Status updates

A couple of months back we have started a small initiative, that we hope to turn into a registered charity soon. We needed a name and came up with this: Loki Education.

But this post is not about the name (it deserves it’s separate take!), I just wanted to give a short update and put a few things out that should be.

We (meaning mostly Natalja) now have done a great deal of research on how UK charities work, looked somewhat deeper on how people with aims similar to ours operate (I’m looking at you, Phoenix Education) and at various websites done close to what we want to build. It’s all very interesting and challenging – and we do move in small steps towards setting up our own small current in this ocean.

We’ll be using Natalja’s volunteering experience at HomeStart – and my experience in organizing and managing virtual teams of people around projects. We hope to rely mostly on volunteer work – and create a strong infrastructure of project-centric support groups in 2-3 years (that will overlap somewhat with EUDEC and other organizations and charities).

2014 Plans

how-to-not-do-thingsBy the end of the year we should be established as a registered charity. It will take time and effort – but we do hope a year will be enough. But we won’t wait until it happens and will focus our work around volunteer-supported projects.

We don’t know how it will go, but we do know how it shouldn’t (pictured right —> ).

Here I wanted to post a short outline of those projects we’ll be working towards in 2014:

– Freedom-based education BOK project (Body of Knowledge) – a separate website dedicated to assemble a library of book titles and materials – independent information database that will bring more value than a regular books list.

– Monthly bulletin that will aggregate and publish relevant news, tweets, videos, everything what’s related and interesting (and public) in the world of (all) education – that will include democratic education too.

– We’ll try to assemble materials and maybe, with time – create a short, alternative education-specific version of UNICEF’s “Rights Respecting Schools Award” program that will aim to question UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CNC) compliance in alternative education (including democratic education, unschooling etc.).

– We’re working to launch some iPhone / iPad / Android apps for younger kids to have a quick self-check on freedom and child’s rights situation in their school or family.

And we have a few other things that we are not so sure of yet, because of their larger nature – those are rather dreams just yet.

We don’t have a ready plan for volunteering just yet – and we likely will not have it fully ready this year, but please feel free to write me: vladimiras@lekecinskas.com or Natalja natalja.lekecinskiene@gmail.com – if you think you could dedicate an hour or two a month (or more!) to the cause of spreading and promoting freedom-based education. At the moment we’re in touch with ten people in total that are willing to donate small bits of their lives to it – and we’ll be happy to have you on board.

EUDEC

agyXy6W_700bI am still not sure how the whole thing will develop further on, but even though the hope is bleak – I still try to find a format of work that will not provoke endless dissonance.

I have started to pull out and re-write / re-format information on eudec.org website, making it more usable and easy to understand for newbies and “external” (not so much involved) people and I have a draft list of things I’d like to get carried officially. I will finalize it and will put out my vision and a set of proposals on what I think EUDEC could do and how it could act – in the next month or so (grounded on the Vision 2020 document and my personal experience, mostly).

I will also follow recommendations for UK charities regarding transparency, member rights – even though those might be not ideal in the perspective of German law.

Of course the decision to “burn Giordano” could still be taken too (mostly because I question not only small particulars – but the core values system too, I think), but it won’t change much, except serve as a very evident proof of how intolerant to transparency and critical thinking the current EUDEC system is. I’ve been told already I can’t participate in my own “trial”, so I guess they will just send me a first class postage parcel with my cup of poison later on? We’ll see.

I’m also really wondering on how this coordinator hiring thing will go.. maybe there is a place for magic in the world?

Long term perspective

With a great surprise I came to the conclusion that many people working in democratic education don’t actually seem to expect it happening for real, at a large scale – anytime soon.

It is something that is very hard to understand coming from a commercial perspective – all the “go big or go home” mentality doesn’t fit with the “there are 70 schools in Europe” thing, instantly adding the “just 70 out of 140 000 schools in total” in my head. I would like to know more about what’s changing on the government level, how existing schools and existing teachers could be addressed by the democratic education community.

It is a thought to think further, but so far the main difference I see – is the difference of perspective. I myself see us more-less at a tipping point of rapid growth of adoption of freedom-tested methods in wider context – in Europe and in the world. Freedom in education – it just works. It makes perfect sense to me – commercially, rationally, from a humanistic perspective, human and child rights perspective. It is not something I believe in – it’s just something I rationally find to be the best thing available out there. I want to help communicate it, explain it and showcase it to others in a longer term perspective.

I think it’s time. We had women rights movement – now a solid reality. We now take care of animals and the planet much more than we ever did. We had gay rights movement to had their win for the most part of the civilized world, just recently. What is the next logical step here? We live in a more-less rational world, I don’t buy all the pessimism out htere.

I think it’s long overdue to have a massive, tectonic shift in the mindset of the whole world – regarding kids and education. And I don’t find it marginal or small or even “alternative”, really. It’s just something that is going to happen, everywhere, soon enough. And it’s something I’d like to be a part of.

So, just a small notch on the wall for myself, mostly.

Dare to speak

Great TED talk that reflects how I see conflict. Dare to speak. Dare to stand up to authority, put out statements that you are ready to defend.

Compare, contrast

copyright-troll

Council meeting got cancelled, so it all goes on for another week (at least). All those emails and comments that I was exchanging with people have pushed me towards again looking at the situation from both sides of the table, so I’ll share the thoughts I have had here.

