by Grace Lee boggs

Nov. 19-26 2011

Last week I enjoyed a visit from Carlos Dijesus, an inspiring and instructive example of the potential for reimagining education that now exists in our communities if we stop viewing ourselves as victims and embrace our power to create the world anew.

In Detroit for the Policy Summit, Dijesus is a high school dropout who later graduated from Yale and is currently the Assistant Principal and Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator at Pedro Albizu Campos High school (PACH) in Chicago’s Humboldt District.

Also present was Yamini Bal, a former Detroit Summer volunteer who lives in Chicago and teaches at PACH.

Dijesus discovered his calling when veterans of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Movement In Chicago, concerned that so many Puerto Ricsn teenagers were dropping out of high school, decided that the time had come to create an alternative school for high school dropouts based on a new paradigm.

Instead of preparing students for upward mobility within the system, this new paradigm uses the community as the curriculum, challenging students not only to identify issues that need solving, but also to analyze the causes and come up with solutions

It is what educators call Community/Place-based education, an idea whose time has come.

Analyzing the situation in their community, these students identified youth obesity as a pressing problem. Seeking the cause, they concluded that processed foods were responsible and that the solution lies in producing fresh food in their (our) own gardens. So in their densely-populated neighborhood, they created rooftop gardens.

The result has been not only a reduction in obesity but an urban agricultural movement and a body of active concerned citizens.

As I observe the Re-imagining of Education that is taking place in this Chicago community (and also in other communities, including Detroit), I am reminded of Einstein’s warning in the 1950s that “the splitting of the atom has changed everything but the human mind and thus we drift towards Catastrophe.”

He also said that “Imagination is more important then knowledge.”

As current systems become increasingly dysfunctional In the 21st century , a lot of Re-imagining is taking place. Of Work, of Democracy, of Education, of Ourselves.

Let’s Re-imagine Everything!!!!


Recommended reading : Gregory Smith and David Sobol.: Place and Community-based Education in Schools;


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