I was invited to a fascinating event on Friday, by Tessy Britton FRSA who is always a font of optimism and exciting new contacts, ideas and connections (check out her blog).
The event involved Jerry Stein of the University of Minnesota presenting his Learning Dreams programme to a small group.
Learning Dreams is about changing cultures of truancy and low educational aspiration by getting parents and whole communities involved in learning: finding out what their own learning dreams are and then helping them to realise them. The project is funded on the basis that it reduces truancy and improves attainment levels in schools, but is based on the principle that schools are not the answer to learning in these contexts. The argument goes that they are fighting a losing battle if children are not brought up in homes in which learning is valued and loved for its own sake, but also that learning should be a community wide phenomenon, not something that only happens in schools.
The successes of the programme and the fantastic, innovative and committed community work that goes into it can be read about on the website and elsewhere – I’d highly recommend a look.
The burning question for me as someone who works on innovations within schools, but who has a deep sympathy with the idea of lifewide and life long learning, is what can schools do to complement such community-based learning, and to prevent the kind of alienation from learning displayed in those families and communities in the first place? Is it getting children into school only half the battle if they leave without a love of learning that they can pass down to their own children and prevent the need for further intervention? Or are our attempts at stimulating a love of learning in schools a red herring in the face of the indifference learning of some parents?