I think my own views on this subject have the following flaws:

1) I have a negative personal experience with EUDEC (that is open to anyone interested), I don’t respect the level of competence and commitment people in the council show. I think EUDEC does not try to learn from other non-profits and other successful organisations in the world – and therefore I’m highly biased here, that’s something I just can’t take away.

2) The approaches I take are often seen as too rough, hurting people – and not too “diplomatic”. Trolling and not playing the political game, not trying to persuade people first and jumping straight to action, not trying to avoid conflict and collision.

3) It also could be viewed as cheap populism. Who really would say “no” to help the school in need, right? It’s a “dirty play” on emotions and compassion and the attempt to attack people that are doing something good the best they can.

4) Maybe there is really no money? Maybe there is a long dreamed on plan to hire a coordinator that will do the work and the budget was searched for desperately through the years and now it can’t be just spent away too easy. Maybe the budget is really too tight and can’t be changed?

5) Maybe I’m actually hostile towards democratic education in general as such? I am openly critical towards the parliamentary model of democratic education (aka “Sudbury” model) and very much leaning towards direct democracy and freedom-based, no suggestion, no manipulation, child rights compliant, trust based approach (aka “A.S. Neill” model, in my head) – that is not so wide-spread and is different from what most EUDEC schools have. So it’s biased approach again!

My views towards execution of children’s rights could actually become a threat to some democratic schools (where child’s right to receive adequate education unconditionally – could be very much questioned, I think). It is a stupid and contradictory mix of radical left and radical right!

6) I don’t support fun and joy at meetings. I don’t like positive psychology. I don’t want council members to be friendly to each other at all. That is utilitarian business-like thinking, and EUDEC is a network, a friendly community.

7) ? please add if I’m missing on something. I do like criticism as I like my likes: in public.

Done with reasonable argumentation for the other side of the table, phew.

Now a few of my own points again.

The council’s position (as I see it from the initial discussion and a few comments I’ve got)gordian-maze-mouse, has the following flaws:

1) There always is a way to get stuff done, if you really want to get it done. If you want to help – you will find the money, you will arrange fundraising, you will find a way. Initiative? Flexibility? Problem solving? Leadership? Working towards the spirit of the law, not towards the letter of it? Get stuff done, people.

2) I see EUDEC is planning to spend 29.421,00 euro in the year 2014 and get 15.250 euro from member’s fees, 6650 euro from (member?) schools.

Council travel costs are 4100 euro and 1000 euro is budgeted towards attending other events and 1200 euro is budgeted towards supporting (in my view, dysfunctional) website and 1000 euro towards printing flyers and 18 000 towards hiring the coordinator.

If you see a picture that has nothing to cut – then well, we agree to disagree on that. I am sure there are plenty of ways and resources here.

3) Donating 100 euros is way much better than donating zero. It is a message to every single member out there, and this message says: fuck you deal with your own problems yourself (clear enough?).

4) And yes, I don’t want my plane pilot to be happy or satisfied with his life – I just want a safe journey home. I don’t care much if surgeons, fireguards, police officers are happy in their personal life. It’s their life, their responsibility. Yes, I’m deeply utilitarian in this respect and I want council members to do the effective job that they have volunteered and were hired for. Being at the council is a job, a responsibility – even if you actually don’t get paid for it.

Whatever people choose to be in their private life – is their call, but here we are in the professional space. If it ever becomes a strong organisation with significant impact on education in Europe and in the world, with the dialog with governments (Vision 2020 anyone??), if you take it really seriously – it has to be professional and has to start with the strive for professionalism in the council.

5) It’s not a game and I’m not smiling, it’s dead serious stuff. At the end it’s done for the children and real lives of real people are at stake. Dysfunctional democratic education community is hurting children rights, hurting freedom based education, hurting people. Just the mere fact you try your best does not justify you – don’t try, do or not do.

Learn from other effective non-profits. Dedicate precise hours of time for WORK not just for talking in meetings. If someone does not attend: fire the person. Separate your private life from your life at EUDEC. Don’t be friends with other council members – or you will lose the ability to think critically and will not argue objectively. Get real.

devils-advocate

continue to EUDEC with fear and trembling

Today I have opened my gmail and started emailing people.

Don’t like those generic “Hi,” emails myself and don’t have the software to do it – so it took me a few hours to send a regular email message to everyone I wanted to send it to, with a proper greeting by name, some in russian, lithuanian and even turkish. But mostly in english of course.

When one person sees one thing and another sees something else in the same thing, then the one discovers what the other conceals – was once written by Søren Kierkegaard, who wanted him to be known as “John the Silent” back then. I’m taking silent part in EUDEC’s meetings lately and I’m sure we see things differently. The question is: what’s there to hide for each of us?

It used to be so strange to me to see that EUDEC has no official facebook page where everyone can just post whatever they want, where people would simply vote with “likes” and would be free to speak up.

It used to be strange eudec.org site is so closed down – forums are closed, minutes are closed, to dig out just about anything you have to log in and have proper rights (that some group of the chosen ones controls). Wikipedia.org does not claim to have democracy – but anonymous visitor can make changes there.

Now I get it much more.
eudec social media plan
I see that this democracy is really quite afraid of freedom. Afraid of transparency. Shits pants if there’s any sign of conflict on the horizon, if you’re supposed to fight for what you value. Not really aware of human rights (child’s rights, anyone?). A lot of interesting properties to think about.

