García López, Erwin Fabián*
Poveda García, Diego Armando**
María Constanza Ríos Marín***
“I’m always afraid that what makes me wrong is right”
Umberto Eco, The strategy of illusion
This article points out the minimum characteristics for a school to be considered a Really Alternative School. They vary from the understanding of the learning process, to the close relationship between parenting school and education; it also covers a critical questioning about compulsory attendance, age and gender segregation, existence of subjects, homework, the notion of enjoyment, the use of technologies, testing, the separation between learning and production as distinct goals. Likewise, our current societal understandings of community and culture, the lack of attention to life stories and affective relationships of human beings, as well as, the impact of power dynamics and vertical decision-making processes within learning environments. It is important to emphasize that there is not one true Real Alternative School with these characteristics. This paper proposes a comprehensive re-evaluation of the school itself. Similarly, it calls for a deeper questioning of the “whys” and “wherefores” of education, emphasizing the role of two key aspects into this discussion: family and community.
Keywords: alternative education, alternative schools, social learning, quality of education, parenting, education and society, learning management.
* Master of Education from the National University of Colombia. Coordinator of the action research initiative on Alternative Education – Homeschooling – Unschooling, National University of Colombia. Unschooling parent. Corresponding author. Please send comments to this document to email@example.com
** Economist of the National University of Colombia. Researcher associated with the action research initiatives on Alternative Education – Homeschooling – Unschooling
*** PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology from University of Florida, MSc Ecology and Biologist. Researcher associated with the action research initiatives on Alternative Education – Homeschooling – Unschooling. Unschooled parent. English edition and translation.
The authors especially appreciate the important contributions of Janeth Carvajal Rodriguez, degree in Modern Languages from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, without her contributions this English version would not have been possible.
The Modern Western School, seen as a pyramid structure, functions due to its foundations. In one hand, parents willingly hand in millions of children to the system to be educated. There are reciprocal expectations: the school institution receives money and in exchange, it produces children according to the needs of production of the capitalist system. On the other hand, parents expect that this adjustment on their children will make them participants in this controlled money making system, which is used to compensate to pay off the human effort to build up capital. The premise is that the investment in education of children and teenagers comes back to them hugely increased as future profitable wages, therefore this is a speculative system made of promises. In fact, the profitability of this business relies on the tacit agreement where the seller of education does not have to fulfill the promise of returning “a better life” to the customers.
A critical reflection about learning and school requires the questioning of education itself and all the aspects concerning it, for instance, prevailing educational paradigms. In addition, these aspects involve not only formal schooling, but also the new school concept. Their intent is to make themselves “alternative” without understanding the true meaning that involves being a Really Alternative School. This school not only involves being detach from traditional concepts, it also proposes new ways of understanding within the school, and this understanding should support the direct relationship between education and the human beings. Talking about the need to transgress paradigms would lead us to redefine what we now know as a Really Alternative School, and frame it as a new concept, or even better, a clearer concept about what an Alternative Education can really tackle, recognize, embody, and even reproduce. Taking all these into account we should ask ourselves what the characteristics of a Really Alternative School are.
Which characteristics should a Really Alternative School have?
We propose that for a school to consider itself as Really Alternative, and contribute towards a transformative education that seeks to incorporate learning processes and strategies that respond to the current needs of our society, and create individuals with human quality it should have at least the following characteristics:
1. Attendance should not be mandatory
A really alternative school (hereinafter RAS) does not require mandatory daily attendance whether in person or virtual. It is understood that learning occurs freely, so it cannot be based on the obligation to attend it, nor should be subject to fix schedules or school days. In other words, a RAS should encourage training for self-direction, self-organization and self-discipline. It should not encourage external discipline, understood as the willingness to obey orders, even if they are given with apparent affection.
Enough studies show that learning occurs when self-motivation, voluntary interest, joy and satisfaction are present. Albert Bandura’s (1982) social learning and Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural learning theories, indicate that learning occurs in spaces that facilitate a dynamic interaction between the learner and his socio-cultural environment or context. Learning should not be conditioned to any obligation, on the contrary, learners should be able to exercise their own autonomy not in a passive but in a very proactive way. learners are not considered as an empty recipient that must be filled with information, but as individuals with inherent internal learning capabilities. Their ability to learn goes beyond instruction and it cannot be constrained to the classroom.
