[p2p-research] Suggestions wanted for education to p2p practices and attitude

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Thu Oct 29 13:34:12 CET 2009

M. Fioretti wrote:
> here's a question: if you were preparing a proposal for education in
> the 6-12 years age range, what would you write in it in order to
> educate the children to a p2p-like attitude and practice with respect
> to nutrition, (self) healthcare, protection of the environment? 

My child in about that age.

We are focusing on things like: :-)
* being in nature,
* eating a variety of "organic" things grown in our garden or picked 
themselves from the refrigerator and seeing the parents eat,
* whatever else is of interest to the child at the moment, with a bit of 
"strewing" by parents of books and ideas and DVDs throughout the home.

For example, we "strewed" medical supplies (bandages, stethescope, other 
safe medical things), and our kids has taken them up in play (some stuffed 
animals that pretend they are doctors animated by me helps, too).

Some arguments against doing that by people mostly convinced that the "real 
world" is a prison so you'd better get kids used to that early, even as they 
make some other interesting points:

With that said, I'm presuming you're looking at developing propaganda 
content in an institutional setting, not actual experience or setting a good 
example? So, you've kind of limited what can be done to all the stuff that 
is questionable, where "the medium is the message" -- and what is the 
message of school -- do what you are told by authority, eat what you are 
served (probably non-organic junk in the cafeteria), and imitate the 
ignorant same-age juveniles and bullying adults around you. There's not too 
much one can do with propaganda to fix that. Best would be to reorganize the 
school entirely to teach all that by example, with a garden, caring adults, 
a mix of ages learning from each other, self-directedness, a play-based 
curriculum, and so on, like here:

See also, for more ideas:
  As codirector of the Albany Free School, Chris Mercogliano has had 
remarkable success in helping a diverse population of youngsters find their 
way in the world. He regrets, however, that most kids' lives are subject to 
some form of control from dawn until dusk. Lamenting risk-averse parents, 
overstructured school days, and a lack of playtime and solitude, Mercogliano 
argues that we are robbing our young people of "that precious, irreplaceable 
period in their lives that nature has set aside for exploration and innocent 
discovery," leaving them ill-equipped to face adulthood. The "domestication 
of childhood" squeezes the adventure out of kids' lives and threatens to 
smother the spark that animates each child with talents, dreams, and 
   As Mercogliano explains, however, there is plenty that those involved 
with children can do to protect their spontaneity and exuberance. We can 
address their desperate thirst for knowledge, give them space to learn from 
their mistakes, and let them explore what their place in the adult world 
might be.

So, the best thing would be to propose things along the line of what Chris 
Mercogliano suggests. Why not contact him directly? Or at least read his 
books. He has more than thirty years of free school teaching experience 
doing exactly what you propose, to great success. He can tell you much more 
than I can.

Also related:
"[p2p-research] ADHD or lack of Vitamin D? Albany Free School connection?"

But sure, one can invent exercises. One can "study" democracy in 
authoritarian schools too. At the Albany Free School, kids learn democracy 
by living it and making democratic choices from a young age. There are no 
such schools listed in Italy -- maybe you could start one? :-)

Of course, free and democratic schools are a bit of a sham, in that what we 
really need is a democratic society, including one where parents don't have 
to park their children somewhere all day so they can "work" at mostly 
meaningless guarding jobs. A homeschool resource center is another approach 
to this, to help homeschoolers do a better job (assuming homeschooling is 
legal in your country -- outlawing homeschooling was one of the things 
Hitler did, and the Germans have not budged on that since.)
Looks like it is legal in Italy:

On that:
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, yet it and other educational 
alernatives are now gaining reconsideration, as this publication attests. 
For information about Teach Your Own in German visit  Genius Verlag.

Is there an Italian translation of that book? Or an Italian translation of 
Chris Mercogliano's book? That might be another thing to propose. :-)

 > I
> mean, what do you think the children should learn and how? Which
> practices? Which success and failure stories (please let's keep in
> mind the age range, that is use only simple examples in limited time,
> only suggest things/activities that children that age may do
> personally, etc...!)  should they know?

Different kids are ready to learn different things at different times. 
Ideally, most education should be learner directed, within a supportive 
environment where healthy and wise community members have set up the 
potential for many positive experiences, including setting good examples. 
Another example:
"At Sudbury Valley School, students from preschool through high school age 
explore the world freely, at their own pace and in their own unique ways. 
They learn to think for themselves, and learn to use Information Age tools 
to unearth the knowledge they need from multiple sources. They develop the 
ability to make clear logical arguments, and deal with complex ethical 
issues. Through self-initiated activities, they pick up the basics; as they 
direct their lives, they take responsibility for outcomes, set priorities, 
allocate resources, and work with others in a vibrant community. "

Again though, I think ripping "education" out of the general community and 
restricting it to state-managed schools is an evil that we have not yet 
begun to wrestle with globally, even though people like John Taylor Gatto 
and others have started.

> Context: I am preparing a talk which should also touch the theme
> above, and hopefully there will also be space for examples from other
> parts of the world. Right after the event the talk will be published
> with a CC license at http://mfioretti.com .

See, you're leading by example. Great!

> Sorry for vagueness, but my schedule for the next days changed without
> notice this morning (nothing bad) so I have to leave the computer
> right now and don't know how much I'll be at home in the next hours/
> days.
> Thank you in advance for any feedback
>       Marco
>       http://stop.zona-m.net

I'd suggest the translation route as an easy start. Contact those people and 
see if you can translate the books. Still, those books are not under free 
licenses, so you might want to consider making other free materials in Italian.