What I thought to be one outrageous episode now looks more like a culture. Things just work this way here.eudec council meetings
A few chosen people gather together and decide on things.

  • You were not there? It’s up to you. Yes, there’s an instruction somewhere, but you have to find it yourself and you have to take care to be added by someone from the council and then maybe we’ll add you when you take care about it.
  • You don’t have the access to some document? Too bad. Well, you could have taken care of it, probably?
  • You don’t understand something? Don’t know why something works in some particular way? Well, go find someone to explain it to you.

And most importantly – our aims are well, just some random yada-yada we don’t go into much (template taken from IDEC?) that we haven’t really thought much about. Yeah well they are somewhere out there. I dunno. :P

Relentless focus, supporting democratic schools, all that. Whatever.

eudec aims

Right now the easy way for me would be to just drop it and walk away to build my own luna-park. But I have committed to participate, uncover and make as visible as possible all issues I will find this year. So it goes..

But I’m also working on loki-education and on a few of EUDEC-things, such us:

  • Finding the way to limit EUDEC’s administrative expenses within some 10-20% cap of the overall budget and spend at least 80% towards aims – to support democratic schools, democratic education.
  • Getting clear on who puts what in. There are countless thousands of non-profits worldwide and effective non-profit usually hold quite transparent and strict volunteering processes, with clear hours committed to the organisation. Right now people who do a lot of work are not really celebrated and a few extroverts…
  • EUDEC has Vision 2020 document approved by the AGM, that is rather good and could become a framework to evaluate council’s success. I’m working on developing a list of metrics that would help anyone out there to assess how effective EUDEC is and where is it going through those metrics (based on “Vision 2020”).
  • Looking for a way to involve more people and have a mini-AGM each week. Direct democracy, transparency, pure stuff. If some 7 council members would be balanced by 20-30 non-council members – things will change instantly.

Hope to have something by the end of the year.

Cheers,
John

An essay on flavours of authority

Let’s start simple.

We pass on our genes to our children. We also, from evolutionary standpoint, really want, feel the need to pass our traits. Why?

Well, we do know, that the way we did things in our life (and saw things done by other people that surround us) – has worked well enough. Are we alive? Are we not starving? Do we have children? Yes? Then what we know – works.

We assume that the knowledge about the outside world could be not the best – but it is the most reliable we have. We absolutely trust our life’s experience, for it is very hard to question one’s whole life critically.

So.

From evolutionary standpoint – we know what works and we want to secure the future of our children by teaching them what works and by passing our traits.

In the development of our species for a long time it was a very good strategy!

Just a few hundred years ago there was no cheap way to preserve information and share and pass it on to our offspring. The only good way was generation-to-generation teaching and learning. So it led to the development of the social skill of teaching and the economic optimization of the costs of teaching led to the appearance of schools that just reduce costs of generation-to-generation teaching.

We try as hard as we can to pass elements of our behavior to increase survival chances for our children. We just think it works best.

But is it still a “winning strategy”?

Outdated knowledge

I would argue that it no longer is. I would argue that even plain and materialistic, evolutionary, biological approach gives evidence that freedom based education works better in our today’s world, than the “old way”.

Why?

Well because information that we, as parents, have today is old. We, adults, no longer are the best, the most reliable knowledge source anymore!

There was little or no difference between 1750s and 1800s books or culture. But the generation gap between 2008 and 2013 is HUGE – bigger than ever before in such short time.  And the world will only move faster – there’s no sign of a slowdown just yet.

We do serve as a natural authority – and thus pass on outdated traits and outdated knowledge. Knowingly or not (often not) we teach our kids to approach future problems with old tools, old ways and the old mindset.

I would argue that both from rational, materialistic, “learning” side – and from emotional intelligence, play and self-determination sides of things – our knowledge of it is 20-50 years too old!

Sunburns

So on one hand the knowledge (facts, approaches, social models) we have is old, but on the other hand it’s also very important how we deliver it.

Even if you’re Einstein in physics – young kids don’t need Einstein to learn from. Having a naturally good (at something) parent or teacher (!) around, having this natural authority, this “sun” right next to them – will distort their life, limiting their ability to choose from the whole range of what life and the future has to offer and inclining towards the “good” traits that the adult has.

In other words natural authority and compulsory authority aren’t that different.

I think that having a parent that is very good at something – will always result in a negative consequence, a distortion, the unintended molding. You can minimize the damage by having the kid as uninvolved in your knowledge / work “baggage” as possible – but some of it will be dealt anyway.

And I would even argue that even having a talented, good teacher too early in life – also could, counter-intuitively, be a very bad thing for the child! He could be going towards becoming a great violin player, but then started to model his chemistry teacher… and is now neither.

In an ideal school I would see teachers at some distance from younger kids at all. They need care, unlimited play and similar interests and age people around them – but teachers? Not really.

When (and if) their time comes – then they will decide to go to a rather usual class with a rather usual textbook and a rather usual teacher, nothing special is required really. But till then – the further away their life is from adults, the better, I’m sure.

Fail fast, fail better

But wait, who has this better knowledge then?

I think Internet has. YouTube has. Facebook has. One War Craft raid will prepare our child to the next 50 years of the world’s development better – than we ever could.

