The Artists Who Are Challenging The Education Status Quo

On a recent weekday morning, the first floor of Tiffany Pierce’s home in Queens, New York, was abuzz with activity. Six children, ranging in age from five to 12, were making art, learning about mathematical asymmetry and digging deep into topics ranging from geography to science. Pierce runs an art-inspired, micro-learning homeschool co-op, bringing together local families who want a more personalized approach to education for their children. Together, the families hired a teacher four days a week to craft an inviting and intellectually-engaging learning environment, while Pierce volunteers her space and support.

Challenging the Status Quo

An artist with a master’s degree in teaching and prior classroom experience, Pierce was thoughtful about her son, Liam’s, education. He went to a small, private preschool nearby,Artists have historically played a crucial role in challenging dominant systems and inspiring change. but when Pierce sent Liam to a public school for kindergarten, she realized it wasn’t a good fit for him. “It was a high-performing school,” Pierce recalls, “but when I visited I saw his back turned and him just looking out the window. His affect was so low, his confidence was shot, he didn’t want to play. I knew it wasn’t just kindergarten blues. This wasn’t his fit. Then he said: ‘Mommy, will you teach me at home?’”

The timing was right, as Pierce happened to be between jobs and she and Liam’s dad thought they would give homeschooling a try. “We like the freedom of choices and options,” says Pierce. “We like to have a say in how our child operates. This person is so precious to us.” In the beginning, says Pierce, she simply replicated school at home and it became a power struggle between getting her son to do things and him resisting. She was also busy running art classes and doing graphic design work for various clients.

Pierce knew she needed a different model and began posting to neighborhood Facebook groups about launching a co-op out of her home. The response was positive, with many parents expressing interest in alternative learning options for their children. Today, eight-year-old Liam learns with other children in the co-op, along with his mother and their teacher, Mary-Lynn Galindo, who provide structure while emphasizing self-directed learning and ample outside time. According to Pierce:

Homeschooling, micro-learning and co-teaching as a small neighborhood-based co-op allows for us to be fully involved with our kids’ learning experience and we weave it through our neighborhood, community, borough and city.

Pierce sees hybrid homeschooling models and the larger micro-school movement as a harbinger of education innovation: “I see us moving towards education that is self-directed,” she says. “Education does not have to be seen as coming from four walls in a conventional, traditional way.” To that end, she launched a mobile arts studio and is working on purchasing an art bus, to help others to view art and education differently. Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, and in particular the Harlem Community Arts Center that sprouted from it and nurtured African American artistic talent during the late-1930s and early 1940s, Pierce envisions her mobile studio as a modern off-shoot of the center.

It is my mission for the mobile arts studio to serve as a 21st century version of a neighborhood-based arts studio where art is mobile and meets children and adults where they are to create, express and connect,

she says. In art, education and the intersection of the two, Pierce is looking to challenge longstanding conventional settings and practices and design something new.

An Art Apprenticeship Model

Designing something new is also what drives Gabriel Valles, a professional artist and entrepreneur in Austin, Texas who runs an art apprenticeship studio. Like Pierce, Valles homeschools his children and works closely with other local homeschoolers, while building an innovative art education model. He also began his homeschooling journey by trying to replicate school-at-home and witnessing how coercion had a detrimental effect on his children’s learning and their family relationships. By granting his children more autonomy and opportunity for self-direction, their learning flourished. His older son, now 15, has a passion for stop motion animation and has a successful YouTube channel with over 50,000 subscribers and almost 32 million views.

As Valles observed how his children’s creativity and competence grew when they were allowed to drive their own learning while being supported by adults, he decided to launch an art studio, MentorWings, that would run on a self-directed apprenticeship model for aspiring young artists. “Our program is principle-based and self-directed,” says Valles.

Students come in with their particular interest, such as superheroes, anime, fantasy art or cartooning, and we meet them where they are. There is no curriculum. Instead we focus on building upon foundational art principles, such as shape, form, design and color.

Valles sees how young people quickly build their skills, and become highly competent, doing college or professional-level work as teenagers. “We need to give kids more credit than we’re giving them and acknowledge that they can be doing real-world work before or instead of college,” says Valles. He says that art school is too expensive and often doesn’t lead to the kind of career in-roads that can result in fulfilling work.