Fichte (1985), a German philosopher attributed compulsory schooling the task of teaching everyone to obey orders and respect an organization, without considering human beings’ permanent needs relating to learning. Because of that, formal schooling inclination to controlling the necessity of learning is superficially exploring in a formal school, so the depth learning is refused and is shown out of time and space, therefore learning is given in a closer context that is related with an authentic way of multiple and several scenes. However, learning occurs naturally in the daily interactions with the immediate environment and one of its main characteristics is the ability to move between multiple and various scenarios (Noro, 2013)
Recent theories such as the theory of Swarm Intelligence have provided experimental evidence from a new and non-human field of study which contributes to understanding different aspects of the social dimensions of learning and support the idea that it is in the interactions between individuals where intelligence appears. According to Kennedy and Eberhart (2001) the thinking processes are transformed by social interactions as in social environments exchange including not only information but different sets of rules, non-verbal messages and beliefs.
2. Day-to-day learning is intergenerational
A RAS should be a space that facilitates a permanent day-to-day intergenerational encounter with no age or gender segregation. The age and gender differences between students and teachers provided by formal schools are not enough to provide the opportunity to take part of the multiple experiences that can be encountered in a non-segregated environment. We should strive for an education system that recognizes that there are multiple dimensions in a human being which are built through the acceptance and legitimacy of the other in our daily interactions; and also, through the stimulation of spaces for living and sharing framed on mutual respect and collaboration (Dávila & Maturana 2006). When considering the sphere of a human being, it is unfounded and simplistic to point out only to control relationships between pairs, characterized by age or sex separation since individuals live and learn in a relational multidimensionality.
Daily interaction between children of different ages allows for more complex and dynamic relationships, supporting the development of cognitive and leadership skills (Gray, 2013). It is only in the context of formal education where children are age segregated, contrary to what they experience in other daily contexts, this segregation curtails their innate ability to learn, to teach, to share, to live together and to help each other (Laiz, 2012).
3. There are no subjects
A RAS should not have school subjects. School should be a permanent and daily transdisciplinary encounter with knowledge. Being a transdisciplinary encounter, school must be understood as a space in which knowledge is not organized into subjects or islands of knowledge. It should not support division and fragmentation, neither the existence of disciplines isolated from each other. On the contrary, it should have a truly transdisciplinary perspective of knowledge without breaking it up into school subjects. The quest for transdisciplinary should also be reflected in the diverse capabilities inherent to the guides, they do not have any specialized profession in one field but, on the contrary, they should be individuals capable of seeing beyond the specific competencies organized on specific areas of study.
Real life is a bountiful source of knowledge. The challenge is to delete the current boundaries among disciplines. Biology, anthropology, sociology, mathematics, science, start from the real everyday life of human beings. Life itself is the explicit possibility of disciplinary construction of knowledge.
The degree of development of a human being, cannot be determined by the school subjects in a curriculum. On the contrary, it is the degree of development, enthusiasm and motivations of an individual what determines the aspects of knowledge in which the human being want to be engaged. It is not the subjects as domains of knowledge the ones that build it up; it is the innate human need to know and understand the one that builds these domains and thus constructs knowledge, which is itself fluid, transdisciplinary, based on human experience and inextricably linked to it.
The concept of transdisciplinary can be better understood as an expression of a complex network of visible and hidden interactions, which are acting concurrently and instantaneously on the social construction of reality. It is composed by multi-faceted events, which are defined, but at the same time changing (Rubio, 2015). Considering the complexity of reality, Morin and Nicolescu (1994) and Nicolescu (1996), understand transdisciplinary as a transversal way of relating to a reality, a way of integrating the knowledge embedded into the disciplines in a way that it makes it possible to reach the capacity and competence considering all sides of a problem under examination. According to Humberto Maturana’s (2001), Biology of Education this is the basis of the evolution of our species, the ability to configure various and different relationships in a continuously changing environment.
4. Joy, lifelong learning and work
A RAS should be able to encourage programs in which fun, learning and working activities are intertwined in everyday activities. Most people are used to the idea that there is a specific place for learning and a different one for working. These are different from the places where we seek fun, happiness and pleasure. A RAS strives to stop fragmentation of these essential aspects of life.