I’m sure that similar age people, surrounding our kids – have the top class, most up to date, the freshest and the most well-adapted to our time emotional and knowledge assets out there, latest version, all updates included, all patches applied.

And they will do a much better job teaching my son than I would ever do.

Why?

Because of the absence of natural authority! Authority is not there, there’s only learning and “world-tasting” – so child is receiving the world’s “signal” at the rate he is capable to process at the time. There’s no suppressing molding, no distortion. Too much? He’ll just switch off and leave.

Who are we to say what will become relevant in 2050 if we continuously fail about what will happen next week? Ways to preserve, verify and develop new information have evolved and today’s reality is at least 20 years better than the one I’m relying on.

I’m sure both knowledge and human emotions evolved. I’m sure people are getting better, not worse.

Emotional codes are much more complicated, slang is much more complicated, “memes” are a huge thing, real-time surrounds us, everything is mobile, everything is embedded, everything is tracked. What do we know of this world? Much less than they do.

A.S. Neill

I do think that “compulsory authority” is 19th century (or older) thing – and a very negative thing. But I also do believe that A.S. Neill was way ahead of his time. He basically skipped a century, or even more. The “children are free from the authority of adults” claim sounds 2027 to me, not 1927. I fully support it.

The time of the “natural authority” was in the 20th century. It was the time focused around “good teachers” and strong leadership and their knowledge and their personality. If you have a good teacher – you’ll be all good.

Neill has managed somehow to jump higher than that into the 21st century where both compulsory and natural authority is obsolete.

When natural authority of a perfect adult (haha!) – be it parent or teacher – is used, it distorts child’s freedom of choice.

Bribed with trust and biological/psychological attachment, he has to absorb (no choice really) the 20-30 year old (deprecated) knowledge, be it factual or emotional – and have his character and choices influenced, molded in process.

He would be better off absorbing the fresh version at his own speed and rate.

I am sure that all the self-confidence and all the self-determination and all the desire to learn that children have – come from authority-free environment of play. When playing – you can always quit. When playing – you are learning and discovering things without traits-passing-on generation-to-generation thing being involved.

Neill wrote a prediction that in the future (and that’s where we all are now) people’s playing time would last longer and people will play up to twenty years. I believe that’s what I see in the world today. I would be happy if my son would continue with playing and discovering the world to 20 years or more – why not?

When his time comes, he’ll find teachers like I do and will learn things like I learn. I never stopped learning and it never was a problem. I’m sure it won’t be a problem to him too.

To sum it up: I am sure that we should aim to avoid both the compulsory (19th century) and the natural (20th century) authority as much as possible. We have passed our genes on – but now the winning evolutionary strategy for our kids – is to absorb emotional, social and all other skills and knowledge from the newest version of this world’s “software”, not from us, obsolete old farts.

*****ocracy

One more thing: I would say that I value the least the “democracy” part of freedom-based education.

Democracy is a very, very, very bad system. It is very expensive (time-wise) to run well. Very prone to corruption, incompetence, authoritarianism, to hierarchic bureaucracy and error accumulation. Very inflexible. Very hard to make accessible for small kids. A long list of flaws.

Yet yes, it’s the best system we’ve got. But you can see I’m not a huge fan, really.

I believe freedom, flexibility, ability to adapt to today and the future (not to the past!) is the key. And kids are naturally good at doing that – if you don’t mess them up with the halo effect of your adult ego.

So, consider me to be an opponent of any kind of natural authority too. I do admit it exists – but would like to seek all evidence and all manifestations of it and try removing or minimizing it as much as possible.

(Written as a reply letter to Peter Foti.)

EUDEC Workgroups and Projects external evaluation report

EUDEC works in workgroups and projects towards their aims and eventually to make EUDEC 2020 vision a reality.

I wanted to take a quick look on the state of workgroups and projects (the list used below is available publicly). I assume that web pages on eudec.org are the primary way to communicate progress in workgroups and projects to other EUDEC members (in some cases there also could be some mailing lists or forum branches that are less easy to find).

Some information on each:

