First published in The Courier - Newsletter of First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church
I have had a lot of questions thrown at me since the founding of EC Stanton Community School. One that never comes up with people who know me well, is; “Why did you feel compelled to start your own school?” Personally, I have followed a very traditional path toward education. I went to pre-K, did public schools all the way through K-12, attended a large state university into graduate school, and then taught in traditional school settings for a decade. I excelled at the game of school. I could please the right teachers, push against the ones who enjoyed challenging personalities, and enthusiastically involve myself in sports, band, academic teams, and volunteer activities. Using the genetics, privilege, and people-skills I learned from my mother, I navigated school quite successfully. At least I did on paper. But, the reality of the matter, is that I hated school. Did I find comfort in the routine? Sure. Did I find the prescribed questions with equally expectable answers appealing to my need to please the people in my life? Definitely. Do I have an underlying love of office supplies? Yes! Was I so good at and driven by school that I couldn’t figure out another path for my own life? Unequivocally, yes. Despite enjoying these parts of school and being quite successful at it, my own mental health suffered during my time in structured schooling. All because the structures in place did not care about my happiness and sense of worth, but about my scores. I learned that my success was nothing more than the scores I could produce and the number of activities I put on the application. If I was miserable in the process, it was totally okay. In fact, it must be the expectation because all the adults in my life were showing me in their actions the importance of success over happiness. This became one of the founding pieces of why starting EC Stanton and joining the Self-Directed Education movement, looking back, seems like an inevitability.
Beyond their lack of focus on mental well-being, I could write a book expanding on all the other ways that I think structured schooling is a disservice to humanity. In fact, there are multiple books already published on this topic. But what I personally discovered over the twenty-seven years that I participated in public school systems, is that they are not meant to feed the hearts and spirits of students. They are created to pass along the smallest fragments of human knowledge, decided by some stodgy old white guy in an office. That is not the legacy I wanted passed on to the kids in my care. This knowledge is full of pedagogical lies, lies of omission, and is not representative of what our kids need to succeed in the new technological frontier. I mean, who got to decide that the study of art was less important than the study of history (one is an elective and one is not)? Why are we focused on getting students to calculus level math understanding, when there are just as many jobs for musicians as there are mathematicians? Progressive educators tend to acknowledge this but they believe that adults are the only ones equipped to decide what skills and knowledge are best for kids to know. At this point in my career, I can unequivocally say that I don’t know what is best for each student to learn. All we can do is create an environment where learning is deemed a positive, where your life is your own, and where your learn to make decisions for a whole community. Critical thinking, problem solving, grit, tenacity, and learning to learn are at the heart of the school rather than the periphery. I wanted to create a school that is authentically aligned with the adult human experience, since that is what we are ultimately training them to be. And thus, EC Stanton Community School came to be.
1959 Sandy Ln.
Fort Worth, TX 76112
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First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church (no affiliation with the church)
1959 Sandy Ln. Fort Worth, TX 76112