Undoubtedly, before the Industrial Revolution of the XIX century which brought the institutionalization of schools and their recognition by the state, people learned activities or occupations by practicing and doing, without the necessary mediation of qualified teachers and outside the rigidity of a classroom. The educational experiences of this kind, which have a long historical background, are an example of the relationship between instruction learning and action. Our current education system has overshadowed the alternatives that lie away from officially recognized organizational structures, thus, their positive potential in the formation of subjects and social transformation has been made invisible. The deliberate omission of these matters has produced a conceptual and theoretical lag. As a result, a critical analysis regarding the roots of traditional school systems and a thoughtful reflection (about the possibilities for its transformation and alternative approaches and meanings) has been marginalized and delayed. (Chomsky, 2009).
A RAS should be able to demonstrate to the individuals who are part of its community, that there are better ways to get the resources for their subsistence. It should strive to promote diverse forms of solidarity and community economy which do not reproduce common practices of market economy where the sale of work and time are seen by families and communities as the only way to obtain resources; to make it happen, it must be clear that a RAS, in the first instance, should stay away from the logic of profit that has historically served private interests, and has manipulated the discourse of alternative education for individual benefit. Secondly, it should remain as an open space that builds up from collective, collaborative and communal efforts and stays away from privatization.
5. The fallacy of digital technologies
A RAS that strives to human quality is not reproducing the deception about computational machines playing an important part in solving human learning problems. Digital technologies with interactive communication, in the same way as non-interactive broadcast such as radio and television, are spaces or tools that can support learning, but they cannot be prioritized over other spaces like trees, parks, mountains or streets. Any conventional or unconventional context, being mechanized or not, digital, virtual, wild or urban can be an important space for learning.
In a RAS, digital technologies are not seen as the main contributors to solve the issue of quality of education and learning. As Ernesto Sabato, points out, technology and technique usefulness should be evaluated from human senses (Garcia & Jaramillo, 2012). One should ask to what extent technology serves to external interests of submission and to what extent it is being used as a tool to build autonomy and freedom, and is the use of technology supported and accompanied by more critical analysis in such a way that it can help to build a sense of identity as well as knowledge?
It is necessary to question to what extent technology is helping us to be better human beings and to improve the understanding of who we are and what our place in the world is. In a direct and simple analysis, we can say that information without context or without proper interpretation ends up confusing our understanding of the world, rather than enriching it (Prieto, 2011). Such ‘proper interpretation’ can only be measured by the philosophical, political and ethical scales that strengthen the human evolutionary process.
Surprisingly, even though more than two centuries have passed since the French Revolution, we are still at the same point, defining human rights. The reason may lie in the new changes in the means of production which in turn have completely changed our social and cultural structures. Whilst at the time of the first industrial revolution the machine needed the man, in the age of information man’s role should be redefined. (Leopold, Ratcheva and Zahidi, 2016).
6. Free Validation of knowledge
Human beings in the XXI century engaged in learning spaces that can travel freely through different forms of certification or validation of their knowledge such as no curriculum, no grades, no homework needed. Anyone who considers himself knowledgeable in something, should be able to get a certification in the subject, anyone who believes that they may be able to meet the requirements of any curricular structure should be able to validate their knowledge. Learning processes are not linear and the school should not reproduce the idea that in order to know something it is necessary to comply with a linear sequence of tasks or to have exposure to certain contents.
Evaluation in a RAS cannot be based on memorization, it should be qualitative, and takes into account the formative process in a way to allow each individual who is involved, determine when they are ready to validate their knowledge and appropriation; also, the capability, the motivation in front of the community. This should not be regulated by a standardized and predetermined curriculum.
The approach to knowledge is the real problem about certification because it is based on learning by heart, only rewarding the answer to the detriment of the innate curiosity and eagerness for understanding. Michio Kaku, a renowned American theoretical physicist, reveals how practice oriented on mnemonics, answers and results, significantly affects curiosity and exploration (Kaku, 2011). With the introduction of scores and ratings, exploration of knowledge becomes a perpetual quest for short term magic formulas that summarize a path which is considered hard, definitive and static. Furthermore, Socratic thought -which favors a subjective and constructivist approach to knowledge- is undermined by a pervasive sophist praxis that gives a preeminent place to the “unique truths” as the ultimate foundation of learning and the traditional school system. Contrarily, the construction of modern thought since Descartes, rewards a doubt which is considered as the great foundation of learning, knowledge and wisdom (Bootes, Destito, Soria, Sztajnszrajber, & Wolfensohn, 2016). In other words, we should not continue to rewards the answer over the question.