  • AGM Infrastructure – updated 1 year, 9 months, 23 days ago (on 2011.11.25), contains a few meaningless / out of date lines of text and looks abandoned.
  • AGM Content workgroup – updated 1 year, 3 months, 7 days ago (on 2012.06.10), contains ideas for the next AGM – hard to say if any of those are relevant yet (looks like preparation to y.2012), some could be interesting, needs work and cleanup.
  • AGM Process workgroup – updated 1 year, 30 days ago (on 2012.08.18), contains some good ideas (no sign of implementation was visible in 2013 though), mostly a brainstorm on ways to improve AGMs, some collected feedback from 2011 and 2012. A lot of ideas, not much visible actual work, could (and should) be developed further.
  • Bulletin preparation – updated 7 months ago (on 2013.02.16), latest update has EUDEC 2013 conference newsletter sent out in March 2013. Some ideas are there assembled for the next bulletin, but those seem to be out of date now. It’s likely that the work was done without updating this page.
  • Communication workgroup – updated 1 year, 9 months, 12 days ago (on 2011.12.05), seems to have a purpose, a well developed initial brief that was not supported with execution – actual work – for quite some time. If work in this workgroup will be actually done (besides ideation – the execution itself), schools will have better ways to communicate and stay in touch directly. Should be refreshed from the 2 year stagnation and developed further on.
  • Conference Report preparation – updated 1 year, 10 months, 11 days ago (on 2011.11.06), contains what seems to be a ready report on 2011s conference. No sign of 2012 report or 2013 report work in progress.
  • Conference and AGM workspace – updated 1 year, 1 month, 10 days ago (on 2012.08.07), contains some ideas on AGMs, some of them overlapping with AGM process workgroup ones. Seems to be redundant, at least should not be linked from “workgroups and projects” page.
  • Council workspace – updated 4 months, 20 days ago (on 2013.04.28), one of the active pages, seems to be the hub for council infrastructure, links to pages and documents needed to run the council are here, mostly up to date.
  • Diploma workgroup – updated 1 year, 9 months, 23 days ago (on 2011.11.25 last content update, later on 2012.08.02 two typos corrected), contains some work from 2011 AGM on EUDEC Diploma – seems to be missing a lot of fresh information (that was mentioned during 2013 diploma workshop). Needs to be updated with current information (conflicting views on who can have diploma and who can not, information on who has actually issued diplomas). Not sure if it is important, but current work in this workgroup (or is it a project? do they know a difference?) seems to have reached a dead end.
  • Guidance Document workgroup – updated 1 month 16 days ago (on 2013.08.01) with some fresh and important draf information on Council Eligibility, it mostly contains content from 2012 and aims to re-work Guidance Document, following 2012 decisions in Freiburg. No actual work on the GD in this workgroup is visible, status is unknown.
  • Information Chart workgroup – updated 1 year, 20 days ago (on 2012.08.28), has a list of information charts for different member schools, some linked charts are empty (Sands School, Summerhill School, Ziniukas school, Neue Schule Hamburg etc.), for other it is rather uncertain when information was filled in and is it still actual. In general workgroup seems to be an important effort that is given little or no resources lately.
  • Eudec 2020 Vision – copied to wiki on 2013.03.17, seems to contain text worked on (voted by AGM?) in 2012 or 2011. A very, very, very important thing that seems to be abandoned – page even has no title (project? workgroup?) no curation whatsoever, just some text – but some very important text. It is very possible to have a line from day to day council / volunteers activities to EUDEC’s year plan and to EUDEC’ aims – and to this 2020 long term vision. Must be worked on further.
  • Exchange Programme workgroup – updated 11 months, 18 days ago (on 2012.09.30), designed as a place for ideas about the exchange programme – has some signs of substantial work done in 2012. Has no contribution since then and seems to be abandoned. Interesting case to look at deeper further on – seems that the public page and a direct call for participation actually resulted in something useful here. Must be worked further on.
  • Financial workgroup – updated 1 year, 1 month, 14 days ago (on 2012.08.03) with a small remark and substantially – 2 years 23 days ago. Contains two ideas on fundraising for EUDEC. No signs of work since 2012, a must have thing to develop further on.
  • Flyer redesign – copied 8 months, 3 days ago (on 2013.01.14), contains an outdated brief about the new flyer (as long as it was actually done – I assume it’s outdated). Seems to be a project that is completed (and documented somewhat poorly). Should be removed from the list.
  • Hiring a Coordinator Workgroup – updated 1 year, 7 months, 5 days ago (on 2012.02.12), a deeply developed page, documenting the 19th January 2012 council meeting’s  decision (minutes) to hire someone to actually do the work (“a Coordinator”). No updates since then, no information on EUDEC 2013 AGM decisions so far or any other updates. I, personally, oppose the decision to hire a magician coordinator as such, but if that’s decided and voted for – there should be some progress in this project.
  • Membership workgroup – updated 2 years, 1 month, 2 days ago (on 2011.08.15), contains ideation on EUDEC membership and some summarised discussion topics on who what members are there and various membership restrictions that are in place. Boring and quite an abandoned place.
  • Newsletter preparation – updated 9 months, 14 days ago (on 2012.12.03), seems that it used to be (?) a place where newsletters were developed, at least 2 or 3 of them.
  • Research workspace – updated 29 days ago – the most up to date page! Contains important collection of resources on relevant research done.
    • DERK – a placeholder page (?) for the work on translating some Hebrew-only materials to English. No content here, the work itself is below:
  • Legal Support Workgroup – updated 1 year, 1 month, 4 days ago (on 2012.08.13), but seems to be active outside the wiki (driven by legal threats to some schools, I assume). Has a separate monthly meeting, seems to have done some work, wiki page is probably out of date and should be updated more often.
  • Website workgroup – updated 1 year, 10 months, 4 days ago on 2011.11.13), seems to have most of its content out of date (not sure if urgent stuff could remain urgent for two years), has some issues, bugs, and a note on a scheduled chat to go through plans on 2011-08-03 (2 years, 1 month, 15 days ago). Website workgroup seems to show no signs of life.
  • Democratic education in France – a placeholder made 1 year, 26 days ago, empty.
  • Membership database workgroup – updated 5 months, 11 days ago (on 2013.04.06), has some active infrastructure work behind it.
  • List of people who speak on dem ed – updated 40 days ago, active page with a list of people that would speak about democratic education.
  • TPRS Forum – created 41 days ago, has some initial information on TPRS language-teaching method, not sure if it’s a project or workgroup – looks like it’s some activity that is not exactly contributing EUDEC aims, but not sure here.

