The Children's Community holds a bright and magic place in Ann Arbor history. lts first incarnation grew from a kindergarten - preschool in 1965 to a licensed grade school in 1968. The staff lived collectively on a tiny income, hustling every day to get the materials they needed, trying to put their philosophy of "kids are only newer people" into practice. Hassles with officialdom finally forced it to close. Staff members moved on: Skip Taube worked on the White Panther Party Central Committee until he was put in a Minnesota prison, Bill Ayers and Diana Oughton became leaders in Weatherman. Diana died making bombs. Bill is underground.
But the Children's Community lives! A group of pre-schoolers and older kids, parents and interested community people have been getting together since last January, exploring an alternative way of living, learning, and growing. Rather than wait years to open till we gained accreditation and facilities, we started on a very small scale in people's houses to gain the practice and experience we would miss if we waited to go through all the red tape. But we now want to move into bigger facilities, more kids, and an openness that would mean greater community involvement.
The school is a community (communications/unity), a place where the children have a major part in defining their own learning environment, where deeply shared feelings of love and respect among people are a way of living. Through this community, we will create a school whose "students" and "staff" will refuse to take part in the alienation and exploitation of present American society and death culture. We must build the new age, starting right now, through our own efforts.
We plan to set an enrollment limit at the beginning of fifteen children, ages 2 - 5. So far, we operate in the afternoons from one to five, five days a week, though this is subject to change. In the mid-afternoon we usually have a snack of popcorn, sandwiches and milk or juice (making the popcorn and learning how to cook has turned out to be one of the favorite activities of the kids). Other activities include painting and working with clay, music and dancing, building blocks, reading books, and for some of the older children, learning how to read with alphabet and word cards. We also take field trips. Now that the weather is warm, we will be able to spend a lot more time outside, and plan on using the entire Ann Arbor community as our schoolyard.
The staff includes one accredited teacher, parents, people from the university and community, and some older (high-school) kids. We feel the most important attribute of a staff member is not formal training but a real empathy and interest in the children -- someone who can give ideas and creative direction to the kids without stifling their curiosity and confidence. Learning is a vital, creative process -- something we do together, both children and adults. The teacher in our school is more the person with life and experience to share with the kids than the "educator" in the formal sense of the word. Education is life, and not something separate. We find we learn a lot from the kids -- they are very free. Often, the children are the best judge of who is a good teacher.
Parents are encouraged to work on the school, or, if they have jobs and can't participate during the day, to come to our weekly Sunday night potluck dinners, where we get together to work out the direction of the school together, for the benefit of everyone.
We ask a bare minimum $15 per month per child. This goes for supplies, gas for transportation and food for snacks. The staff receives no pay -- presently all work is done on a voluntary basis, on a rotating system of two adults a day.
The First Unitarian Church of Ann Arbor recently laid a home on us, more beautiful than our wildest hallucinations -- rent free for at least a year. We can now come above ground and really begin to involve the whole community in loving, serving, and sharing our children.
We've worked to create a Children's Community because we know that to bring up whole and happy children we MUST form an alternative to the destructive absurdity of American public schools. American schools are obsessed with POWER, AUTHORITY, and CONTROL - not with knowledge or human value. Administrators and teachers pompously assume that they know what a child should learn, and spend their time trying to ram this or that abstract curricula down the students' throat. They enforce compulsory attendance even though the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes involuntary servitude illegal. They wouldn't have to make kids go to class if the class were any good.
In reality, schools DESTROY children. Instead of trying to produce warm, loving kids capable of critical, independent thought, they want children who will OBEY. Dynamic, high-energy young people are forced to sit still in chairs for hours, lie quiet, and follow orders. The grading system forces the child to feel that the purpose of work is to live up to other peoples expectations rather than to follow one's own curiosity and interests. Grades introduce competition, divide students against one another, and produce tension and envy. Since only a few can come out on top, the rest learn they are failures.
The most important thing to be learned in school is that you have no real power over how your life will unfold and that the easiest way to stay out of trouble is to do as you're told. Once you've earned this you're ready to take your assigned place in the death machine, and like it. You are forced to trade your joy in living for "joy" in grades, then "joy" in money. As you go from grades to paychecks the rules stay the same; follow directions, and don't make any waves for the boss. You become a machine, working to make the people who own the country still richer, living to perpetuate the status quo of worldwide exploitation and imperialism. (Studies show that employers hire people with a lot of schooling because someone who has stayed in school a long time has proved that he is easily manageable.)
The honkies in power are intent upon producing another generation just like them. We say that only the young can turn this culture around and save the planet. To do this we must seize control of our lives and shape our education to meet our real needs, by building people's schools now and working to gain collective control over ALL schools by any means necessary, as soon as we can.
The Children's Community is just a tiny seed. Seeds either grow or die. If you will join us and contribute some of your own unique energy, resources or talent we will grow together strong and free. If you can sing come and teach a song. If you aren't using a car some afternoon we desperately need help with transportation. Cook some wholesome food and serve it at snack time. See if you have any spare games, blocks, old dress-up clothes, paints, colored paper, or anything else a kid could have fun with. We also, of course, need money. If you know someone between two and five we would like to meet them.
Please give us a call the evening before you plan to visit. Contact
Barbara - 769-0148
Marsha - 761-1709
or Rosemary - 769-7352.
FREE THE CHILDREN! FREE OURSELVES!