Estes Park News – Around The Lake – Thinking Makes It So

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by Robert Burkhardt

“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” Aristotle

Three hundred and seventy years ago the Massachusetts Bay Colony denounced “that old deluder, Satan” and promoted “knowledge of the Scriptures” as bedrock to what would become state-supported public education. Today 13,000 American public school districts enroll 50 million students, and “the fate of empires” rests on decisions and choices made by students, parents, teachers, administrators and school boards.

“There can be no agreement between those who regard education as a means of instilling certain definite beliefs, and those who think it should produce the power of independent judgment.” Bertrand Russell

Education is not a neutral enterprise. This raises fundamental questions, including: What values should educators profess? Is critical thinking more important than imagination? Should personal initiative outweigh collaboration? Does analytic ability supersede oral or written communication? Is altruism more important than self-interest? What curricular role does technology play? Are the arts and sports imperative or simply pleasant diversions? What should a high school graduate know and be able to do? Are multiple pathways to graduation appropriate, or will common curriculum better bankroll students to meet and master twenty-first century needs?

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ’The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” Maria Montessori

Our Estes Valley offers a wide range of alternatives for learners, including classes at the library and senior center, a Waldorf preschool, home schooling, the English Conversation Café, and more. The Learning Place supports youth and adults to achieve educational goals through G.E.D. preparation, math tutoring in Middle School, assistance at the EPHS Success Center, and work with international families.

“To know how to read is to know your way. To know how to write is to know how to ascend.” Jose Marti

Eagle Rock School enrolls adolescents who are unfamiliar with success and impels them to re-engage and reclaim their lives through continuous improvement in a challenging, service-oriented, interdisciplinary learning community that emphasizes both academics and personal growth.

“Enter to learn; depart to serve.” Mary McLeod Bethune

Roots Community School will open this coming Autumn, and plans to immerse children in grades K-5 in nature-based, hands-on learning designed to inspire curiosity and engagement.

“A child only makes moral progress when he is happy.” Homer Lane

How might we imagine the future of education in Estes Park? Through the leadership of the School Board and Superintendent Sheldon Rosenkrance, a remarkable community initiative began this past autumn: Estes Thrives. A series of Neighborhood Learning Conversations is now underway to build stakeholder support and shape the future of K-12 education in the Estes Valley; all Estes residents are encouraged to participate. These conversations offer a forum for parents, students, teachers and community members to learn what the school district is doing to improve our schools, and as well deliberate the attributes of a successful high school graduate, in preparation for a community forum at the High School on May 11.

“If, instead of keeping a boy poring over books, I employ him in a workshop, his hands will be busied to the improvement of his understanding; he will become a philosopher while he thinks himself only an artisan.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Here are thoughts for contemplation. First, early childhood education research affirms babies need two things: lots of crawling space and plenty of things to discover. Don’t these also help adolescents and adults become autodidacts? If so, what implications are there for our public schools? Second, schools need individuals who can teach their own capacity to learn through what Paulo Freire called “problem-posing education.” How do we find, train and retain such choreographers of learning? Third, although English is the language of the marketplace, multilingual citizens offer more depth and resonance to the larger community. What implications does this have for schools? Finally, the poet Gary Snyder once asserted that “all true paths lead through mountains.” Estes Thrives advances an inclusive path for our town, one on which all of us can walk toward a promising future. Please come to the high school on May 11, to help deepen the discussion.