Some findings:

  • Out of 25 workgroups / projects in the list:
    • 14 (or 56%) seem to be abandoned – updated more than a year ago.
    • 7 (or 28%) were not touched for about two years.
  • Out of 11 active workgroups / projects:
    • 5 (or 45% of active workgroups/projects) are focused around building the organisation / infrastructure (membership database data, council workspace, bulletin, flyer, newsletter) itself and arguably don’t contribute towards EUDEC aims.
    • 2 (or 8% of total number of workgroups/projects, 18% of active projects) are both active and working towards EUDEC aims.
  • I consider promising, significant – and abandoned or stagnant (or not publicly updated) those projects/workgroups:
    • EUDEC 2020
    • Legal Support Workshop (could be active, but not updated on the site)
    • Communication Workgroup
    • Website Workgroup
    • Information Chart Workgroup
    • Exchange programme workgroup
    • Diploma Workgroup
    • All three AGM-related workgroups
    • Hiring a Coordinator
  • Active workgroups/projects:
    • Research workspace
    • Guidance Document workgroup
  • In some (many of them) projects there was some progress during EUDEC 2013, that didn’t make it way to eudec.org just yet. As long as my goal is mostly to review what happens between conferences (council’s progress) and not what happens at conferences (wider community participation) – materials from the recent (more than a month ago, actually) conference don’t really matter here.
  • Most of the work in workgroups and projects has happened in 2011 and 2012, leaving 2013 with almost no signs of actual work and deliverables, results.
  • Most of the work done seems to consist of ideation, brainstorming – with no continuation resulting in feasible deliverables. I assume that there was significant lack of project management and resources (dedicated time).

Also, all findings are a result of my current EUDEC membership level access. Recently my access level was manipulated (I lost access to a few pages I had the access before, no mentions in council meetings about that though, will investigate further on), so it could be I don’t have enough access rights to prepare a better report. I will look deeper into it and most such things are traceable however hard you hide them.

Some other thoughts after looking at all those pages and their editing history:

  • The departure (alienation? other plans?) of some long time members resulted in highly reduced activity in 2013. It seems like the hope of hiring a Coordinator (to do the work) also substantially contributed to that – like things were “put off” for some person to come in and fix it all. In general, one could get an impression that most of the year 2013 was tragically unproductive and stagnant for EUDEC.
  • The overall number of projects / workgroups seems to be way above any reasonable level of resources EUDEC has or could have at this time. It seems that things just get started (in council, or, mostly at AGMs), but actual work / delivery is not taken care of, not supported with anyone’s work hours.
  • Most active projects and workgroups are inwards-focused and, in my opinion, don’t contribute towards EUDEC aims and/or EUDEC 2020 vision. With possible exception for Legal Support Workgroup and Research Workspace projects – seems that next to nothing was done in 2013 and not much was done in 2012 to support EUDEC aims and vision. I will have to read all minutes/agendas of all meetings to get a better view on things here.
  • Engagement from non-council members of the community seems to be extremely low, even though there is some evidence to believe that it would be possible and helpful (Exchange programme experience). I’m sure that calls for collaboration could go up 10x times and external participation will also be much higher – but this will require substantial changes in transparency (current EUDEC is not very transparent and easy to get).
  • EUDEC budget contributions towards council member live meetings could be quite an inadequate way to spend EUDEC money – impact on Workshops and Projects deliverables / council’s productivity is not really visible (unless live meetings are not used for that, but why hold those then at all?).

From information I see, I would conclude that EUDEC activity is going downhill since 2011 with a small peak around 2012 conference and a yet smaller (almost invisible just yet) peak of activity around EUDEC 2013 conference. Of course, only wiki pages history is probably not enough to have the full picture, but so far that’s all information I’ve got and as long as council is currently looking at the next year’s plan – I wanted to review the situation to date, so it’s easier to see the “big picture” better. I’ll post a follow-up with suggestions later on.

Another concern is that if you create a Top-10 Most Valuable Contributors list (did that) – you’ll see that top 2 by far most productive  (3-5 times more input than anyone else in top 10) contributing council members have now left the council. And well, many other concerns too, but I’ll leave those for later.

EUDEC Monday, 16th of September 2013

Last week’s (9th of September) short report is here, some pre-meeting ramblings can be found here.

Everything went well. I was the fly on the wall I wanted to be, council didn’t waste the time to confront human rights or anything, all good! I had the audio this time, but it seems there was a decision to stop feeding the troll not go into the meaningless arguing – the very right decision, I agree.

Things to report:

Transparency issue

Participation in council meetings apparently does not entitle you to knowing where the documents, accessible and discussed by the council are, neither it gives you any right of the access.

Meeting agenda was somewhere, minutes somewhere else, presentation document wasn’t shared and even though I had a hyperlink to the “brainstorming” document and was sending sharing requests through the week – I got no permission to see it too. So at least 4 documents (5 if you count email discussed) were used that I had no access to.

Question here would be: how open is the meeting, if those documents are closed? I can easily imagine a discussion on “chapter 1.2.13b” and with some care any participating person will have no idea what I’m discussing – I can vote and argue without actually disclosing the content of the discussion.

I’m sure that council’s agenda should be available for all EUDEC members prior to the council meetings – how else exactly should they decide if they want to participate or not?

And of course the decision to not share some council’s document is quite absurd and defeats the purpose of having open meetings at all.