In a RAS there should not be standardized assessments nor mandatory evaluation. Standardized assessments do not become a parameter to organize learning. There is assessment, but it is voluntary and individuals only request them whenever they want. There are no standardized, homogeneous or compulsory tests. Instead, learning environments are intrinsically linked with assessment and certification according to personal taste, motivations and interests of each child. They are not an organized way in order to relate those tests whether they are internal or required by education offices. Certifications and qualifications are configured as an alienating element, as a badge of what is “right learning” regarding rhythm method and superficiality. (Ornelas, 2000). Moreover, tests are designed to separate and sort out (according to the standards set by the guarantors of the order) the good ones, from those who are doing fair or poor work. By doing this, a kind of social Darwinism is legitimized, decanting human beings in groups of first and second category (Rivas & Ruíz, 2003).
The encoded logic of this system is organized to generate perverse incentives to homogenization and standardization of trainees. Furthermore, it does not require a free human being, but someone obedient, submissive, and alienated, who reproduces social standards that emphasize what in the name of social order is transformed into barbarism (Bourdieu & Passerno, 1998). It is accepted without doubt, the premise of Hobbes, “man is a wolf to man” and it needs to be educated, stilled and inserted in a servile society under the power of those who without being able to recognize his life story are quite interested in continuing reproducing inequality, homogenization and neutering of culture as a way to subordination (Esposito, 2003).
It should be noted that although it may not be desirable, in countries like Finland and Norway, the curriculum is being transformed into a series of general rules, and objectives, allowing schools to become increasingly autonomous in the way they are organizing teaching. We do not consider this entirely desirable because they do not question paradigms of success and achievement, related to what could be called labor slavery. A RAS is not geared to train people to supply jobs or more precisely, to train people aiming to insert them into the corporate business world to perform as creative slaves (García Olivo, 2016).
Conventional schools, including universities, are threatening and destroying creativity. What we can take from the Finnish experience is how easily we can fall into the trap of creating more flexible schools in order to produce more creative individuals who will also be obedient and indoctrinated human beings, who will follow and desire a slave job in the capitalist corporate or capitalist state world –naming Ivan Illich language in Energy and Equity (2007). In contrast, a RAS should be concerned about building alternatives to both state and corporate capitalism. Education must have the power to be really critical in order to be transformative. A RAS has the conditions to accompany individuals that simultaneously integrate joy, learning and work developed in a collective cooperative and solidarity way, to detriment the individualistic and servile logic of wage labor.
7. Learning is self-organized
Children, as human beings, learn from the interaction with their environment, but such interaction needs to be free, spontaneous, and passionate to provide them with strength and to reinforce their sense of place in the world. Free play, and a true free relationship with the learning environment encourages them to be cleverer, insightful, strong, happy and secure in their relationship with the others it gives them a sense of otherness and empathy (Lacayo & Coello, 1992).
Several scholars see playing time as a learning engine, namely, Sutton-Smith (1978), Flinchun (1988), Zapata (1990), Hetzer (1992) and Meneses & Monge (2001), among others. They associate learning with autonomy, recreation and knowledge appropriation. Thus, a RAS should recognize and value children’s need for autonomous learning, their self-taught abilities and innate curiosity to approach knowledge. A RAS should question the counselor-director role of the teacher and should lay out the possibility of raising quality guidelines that bring children closer to knowledge. Education and wisdom, contrary to the traditional notions that consider children as passive recipients of information and with the lack of capacity to contribute in their own training.
Research papers such as the one by José Rafael Toro (2004) and Garcia, Jaramillo & Ramirez (2012) have advocated in favor of alternative processes and autonomous learning. Paraphrasing García (2010, p. 14) any initiative of alternative education should consider learning as the guiding concept of educational processes. For him, learning and education can be developed without the institution, without the legitimization of any type of organized schooling, and not by directive instruction. It can be based on various and multiple environments, places, contexts, incentives, space-time possibilities and relationships of real affection which ignite interests and individual’s own ways of approaching knowledge and wisdom.