By the way, here are some Catholics developing support for the idea of a 
basic income: :-)
As they say on their main page:
   A journal of Catholic patriots
   For the Social Credit monetary reform
   Through the education of the population
   And not through politicial parties

Again, maybe translation opportunities?

I wonder if there could be a general theme of peer-to-peer translation of 
peer-to-peer ideas? :-)

Sorry to not have the specific ideas you are looking for. You might also 
look here:
   "Open Educational Resources"

But really, there are endless sites on the web now about kids and 
environmentalism. There are movies like Wall-E (avoid the video game, it is 
violent, even if it is "just" human-looking robot-on-robot violence) that 
can be food for discussion. The Wall-E credits and that Peter Gabriel song 
can still bring tears to my eye:
   "WALL-E Credits"
That's my whole current life aspiration right there in those credits. :-)
At least the first half of them -- before the video game-like section in the 
middle -- so up to the big tree part, as much of the rest is about robotic 
warfare. :-(

With my own child, I have talked about things like 3D printing someday being 
able to print toys. That got a good reception. :-) And how someday we may be 
able to move beyond (wartime) rationing based on ration units called 
"money". Someday. It's hard to both educate a child about how the world 
works now, and still give them a sense it could be different. I sprinkle 
provisos like "in our current culture" or "in this current society" to help 
with that.

But seriously, these are much bigger issues to tackle right now:
"he War Play Dilemma: What Every Parent And Teacher Needs to Know"
“Childhood is dramatically different today than it was just a generation 
ago, but children still need an environment that encourages healthy play, a 
sense of security, and strong, loving relationships. Whether you are a 
parent or teacher, my goal is to help you prepare and succeed in supporting 
children’s optimal growth in these challenging times.”
– Nancy Carlsson-Paige

Again, maybe translate her works to Italian?
"How One Book Made a Difference"
For the next week, several of us sat with the children, one by one, reading 
the book Swimmy.  To my amazement, every child used Swimmy’s tale as a 
vehicle for telling his or her own story of hiding from soldiers, feeling 
scared, or witnessing atrocities.   Every child talked and talked, and then 
they drew and talked some more.  Most kids embraced the central message of 
hope conveyed in the book. Over and over, I heard statements like this one 
from Dora: “We are united in our community just like the little fish.  We 
have courage and we can continue on because we stay together.”  And then she 
added, “Thank you for the story of Swimmy.”
   Towards the end of our visit, the art teacher in our delegation showed 
everyone how to make a gigantic stuffed fish out of paper, decorate it and 
hang it from the ceiling of one of the classrooms.  The children worked 
together--cutting, coloring, tying and  gluing--and they were delighted.  I 
thought about all that had grown up around this one little paperback book. 
The children had shared their stories, fears and feelings with their sister 
city visitors who listened with compassion and offered reassurance.  Through 
Swimmy’s story of survival and the activities it led to, along with the 
loving relationships that formed that week, the children of San Jose Las 
Flores gained a renewed sense of hope and support.  And the delegates, those 
of us who lived for a short time in a village pummeled by war, returned to 
our safe city altered by what we had seen and inspired by the strength and 
spirit of people engaged in a struggle for democracy and justice.

The "War play dillema" is mostly about the problems boys face as targeted 
consumers. Her coauthor on that book wrote another book about the problems 
girls face as target consumers:
Popular culture and technology inundate our children with an onslaught of 
mixed messages at earlier ages than ever before. Corporations capitalize on 
this disturbing trend, and without the emotional sophistication to 
understand what they are doing and seeing, kids are getting into increasing 
trouble emotionally and socially; some may even to engage in precocious 
sexual behavior. Parents are left shaking their heads, wondering: How did 
this happen? What can we do?
   So Sexy So Soon is an invaluable and practical guide for parents who are 
fed up, confused, and even scared by what their kids–or their kids’ 
friends–do and say. Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., 
internationally recognized experts in early childhood development and the 
impact of the media on children and teens, understand that saying no to 
commercial culture–TV, movies, toys, Internet access, and video games–isn’t 
a realistic or viable option for most families. Instead, they offer parents 
essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault.
   For instance:
     * Help your children expand their imaginations by suggesting new ways 
for them to play with toys–for example, instead of “playing house” with 
dolls, they might send their toys on a backyard archeological adventure.
     * Counteract the narrow gender stereotypes in today’s media: ask your 
son to help you cook; get your daughter outside to play ball.
     * Share your values and concerns with other adults–relatives, parents 
of your children’s friends–and agree on how you’ll deal with TV and other 
media when your children are at one another’s houses.

Basically, it has been profitable for some to saturate the life of young 
boys with war toys and war media, and to saturate the life of young girls 
with sexualized products and media.

I think they underestimate the value and ease of turning off broadcast TV.

I can't imagine what our life would be like with a broadcast TV -- at least 
I can't imagine it being any better. Selected DVDs and supervised use of a 
computer in the kitchen can provide as much media as young kids should have. 
An important issue is that audio and books allow children's imagination to 
scale stories to what they can handle, whereas graphic media (even cartoons) 
force children's imaginations to go in ways that may be inappropriate and 
harmful for them, with the child having no way to tone down the stimulus (so 
for example, it's one thing for Raffi to sing a funny song about Zombies and 
Werewolves, it's another to see a two hour film of Zombies and Werewolves 
doing horrible things to people, even if you know intellectually it is fake, 
and kids have trouble knowing the difference until they are seven or older.)

So, also writing some really good children's books (the best appeal to both 
children and adults) could help.

You could translate this one to Italian if it is not already:

But there are lots of such stories that are worthwhile. Making free 
children's books for the web is a possibility. Or just finding them and 
translating them to Italian. Or, if they are out of copyright, even adapting 
them using the old pictures in new ways?

Anyway, glad to "help" more if I can. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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