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June 10, 2016

Are you with me now?


I’m up in Walla Walla, WA giving the keynote for the A4LE conference of architects and educators. The talk is titled: Where is the Their There? Ironically, I know no one there. So many schools are not designed to make the students and staff visible for who they are and what they want to do. Instead a bureaucratic mindset takes hold where everything is orderly and done by the book to the point where almost everyone loses themselves in a space that is not a place for them. A space becomes a place when it has a collective soul of the people who want to be there because it makes them feel like who they are and who they want to become. Once again, I’m reminded of Z’s wonderful quote about freesearch where she looked for the soul of the project. Similarly, we need to look for the soul of a space to make it a place. School becomes a place when students are doing their work and not just the school’s work? School becomes a place when student know what they are doing is real and not fake. The talk went great and the follow-up workshop was also very well-received. There were loads of people at the conference wanting to understand more about how our schools become places rather than spaces.


"The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate."
-- Joseph Priestley


“Do not ever drop your hands. Do not hold your chin up, or lean straight back when trying to avoid a punch, or let your opponent pin you into a corner.” 

They are among the basic tenets of boxing, lessons that a trainer teaches fighters early on. Muhammad Ali defied all of those conventions. Brash as he was with his mouth, the way he fought was arguably even bolder: hands down, head up, dancing, daring his opponent to draw in closely.” 

Muhammed Ali was the most recognizable person of his time and probably the most recognizable person of all time. How did Muhammed Ali, who only graduated high school and by all accounts wasn’t welcome there, become the most recognizable person of his time? Just and FYI prior to Ali, the most recognizable person was Charlie Chaplin with no high school diploma. What made Ali and Chaplin so amazing was the way they communicated physically. Both were bigger than life individuals who weren’t looking for trouble but did not avoid it by being who they were. Both stood up when most shut up. They put themselves body and soul on the line for what they stood for.

As the quote in the NY Times points out, Muhammed Ali defied all the rules of boxing and he also defied the rules outside the ring as well. What role does your physical play in your intellectual? Why don’t we give this even the slightest consideration in schools?

 Just one more thing

I had a great breakfast with Duane Coleman superintendent of Oceanside School District in CA. It seems everywhere we travelled people kept on telling us we had to meet. They were right. We had a great time together with more to come around


Next week, I will be going up the Bay Area to visit MetWest and have meetings with Andrew and quite a few foundations.


Enjoy the weekend!

I’m in NYC, just about to give a Keynote at The Schools That Can Conference about reimagining education. This is an easy talk because it’s what we have been doing for 40 years- reimagining and then carrying out.


College Unbound Graduation


A beautiful ceremony. We graduated 13 adults with their Bachelor’s Degree and 5 adults received their Associates.

The ceremony is always packed and always emotional. Remember that most of our students haven’t returned to school for 10, 15, some for 20 years. So they see it as a miracle. They cry. They thank everyone. They stand tall and most say they have been promised a raise Monday or they are going on for their Masters Degree.


We have a couple of cool traditions. While were still small, we not only say something about each student, but each student speaks. The coolest thing is that the student can bring someone on stage of their choosing, to actually hand them their degree. The family member on stage, whether it is a mom, husband or a kid, always looks so proud. And the diploma is not just a diploma. Event Master Tara, puts the diploma, along with a professionally taken photo of the student, into a beautiful frame. We also line the room with poster-sized pictures of each student that our friend Cat Laine takes. They are beautiful.


We gave the Alumni Award this year to Chachi Carvalho, who graduated last year. Chachi works at The Met and is a brilliant hip-hop artist. He is so committed to CU and shouts us out in the middle of every concert. He talks about his own return to college and getting his degree at CU after 15 years.


We gave the “Giraffe Award” to our Higher Ed Commissioner, Jim Purcell, for sticking his neck out in support of us. Then at night, Providence had a music, arts and food festival. It’s the 2nd year in a row it happened the night of our graduation. It turned into our CU after party- with graduates walking around with their CU t-shirts on.



Speaking of graduations…


RISD (Rhode Island School of Design)had their graduation on Saturday also. Sunday morning at 6am, I headed out for breakfast. There were 25 people waiting outside my breakfast place. It seemed to early for that many people. As I approached and asked my questions I learned that they were RISD students, who graduated at noon the day before and were “thrown out of” their dorm at midnight. So while their parents were sleeping at The Marriott, they stayed up all night (and partied) til their parents got up and left town.


Go figure. Tuition per year is 48,800 with housing and 12, 850 in other fees for a total of 66,160 per year.


For 66,000 you think they could keep the dorms open one more night.



Muhammad Ali’s Death


I have been a devoted Muhammad Ali fan since I met him in the late 60’s. It was at a time when he had just refused to enter the Armed Services. No one knew if he was smart? Not so smart? For real? Well it didn’t take long to figure it out. That night I saw him in Ann Arbor, he recited poetry for an hour, all by heart, on every subject.


When I met him afterwards, it was the first time I felt something different inside me when standing next to someone else. I knew that he was a very special human being. I felt it- viscerally. I have felt that one other time and that was seeing Harry Belafonte- even from a distance.


Also, in the 60’s, I was browsing a photo shop one day and I came across a limited edition (275 printed) picture of Ali and The Beatles.  Ali was Cassius Clay at the time- the photo is called, A Hard Day’s Fight.


This picture was two cultural forces emerging on their way to global fame.


It was cool to read about this photo on the front page of the Providence Journal last Sunday. It was the beginning of Ali becoming the most recognized person in the world- surpassing The Beatles.


At graduation I used one of his many quotes. I finished the ceremony with this, “Hens only crow in the light. I have seen the light.” Then I said to the graduates, “Go crow!” and they marched out of the black box.



The Met


Brandon Lane, who teaches at The E-Center, has opened a place in town called Better Off, where you turn off your tech and just unplug for a while- away from screens, tablets, etc. Better Off has programing that encourages conversations, meditation, etc. Great job, Brandon!


“ It is not just big acts of courage. It is about every single day, getting up with consistency and persistence and doing small acts of courage and love, that over time, add up to monumental change.”- Corey Booker



Met Graduation


Monday- yea! I love them! 2000 parents all dressed up and so proud. Walking down the aisle for the 16th time still brings tears to my eyes.





Lumina’s quarterly journal, FOCUS, has decided to do their October issue on prison/college programs. They are highlighting 3 colleges- Bard, Temple and College Unbound. Very exciting. The other great news is that the writer is a writer from St. Louis and he had written about our BP St. Louis School. He loved the school and is excited about BP. I know the article will be good because I’ve read his stuff before.


Have a good weekend.