In a RAS there is no directive action, no teaching, no instruction. Learning processes are generated through the individual’s own initiative which joins other particular initiatives and produces unique collaborative learning experiences. This means that the traditional role of the teacher disappears. A RAS is not interested in reproducing new models of pedagogy or what Garcia Olivo (2016b) calls “white pedagogies”, which intend to stimulate children autonomy and creativity, but continue to support structures based on obedience and domination in order to produce creative but obedient workers.
In a RAS there is no guide. The teacher -to use a name that can be understood- is not a teacher in the traditional way, his role is to try to accompany and encourage the need, desire and interest in learning of children. Opposite to what is reproduced by the traditional school system, people learn without the need for instruction as long as they are surrounded by learning environments in which affection is created, exchanged and shared affectively. This type of learning is completely closely to autonomy and freedom (Farenga, 2016).
8. Involvement of family members
In a RAS, moms, dads -moms especially, considering the work of Rodrigañes (1995) on maternal accompaniment during childhood- as well as family and community caregivers, should be actively involved in daily activities. The purpose of this is to build a real and solid emotional bond. Rather than conditioning the child to depend on the mother or father. Their presence and practice of respectful parenting ensures a relationship of interdependence, trust and affection that give children, elements that allow them to be autonomous (García, 2014). A RAS strives to constantly cohere not to split or rift parenting and upbringing from education. It should be understood that mothers and fathers play an important role in the education of their children and addressing their needs and rights should be a priority for them (Miller, 1997).
In a RAS, besides those who professionally guide learning processes and experiences, people who are part of the family, emotional or social context of children are involved in daily activities. Mothers, fathers or other adults who are interested in participating in learning, are part of the exchange of real and everyday experiences with them. Every day, the school’s gates are open for those adults, so that, they can safely observe and act in the daily learning process. Beyond the family involvement in school, the principle is that family is the first learning environment of children and the key guide in the teaching and learning processes, it should be followed permanently.
9. Relationship with the territory
In a RAS school, children will have permanent and daily relations with the territorial reality of their neighborhood or community. In this environment, spaces and opportunities reflect and discuss on the needs of the territory where the geographic place is located. A RAS is concerned about the physical proximity to the family, the reduction of the distance of the displacements between the school and the family. There is a constant and intense interaction that brings this type of school closer to both the community and the legitimate notions of a collective state. Education should have an expanded spirit of the social environment (Maclaren, 2010).
Present-day ideas of institutionalism, such as the works of Nobel laureate in economics in 2009, Elinor Ostrom, as well as political science, history (Evans, Rueschemeyer, & Skocpol, 1986), sociology (March & Olsen, 1987) and the public economy (Ostrom, 1990), highlight the role of self-organization and collective self-management in community settings to further individual autonomy.
The work of, Luis Fernando Ramírez Barrero former program director of Community Action of Bogotá between 1995 and 1998, shows how supporting community work and organization in local contexts can transform individuals and communities. Projects like these are a good example of how communities can create initiatives that are more cooperative, inclusive, participatory, legitimate, democratic and cost effective, when compared to traditional operating mechanisms for local development Roth (2014). The article “Stairways to Heaven” by Francisco Celis (1997) points out how the community organizations promoted by Ramirez although operating in marginal contexts, were able to manage resources even better than those in formal contractors hired with public budget and administered by government officials.
Building autonomous human beings who are really able to determine their degree of participation and their role in society, opposite to the current proposals of the traditional school system. A RAS should offer children every opportunity freely, and decide the kind of society that they desire to be involved in and how to participate; this is, the process of inculturation, and should be modulated by the individual and their interdependent relationships with the community and not by the hegemonic paradigms of society.
A RAS is able to integrate a student coming from very diverse backgrounds. Money cannot be the filter; it cannot be the mechanism of exclusion of people who could contribute to learning environments by bringing more wealth in terms of cultural diversity and eagerness for knowledge. A multicultural school, should be understood as the sum of different people with diverse socioeconomic and cultural characteristics; which allows for an intercultural dialogue and education. This type of approach recognizes that the close interaction with individuals with different cultural values facilitates deep encounters and builds up an inclusive culture that recognizes the importance of diversity (Leiva, 2013). Furthermore, intentional efforts for multiculturalism are not only important because they bring new possibilities but contribute to advance intercultural education and create spaces for acceptance and openness, facilitating collective integration within the community and for the community (Banks, 2008).