One more conference

Council is looking at sending EUDECs representative at a one more conference. What’s interesting here, is, again, lack of transparency towards the programme of that conference, goals of the representative (doing a speech? workshop?), even the budget of the trip. In general the attitude was positive, so it sounds decided (will check minutes later, not posted yet).

From what I got, the conference is organised by some Steiner Waldorf organisation – and everyone should make their own judgment here. Is it reasonable to go along with those guys?

Documents discussed

I noted the moment in the discussion when it seemed that no one knew what EUDEC’s long term vision is or where is the document that captured it. Even the mention of EUDEC aims seems to be not a very comfortable thing to have in the council’s discussion – and vision is even more off the radar. I couldn’t help but think how many of the participants have actually read the thing. My wild guess is 3 (and two aren’t council members anymore).

Other documents discussed are hard to comment I had no access (see above) and only heard them discussed. I will try to resolve this issue for future council’s meetings. Live meeting plans is also something interesting to think through (not much information here).

Work done

“Anything from workgroups? Nothing.” This part of the council’s meeting made me think: how much actual work is done in workgroups and projects? I did a small research on workgroups activity and will post it out here shortly, should be a useful read.

 

In general, this meeting went much better, and I can only hope that things will gradually improve and move towards transparency and better accountability, council meetings will see much more EUDEC members participating in them.

Worst case scenario here would be to have cover-ups, have two separate meetings (with and without me, for example) and move some actions in the “gray area” away from other member’s eyes (like the manipulation with my user rights on the wiki; not giving the access to the brainstorming document etc.). Such “double entry bookkeeping” would be the beginning of the end for EUDEC.

But I’m sure there’s hope.

Fear and loathing, waste and goals

I have checked today, and it looks like I misled the EUDEC council last week and it has resulted in some wasted time of ours. I am sorry.

I thought I need a consent to do the audio recording – and actually, I don’t. According to my guidance documents (e.g. the UK Law) I can record my own meeting with anyone in a fully legal way without actually them knowing or being happy about it. How I use it is a way different subject, but no permission to record is needed. Good to know.

I thought I need to inform people that I’m about to post some blog posts about council’s meetings – but it turned to be a waste of time as well. Sure enough I don’t need anyone’s permission (or proofreading or whatever there) to post anything I want into my blog. Why did I said it at all? Not sure now. Wanted to define my role and aims better? Well it wasn’t the best definition I ever made.

Anyway.

Today is the second EUDEC Council meeting I’m going to participate in. Hope this time I’ll last longer, but who knows. This time I won’t need any re-affirmation of my human or legal rights, so I think I’ll just be “a fly on the wall”. Hope no one will slap me down, but even if they do – well, so be it. I think that I defend EUDEC member’s rights and above all – children’s rights here, so it’s quite a diamond armor, guys.

Michael (that would be the Oversight Committee member) confirmed that I may also participate in live meetings. I like Copenhagen (especially Christiania!) and haven’t been there in a while. Will think about it.

Also, I have looked through the minutes of the last meeting and the minutes of the meeting before that (and you have to be a logged-in member to access both links – and not just a wiki member, but EUDEC member too, and not just EUDEC member, but also added to the right members group in that wiki, so if you are logged in, are a member of EUDEC  and still can’t open those – let someone know. If you don’t know him – let me know!) – and I feel a trend here that I can’t describe fully yet. I’ll wait for a couple of more meetings to go by, if I’m able to. I invite every member to read and have his own thoughts about it (in comments or in your head).

In other news, we (at LokiEducation.org) have short-listed ten things to be careful about in alternative / democratic education – and going to make younger people-friendly version of if, along with a fine-print version for parents of alternative schools. When done, it will show our concerns better and, hopefully, improve the way we communicate our goals in EUDEC participation too. In short: freedom is the goal, while democracy is just the tool.

Peace!

“Success” definition for freedom-based education

Not sure about you, but whenever I discuss education (free and alternative, “democratic” education too) – we almost inevitably come to this topic. Success. What is it?

Usually people question the number of professors, scientists, celebrities, CEOs, MAs, BSs and all other kinds of BS metrics (yes, BS means “BullShit”) that some particular model or school or university has “produced”.

In return, one could go with the “money can’t buy you happiness” arguments. For some – it works. But others would still prefer to get money first, then buy a luxury yacht – and only then sail to the quest for happiness on it.

So, led by the “demand” some alternative schools are willing to adapt to those external “requirements” and are actually trying to have some vision of “success” for their students through imposed expectations. It sucks.

Whatever it is, be it some income level, number of university graduates, famous or well-known persons, number of whatever’s there – in my opinion it defeats the purpose of going towards alternative education as such. Why bother? Just go for some extra strict private school (we’ve been to a few of those in London) – and they will produce what’s needed (if you can pick up the check, too).

With some effort you can train a monkey to type – and human baby with its powerful brain can be trained to do much more impressive stunts. Five year old piloting a plane? No problem!

But if we agree that in education we’d like to abandon all direction and all suggestion – and that would include all the expectations for some certain kind of “success” – in favour of self-expression and happiness, then how do we communicate it to the external world?

Irrational?

Why do some people go and accept those “money can’t buy you happiness”-like arguments and others just don’t?

I believe it could be that the story of rational (well defined and structured) vs. irrational/emotional (loosely defined, abstract) thinking is involved here.

