graduates

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The Return of the Chat ‘n Chew

It is wonderful to have a kitchen!

Last night marked the long awaited return of the Chat 'n Chew. The chew part needs no elaboration, but there was more chatting than chewing! After an hour of socializing a panel of four parents, all former staff members of other Sudbury schools, talked about their former schools and experiences there. It was a wonderful way for the whole community to warm up the kitchen (and test the smoke detector.)

The night before St. Patrick's Day, the Fundraising Committee held its Pledge Drive Phonathon, complete with Irish Coffee, mussels steamed in Guinness, Irish soda bread, and lots of people dropping by to pledge, lend a hand making a few phone calls, add to the music-making, or just enjoy the food and company. It was so much fun that we will be making it an annual event.

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