11. Consciousness and Self Awareness
A key factor in a real educational and learning encounter. An encounter of quality requires that adults that guide children’s learning process should be human beings who have worked with themselves in a conscious intense and thoughtful way. They should also be individuals who have a good level of mental, physical, emotional and economic health. They should not oblige to comply with a work schedule as this reproduces the perpetuated tradition of buying the time and energy of a human being that in principle should be free. This is important because if it is allowed to unveil in detail the mental, emotional and physical health of the teachers.
A thoughtful consideration of the wellbeing of school, teachers could potentially help us to understand better, many of the weakness in terms of quality of education in our countries (Esteve, 2005).
A RAS should be attentive and willing to permanently review the life stories of the people involved, to understand their qualities and strengths but also their unmet needs, particularly the ones of the adults involved. Following the psychotherapist Alice Miller (1990), in order to understand life stories, it is necessary to be willing to look deeply into childhood experiences and lost memories, to track the roots of the unhealthy emotional patterns and their consequences on the self. Unfortunately, the girl and the boy, whose needs are invisibilized for decades, they will become in an adult who feels unseen and relegated to patterns of obedience, submission and emptiness in the theatricality of fatherhood and motherhood. Inside the longing for affection, the girl or the boy can draw a world of colors that hides the darkness of the repression or abandonment which may have been exposed. Being a mother, father or a teacher, each one of them, should have also be willing to confront and repair the past, and to understand that without recognizing the imperfections of our own upbringing we cannot provide health to children. When abandonment and neglect are justified and children are obligated to forgive and forget, they become adults who have nothing to deliver but heartbreak and emotional deprivation to infants and children who are just loved superficially.
It is complex and difficult to accept that we must question our own parenting, in order to
start to build a better relationship with our daughters and sons. The task when approaching the personal stories of adults who interact and engage emotionally with children and youth, also it is to face their own personal stories, which may include abandonment, neglect, abuse, guilt or lack of affection in different levels. These stories set up the present way of both mothers and fathers who behave and influence their role as caregivers, who ideally should allow the learner to approach knowledge in a free, autonomous and self-organized way.
We must recognize that adult’s fears shape the way it relates to its environment and it is predominantly regulated by the treatment received during childhood, even if is not consciously recalled (possibly by trauma). This awareness is essential so mothers, fathers, teachers and adults who interact with learners can reinvent healthy, sensible, courageous and wise ways to understand the difference and diversity inherent to children, who otherwise would become helpless victims who in most cases forget their past in order to survive. Look at the past without contempt and work with emotional awareness is a permanent invitation to see children as free, without sin, without the seed of evil. We should ask ourselves about the ontological roots of our society’s sickening need for control, obedience, and order and the way it is reproduced upon the smaller and more fragile individuals. This would force us to recognize a past that is hidden and painful, but it is also a source of wealth in terms of life lessons that have the potential to make us better, in relation to the different versions of ourselves.
A RAS is obliged to transgress the usual hierarchical forms of school government, including the ones called alternative schools. Thus, a RAS reaches real processes, rather than the ones that are apparent for co-government. It means that RAS should move away from legitimizing the figure of a founder or a director, privileging subtle vertical hierarchical decisions which conceal the authoritarianism of directors or founders of school.
This has to do with the evidence of recurrent failures in terms of addressing inequality and facing ethical concerns, also, the political participation is organized in our society and its roots on unequal power structures. We are witnessing an era of post-democracy (Crouch, 2004) in which the democratic values of participation and equality have deteriorated. It has become a system of participation designed to make believe minorities that their voice has a value, when decisions are actually managed by a powerful minority (Moscovici, 1996). School governance in a RAS should be built on permanent assembly without compulsory attendance, giving voice to those who want to be heard and included in decisions making collectively, this should be done in permanent and concerted dialogue without a rush for results or a programed deliberation time. In the same way such a school should also seek to include everyone in decision making, striving to propose and implement scenarios of conversation which bring individuals closer in order to learn collectively. It should consolidate efforts to improve inclusion and to understand the invaluable wealth found in the difference and diverse ways of thinking.
