A good friend of mine from college came through town recently who now lives in Austin, Texas with his family. He was talking to me about the school he intends to send his daughters to which is a mix between Montessori and Waldorf with a more expeditionary approach to learning. Wow! I am so envious.
With both of my parents being educators, school has always been the number one priority in my family. My mom’s mantra: options, options, options. And that is what good grades and good education allow. And while I was one of those students who breezed through school, my grades certainly did not reflect that. I was much more entrenched in the social aspects. I skated by on Bs. I was in all of the AP classes and took AP tests, but never actually applied myself. I found school rather boring.
I attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, which was quite progressive and extremely liberal. I majored in an interdisciplinary program called Social Thought and Political Economy, a philosophy program that crossed many disciplines. From anthropology to economics, women’s studies to art history. It took capitalism and broke everything down from a Marxist perspective. While my major in college has rendered itself essentially useless in my life, it did allow me to broaden my scope of thought.
I always question why we continue to box our kids into thinking that there is only one way to learn when there are so many options available? I think that we teach the creativity out of our children. I will never forget my 9th grade English class. I had an amazing teacher, Mr. Koeleher. We were reading “Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck and were asked to do a report on the book. I wrote something entirely “wrong.” However, Mr. Koeleher gave me an A on the paper anyway. He explained that while I missed the point, my paper actually gave a compelling argument for the point I made. He rewarded my thought process and my execution. He rewarded where my brain took me and not where he thought my brain should have taken me. That was the last time anything like that ever happened.
DICHOTOMY OF THE VAIL VALLEY
Living here has so many pros and cons. We get to exist in one of the most beautiful playgrounds in the world, but our options for really great things are few and far between. We don’t get provocative movies. We can’t find exotic spices for cooking. We live in such a dichotomy. There is tons and tons of money coming in and out of this place but so little invested in the things that really matter.
Raising children here and talking to my friends “on the outside” make me realize how far away I have gotten from my ideals. I want my kids to have options; not just in their future lives, but in their lives today. I want to offer my kids the education they deserve where they are challenged by life and foster a love of learning in their lives. I don’t want to see them become robots to the state tests or categorized by the Colorado Department of Education.
I wish we could break out of the mold of what is considered standard operating procedure and give our kids the true gift of education. We have a few schools that are trying, and I am so grateful to those trying to create an education revolution. But we need to create an army that can sustain the bumps and bruises and lack of funding and overall lack of support for our future.
We need to be able to reach outside of our comfort levels and offer our children some radically different options, some innovative approaches to education. Opportunities that incorporate all of the beautiful things that life has to offer including art, music and nature. These things should be a given in our kids lives, not a privilege. The mountains offer magic — let’s give it back to our kids as if our own lives depend on it … because they do!
Gabrie Higbie is the publisher and producer of Gem Media, which is online at www.gogem.co. She is on the radio Saturdays on Ski Country and The Lift FM.