Helena Singer has written the following report on IDEC 2007, held at Nautico University in Mogi das Cruzes in Brazil from September 8 16.
One hundred people from twelve countries took part in the first IDEC in South America: Brazil, Peru, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine and US. This IDEC was sponsored by the World Forum of Education, and the last three panels happened in a new auditorium inaugurated for the WEF in these panels, the audience reached 800 people.
The event achieved its goal of inserting Latin America in the international democratic education network. People from this side of the world learned about the schools that are ruled by the community in the other continents and the international democratic education network learned about the initiatives on democratic education in countries like Brazil and Mexico, where there is a rich variety of democratic schools in contexts as different as the forest, the richest and poorest area of the big cities, the public and the private education.
The sessions in different formats during 9 days made it possible to go further into theoretical aspects such as the influence of the philosophies of Paulo Freire, Wilhelm Reich, the anarchist movement and others in democratic education. Some key points were discussed during many sessions, in particular teacher training, assessment and education in the city. Reports will be made about these subjects and published in the conference website (www.idec2007.org). There was also space for the experience of democratic education, with meetings, games, exhibitions, yoga, vegetarian food but also barbecue, visits and so on.
One presentation was about the project of democratic schools in the Amazon. This project is coordinated by the Socioenvironment Institute (ISA), that has been in contact with democratic schools in Brazil since 2003 , firstly with Lumiar and now with the Institute for Democratic Education in Brazil. ISA was part of the organisation team for this IDEC.
At the IDEC they described Tuyuka School, which is spread over 3 communities, and Baniwa and Coripaco Pamáali School, which is spread over 93 communities. The schools "spread" over the communities because the communities of same nations (Tuyuka, Baniwa etc) are separated by rivers and the distance between them varies from 1 hour to 4 days.
These schools are democratic in all senses we can imagine - one person one vote on all relevant matters, real freedom for students to learn the things they like, no obligation to attend lessons, etc. All these ideas are enriched by their traditional cultures. We have a lot to learn from them.
Some important proposals were made: the publication of the papers presented, the creation of a site for organisations that help others to set up democratic schools, international cooperative projects by research centres. I do hope we can make all these happen.
In the last session, dedicated to evaluating the conference, someone said this had been the most harmonious IDEC ever. Although exhausted, I'm a bit sad that it is over...
There was a meeting in Brazil about future IDECs which passed the following resolutions:
We strongly recommend that the hosting party of any IDEC should attend the previous IDEC. They should also ideally be present at the IDEC two years previous when the decision for their year is made.
David Gagnon should build a new listserve for the members of previous hosting organizations. Anyone from a previous hosting organisation can join this list and it will be used to make decisions in the event that a host is not chosen two years in advance or in the event that a related decision needs to be made. When a 'vote' (formal or informal) is called, all list members will have two weeks to reply/vote. (This is to prevent decisions from stretching into months of uncertainty, as was the case with deciding on Vancouver, Canada for IDEC 08)
IDEC 2009 will be in Korea, as long as a strong hosting party is identified and has made a sound proposal by the end of February 2008. Otherwise the new listserve will have to make a new decision. (It was noted that Ramone hoped to be able to host an IDEC in Barcelona, Spain, in 2009 or 2010.)
The European Democratic Education Network held its third meeting from 5-7 October in Leipzig, Germany. Of the 39 participants, 10 were school students and 6, university students. Five countries (Denmark, England, Germany, Holland and Israel) were represented, along with 12 democratic schools/founding groups.
Major steps were taken toward the founding of a European network. A decision was made to accept an offer from the Phoenix Education Trust in England to organize the network as a Phoenix project for an initial period of two years. The participants also elected an interim council, worked on the EUDEC 2008 programme and drafted mission statements for both the network and the conference.
Seven of the schools have recently been awarded Comenius funding for a multilateral partnership. These schools will have their first official meeting in Vienna on 15/16 December 2007. The interim council will also use this opportunity to meet.
The next network meeting is planned for 15-17 February 2008 in Leipzig. Here, participants will be voting on the first official network council, a name for the organisation and a membership structure. Any open issues related to conference planning will also be discussed.
For additional information about the European Democratic Education Network or EUDEC 2008, please contact Leslie Ocker (email@example.com) or visit the EUDEC website at www.eudec2008.org.
Blue Mountain School in Oregon, founded in 1998, is a democratic school with about 60 pupils aged between 5 and 19. It is a charter school, that is to say that it is paid for by the state as long as it adheres to a charter agreed jointly by the school and the state. It has much in common with Sudbury schools, but it does offer formal classes, among many other educational opportunities. All students are nevertheless free to make their own decisions about what they will do, all day and every day.
On July 9th this year Blue Mountain had its charter contract withdrawn by the board of directors of its school district. By a 4 to 3 vote they had decided to terminate the school¹s contract from September 17th. They gave a string of reasons, ranging from the fact that the school did not keep records in a fire-proof safe to concerns about the safety of students, academic standards and failures to adhere consistently to the school¹s charter. The school has denied all the significant charges and shown that in respect of academic achievement and accident rates it compares well with other schools in the area. The length of the list of negative comments and the inclusion of trivialities like the fire-proof safe suggest that the school board is determined to catch the school out on some charge or other, no matter how many may fail. Their objective seems to be to close the school, come what may.
Blue Mountain has appealed against the withdrawal of its charter. The appeal was heard on August 16th. In spite of the coherency of the school¹s defence and substantial local support, the district board voted exactly as it had done previously. Blue Mountain¹s next step will probably be an appeal to the State Board of Education.
The school will stay open until Christmas even if all appeals fail. It also has a team working to explore options to remain viable even if it can no longer be a charter school.
A full account can be found at http://adams.uoregon.edu/~sadofsky/bmcs/