Radical education

I don’t know what an ideal education looks like, but I do know that mine was different from most. Nestled among the redwood trees at a public school in a small town of 100 families, I grew up in one of the last true havens of radical 60s thought.

They say that Janis Jopin used to play there.

My initials are carved into the road by the post-office – the only public building besides the school. This wasn’t some act of teenage vandalism – though such a deed is not unheard of. The road had washed out. The road from the post office up to the tracks, where the railway used to run. A lot of families live up that way, and the road had washed out.

So what’s a community with no police, no fire department, no Public Works Department, to do? They rebuilt the road. Among them, they had the knowledge, expertise, and skill, and they rebuilt the road.

And the school walked all the students over so we could watch. This is how our community works, they told us. When something breaks, we work together to fix it.

That’s just how it goes.

At some point, later or earlier, I’m not sure – a student teacher who’d just started working there, came into my classroom and started pulling kids out. Someone had seen a student throwing rocks at cars (not outside the realm of possibility). They didn’t know who it was. Someone blond.

So they pulled all the blond kids out of class and started sending them home. Somebody needed to be punished.

We protested. We were told adults knew best. We pushed back. Adults invoked their power. We didn’t back down.

We were, I believe, about to go into full on riot mode, when the teacher explained it was all a set up. Welcome to a unit on American internment camps during World War II.

It was definitely a unique education.


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