This work is increasingly in-demand, says Valles, as digital content development and marketing become ubiquitous and new mediums emerge. “I am trying to make it less expensive to attain professional-level competence and also build bridges into the industry,” says Valles. He has established an endorsement system for young artists based on their portfolios that can provide an alternative signaling mechanism for employers.

That endorsement versus a general degree really means a lot. It doesn’t guarantee a job, but it shows confidence in a particular student and becomes a much more powerful signal to the people who are hiring,

he says.

Artists have historically played a crucial role in challenging dominant systems and inspiring change. It’s not surprising that today some of them are building unconventional education models and imagining new possibilities for learning. As Valles says:

My passion is experimenting and inventing things. Art is just the medium that I do that through. Creating educational structures that are a little more just for kids is the problem I am really trying to address.

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Why I Like Working Next to a Construction Site

Have you ever had to go to work next to a construction site?

If you’re like most people, you’re happy when it’s over. The end of a construction project means the end of congested roads, loud equipment noises, and the occasional equipment mishaps. I get it. There’s a building going up next to my office building right now.

But I for one am going to miss the construction. There’s so much that’s wonderful and worth enjoying and admiring about building something. I’ve seen this lot go from being a patch of grass to being an 8-odd story building. That’s a miracle.

Every day I get to see something growing, moving toward an end, on the move. There can be no feeling of stagnation when a building is right there, getting undeniably higher.

The crane rising over my office’s parking deck is a moving, working monument to progress. The equipment and noise and dust of the work site reveals to everyone in this little mall/office/community bubble just what it takes to make bubbles possible.

The construction workers are super-cool to me: they’re that increasingly rare breed of men with the skills to put things together. When I run into them, I do my best to give a white-collar salute to their blue-collar contribution.

Soon enough, they’ll be gone. And when the next economic downturn comes, the cranes will be gone from more skyline views as well. That will be a sad thing, because works in progress are beautiful gifts.

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Perfection is Not an Option

I don’t expect perfection.

Not from people, places, situations, or… whatever else there is.

You are going to have no real choice but to drive on some government roads. You are going to have no choice but to use some things government paid for with money it stole. You can barter and use silver for some trades, but fiat “money” is unavoidable. You may benefit in some roundabout way from government’s unethical (and evil) actions which you oppose. That’s reality.

You don’t have to like it. You aren’t condoning theft or government by using those things. Feel free to speak the truth about government roads even as you are driving on one. That’s not hypocritical, it’s just how things are. You make the best of what you’ve got.

I understand that some people view a government “job” the same way– even though I strongly disagree. Still, as long as someone isn’t actively promoting government supremacy or power, I will cut them some slack. A government-employed librarian is still better than a politician, a government-employed school “teacher”, a member of the military, or a cop. Or, at least preferable in my view, since they aren’t promoting government supremacy nor imposing government at the point of a gun.

But no one is perfect or pure.

To condemn yourself because you aren’t perfect isn’t healthy.

To condemn everyone else because of this reality isn’t helpful. You’re not helping those you condemn, nor are you helping yourself. You certainly aren’t helping society (the interactions between individuals) nor the “cause” of liberty. Demanding the impossible from others (and, yes, in the present reality, it is impossible) causes harm.

What I do expect is that people do the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt. Recognize that you have no right to archate, and if you feel you “must” anyway, accept the consequences of doing what you don’t have a right to do.

This perfectionist viewpoint causes harm to those who hold and promote it.

This unpleasant reality is no justification for giving up and saying that because no one else lives up to your vision of perfection, you might as well embrace the state and use it against others. This is a destructive mindset. It gives off a foul odor. It looks and smells like hypocrisy to me.

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The Government Should Start Planning to Spend Less, Not More, on “Infrastructure”

At the end of April, President Trump met with Democratic congressional leaders at the White House. Instead of the backbiting that usually precedes and follows such meetings, what emerged was  tentative agreement on cooperation toward “a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to upgrade the nation’s highways, railroads, bridges and broadband.”