And whatever drives emotion-led people – sorry, it’s not the topic of this blog post. I’m sure that either by experiencing unhappiness themselves (and learning well from it), or by experiencing some freedom-based education themselves – they will find the right way. Just avoid trying to only read about it – go and see it for yourself, you’ll hear the right “click” in your head at the right time.

I’d like to stick to rational guys only here. What “rational”, dry and preferably countable, quantitative indicators and arguments are there available at all for us?

Is there anything you could say when you get challenged by people asking how many professors “your way” develops? When you get questions about the “return on investment” (time and money spent for kids education being “investment” here)? When “efficiency” is questioned?

I don’t know for sure. In some way this approach is not compatible with freedom-based education at all. But given some effort to stay in the discussion – I do have some ideas.

Defining happiness

There have been some studies done aiming at defining happiness in rational, scientific terms.

Most of those studies take health, wealth, access to education, environmental and other, usually utilitarian metrics into an account. Different competing terms, such as the “quality of life“, “satisfaction with life“, pseudo-scientific (IMHO) “subjective happiness scale” and even “gross national happiness” – exist, but it seems no well-defined or reliable method has been developed just yet.

That’s good news, everyone. Happiness is not yet strictly defined and existing attempts don’t look promising. It would be a sad planet otherwise.

But where do we get our rational arguments, then?

From unhappiness.

We all know well what suffering is. Our ability to define unhappiness is much more developed (and I won’t expand on what does it say about this world in general). It’s easy to assess pain. And even pick a few rational, dry numbers for us to work with.

Do you think those numbers could tell us, how happy some part (group) of the society is?

  • Number of unemployed people in the group living from government benefits / “welfare”.
  • Number of people divorced, with kids left behind, unpaid alimony, court convictions for domestic violence.
  • Number of people with clinical depression or with other conditions requiring prescription of drugs by their psychologist / psychiatrist; taking antidepressants regularly, taking mood-alerting drugs.
  • Numbers on suicide rate, heavy substance addiction (alcohol and other drugs), other forms of addiction.
  • Number of lonely (living or feeling alone, having no family, no friends, otaku-style social isolation, self-isolation, social anxiety) people.
  • Number of people having multi-year low paying, monotonous jobs: dishwashers, cashiers, ticket takers, (fast) food serving/preparation.
  • Number of homeless people, number of recidivist criminals, violent crime numbers.

We are able to get dry numbers on all the above – and those would be just a few “markers” that I just randomly thought of now. What about if we have a true sociologist on the job here? He’d have a much longer list (and maybe someone already did that – please trow that “right” link at me!).

I think that even though defining happiness is quite a dead end – we could instead look with much more attention at what unhappy people can teach us.

…and on to Prevention

I’ve heard that with cancer (at least with smoking-provoked lung cancer) good evidence and (bad) negative numbers did the job – and governments of the world (including UK) are focusing on prevention. Three million cigarettes on the market equals one tumor in the hospital. Easy! Rational, well-defined, dry. Cigarettes cause 80-90% of lung cancers, what’s hard about that to get?

What if looking at what percentage of homeless, jobless, socially awkward penguins out there – are unhappy in their life because of so much attention to the “learning” (unimportant) side of things was given there in their early years, instead of focusing on “playing” (important!) – and it could give us some solid and rational proof for prevention of directed learning?

I know, I know, we are raised by television to believe that someday we’ll all be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars – but we won’t. (c) Jack’s wasted life. How about we at least don’t massively grow plainly sick fellow people in this world?

Just like those quit-smoking kits they send you on your first demand – could it be government will be sending you this for free at some point? Just to teach the parent to “leave the kids alone” and thus prevent some major negative social consequences 20-30 years later? I don’t know.

Not sure if it all helps, not sure if it makes any sense at all. But I’m sure that happiness is something very, very hard to define (if possible at all). At the same time unhappiness is right in front of us, a very easy target to get our hands on.

Let me know what you think in general – and let me know if you’ve seen any research on education methods correlation / causation with negative social factors (trying to sound smart here!). I’m sure there’s a way to indirectly match absence of negative stuff in people’s adult lives to levels of freedom they had in early childhood. Is it?

Technical note

I haven’t been using this blog for many years. Resurrected for a new cause it was very slow and still looks really crappy. I have moved it to a new hosting yesterday night (thanks, Alex!) and will take care of better navigation and design later.

If you’re looking for my statement on EUDEC 2013, it’s here: http://lekecinskas.com/personal-statement-on-eudec-2013-events/ – it’s a work in progress thing, some rough edges need to be well expanded (and sharpened!) to add much needed detail. It’s a “page” because well, I’d like to set it aside as a deliverable, larger, dry format “report” document. A boring read, yes, but maybe some 3 or 5 years from now historical perspective will put a different light on it.

If you’re looking to contact me: add me in Skype (vladimiras_lekecinskas) or email me at vladimiras@lekecinskas.com anytime.

Some things you can expect here in near future:

  • My personal views, hopefully adding transparency and a critical view on democratic and free education in Europe and globally. I’m working with many other people (join us!) on www.lokieducation.org but in this blog all posts reflect my personal opinion.
  • Notes on my work on building opposition inside EUDEC – more liberal, more transparent and open approach to organising the movement. Less bureaucracy, less conformism, more pluralism, more Elvis. Resistance is futile guys, just give up.
  • Notes on children’s rights, human rights and freedoms.
  • No professional stuff whatsoever, sorry.

It will take some years, come back from time to time :)