13. The relationship of human beings involved
A very important issue that needs to be considered when we think about education quality is the nature of the relationship between individuals who share learning spaces. Alain Touraine in his book, Critique of Modernity (1994) indicates that one of the main problems, perhaps the main problem of traditional schools, is that they are not able to produce or move affection.
For a positive learning environment to develop these relationships need to be healthy and caring relationships. A relationship that does not reproduces practices of domination-submission. The people involved must be really interested and willing to respect and promote the autonomy of each human being. In a RAS no adult would end up imposing his intention in the shared space-time to others through sophisticated and restricted forms of domination. In a RAS it is understood that these perversions that seek the homogenization of the school project severe and sterilize individual autonomy of human beings, who want to learn something different or at a different pace from what the majority wants.
14. Parenting and education cannot be separated
A RAS does not legitimate the abandonment made by parents to their children. On the contrary, a RAS recognizes that parenting and education cannot be split from one another, or put into a different place from home dynamics. On behalf of the desire of money and discipline (rigid, neurotic and psychotic) too many barbarisms and abuses are committed against children and youth. It is important to be able to recognize, integrate and modify these behaviors in order to think of real education. Otherwise it is hypocritical to say that we want to educate, and it is better to accept that what we crave for is to train and indoctrinate.
A RAS is seriously concerned with recognizing the humiliations experienced by the adults who are involved in children education. Adult understood, as mother, father, teacher or institutional staff that are related to the children and youth education. These adults must be able to overcome their own experiences and explore the fears, traumas, and pain they suffered in their childhood; hence, this has become a pattern in their lives. This is a huge task, and it can take years to recognize oneself as victim of abuse or neglect. Also recognize that a gloomy or fearful child is merely a product of their mother and father. A clear intention to accept and understanding emotions without suppressing them is necessary to start to admit the inherent mistakes and flaws in our parenting style and its relationship with our own upbringing and education. By doing this we may be able to relate to each other with all possible openness, generosity and honesty.
15. Nature as learning stage
In a RAS school it is clear that imagination is an internal function affected by outside world. The creation is always the fruit of the environment. (Vygotsky, 2004). (Donolo y Melgar, 2011), in their article Escenarios para aprender más allá del aula, they connect this Vygotsky’s theorical reading with the integration of the nature as a learning environment. To them, it is necessary to guide learning to generate processes more sensitive that bring different components allowing the cooperation, this is possible due to an environment design.
Taking into account this important point of view, it is necessary to mention the studies of Camargo et al. (2015), and García Aivar (2016), who show the importance that boys and girls being in touch with nature because of its fun engagement. Free experimentation and knowledge are fundamental aspects for learning, and being in touch with nature allows flourish our own relationship with life as no other space. According with this authors, being in touch with natural environments enable the development of sensorial and motor skills, as well as, the increase of agility and creativity, also the immune system and stress levels improve. In learning terms, nature environments enhance attention capacities and cognitive skills.
The authors who have done much research relating environment and learning are Lev Vygotsky, (1978), and Albert Bandra, (1982), who have found that perceptions, meanings, intentions, interactions, resources and choices are the result of the relationship among the individual, the environment and socio-cultural environs.
The contributions of ecology since social perspective tackles the ties of boys and girls in natural environs, and provokes a connection with life and natural processes on the Earth. This generates a long-term consciousness about the importance of taking care of nature. All in all, the bio-connection between human being and nature take part in encouraging learning, time and our being in this living planet.
Conclusion: Could a Really Alternative School be possible?
No educational system that intends to be coherent with basic human principles can rule out any of the aspects above mentioned. In a way, this exercise is a minimum inventory of humanity. One of the key points to highlight as a conclusion, is that the search for a Really Alternative School reveals a scenario in which the old institutions try to hide the truth of the present situation of humanity. A humanity economically tied to consumption, lovingly attached to family and economic structures that perpetuate ideas of property, domination and stranded intellectually on ideologies. On both sides, the current hypocrisy lies in justifying the inability to generate change from the same ways, and rules that need to be changed. One needs to be skeptical, not pessimistic, when confronted with the current organization it will escape from this category: schools that regard themselves as an alternative. As long as this hypocrisy is maintained it is impossible for all these features to be present in a school. Not even the most alternative, revolutionary and innovative of the schools fall into to be that: a school.
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