Responses on the Republican side range from tepid (acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney objects on both fiscal and political grounds, not seeing a “win” for Trump before the end of a second term) to enthusiastic (US Representative Chris Collins, R-NY, calls for doubling federal gas taxes and airline passenger fees to cover the cost).

But there’s a huge blind spot in this infrastructure vision that comes before, and heavily impacts, calculating the costs. The plan is a 20th century solution to problems that the 21st century market is already solving.

It’s true, as Collins points out, that the federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in more than 25 years — and that, contrary to popular perception, its revenues come nowhere close to covering highway construction and maintenance costs.

But it’s also true that gasoline is on its way out. Timeline estimates vary, but it’s reasonable to predict that by 2030 the vast majority of vehicles on American roads will be electric. Gasoline will become a minor player, then a novelty, then a rarity, all while politicians are counting on it to pay for their big plans.

The good news is that their plans don’t need to be nearly as big, because in the future we’re going to see a lot less traffic.

More people are working from home (the number more than doubled between 2005 and 2015; it’s going to keep growing).

More people are ordering more of what they buy online.  That’s fewer people on the road for shopping — one van delivering stuff to ten households instead of ten cars heading for the supermarket or mall. That trend isn’t going to suddenly reverse itself.

More people are  seeking entertainment at home instead of out. Movie ticket sales peaked in 2002; they’re now back to 1995 levels.

Ridesharing means fewer cars filling downtown garages. As it combines with self-driving cars,  many urban and suburban households will decide they don’t need car and insurance payments. They’ll summon rideshares or rent cars when really necessary.  They’ll walk, bike, or take mass transit when their destinations are conveniently nearby.

On the cargo side, major players are already working on self-driving, electric “18-wheelers.” Fewer will be needed since they can run 24/7 (human drivers work limited hours). Fewer trucks overall and more even time distribution means less congestion.

Aerial drones are taking their first steps into home delivery right now. Amazon may never achieve its dream of blimp warehouses with line of sight drone delivery to every home for 100 miles around, but we’ll certainly see SOME reductions in road traffic.

It’s time to start thinking about fewer roads and bridges, not more.  And about having government hand those roads and bridges over to the same market that’s making them less necessary.

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Cops Are Always DWI

There is no such thing as a police officer driving without being impaired. Not ever.

They are always under the influence of their imagined “authority“. It’s a powerful drug and it causes them to drive erratically. Their permanent condition of intoxication kills innocent people– and some of the guilty cops, too.

It causes them to engage in high-speed chases. But when the cop kills innocent people he and his gang– The Blue Line Gang– will blame the person they were chasing. This is a filthy lie.

It causes them to make U-turns in unsafe conditions– one of the local cops wrecked the cop car he drives (pictured above before the wreck) and seriously injured a random motorist a year or so back by doing just this in order to catch someone “speeding” a little– something much less dangerous than what the cop did.

It causes them to believe they can text, make phone calls, and use their onboard computer terminals (to try to find reasons to stop and molest other motorists) more safely than lesser people like us. They can’t. Their “training” doesn’t make them superhuman.

Every cop is a junkie. No cop should be behind the wheel of a car under any circumstances. Never. But most certainly never under the excuse of “policing traffic”. They are worse than any problem they pretend to fight. They are dangerous hypocrites. Get them off the roads, and keep them off the roads.

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When Will the Media Admit …

Nobody asked but …

Some wishful thinker the other day, on Facebook, wondered in a post “When will the media admit … [blah blah blah]?”  The answer is … NEVER.  “The media” is not a sentient being.  In fact, the media can be relied upon to go for the lowest common denominator.  It is the height of foolishness to expect any such formless blob to save us from another formless blob, politics.  In another column, I stated my belief that out of 45 instances of POTUS, we have had exactly 0 (zero) who could be counted a success.  As impossible as it would be to have an admirable POTUS, it is even more impossible that the ink-stained wretches would save us from a single bad president.

The current installment of POTUS is merely a continuation of a long line of jackasses.  This is a situation that is entirely consistent with the statist glories of every other civilization that has risen and fallen (taking their roads with them).  Checks and balances — Phooey!  Rather than checks and balances, the inevitable force is impermanence.  And the politicians and the pundits are the agents of social erosion.

— Kilgore Forelle

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