Archives for category: Free Public Schools

Great Woman Great Public School Community

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who challenged the political and business establishment of her day, would be proud of the students’ courageous efforts to galvanize a movement for gun control, which now includes a nationwide walkout by students and teachers scheduled for April 20.

Douglas was a journalist, writer, feminist, environmentalist, and progressive activist, best known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development.

Born in Minneapolis in 1890, Douglas attended Wellesley College, where she earned straight A’s and was elected “Class Orator,” graduating in 1912. It was at Wellesley that she first got involved in the women’s suffrage movement.

In 1915 she moved to Miami to work for The Miami Herald, which was owned by her father. The next year she joined the American Red Cross in Europe in the midst of World War I. She spent much of her time writing articles for the Associated Press from France, Italy and the Balkans. When the war ended, she remained in Paris to care for displaced war refugees. That experience, she later wrote in her autobiography, “helped me understand the plight of refugees in Miami 60 years later.”

Returning to Miami in 1917, Douglas continued working at the Herald, and jumped into the struggle for women’s rights. That year she traveled to Tallahassee with three other women to campaign for the women’s suffrage amendment before Florida state legislators.

“We had to speak to a committee of the House, which we did,” she recalled in a 1983 interview. “It was a big room with men sitting around two walls of it with spittoons between every two or three. And we had on our best clothes and we spoke, as we felt, eloquently, about women’s suffrage and it was like speaking to blank walls. All they did was spit in the spittoons. They didn’t pay any attention to us at all.”

(Although the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the vote, was adopted in 1920, Florida did not officially ratify it until 1969.)

Post-World War I Miami was still a small Southern city, governed by Jim Crow laws, with fewer than 20,000 residents. Many Miami police officers were members of the Ku Klux Klan, which was gaining momentum. One night Douglas was driving back from the beach with her father when they came upon the KKK preparing to march in their masks and sheets.

“A masked man on horseback rode up in front of my father and said, ‘this street is closed,’ and my father said ‘Get out of my way!’ and drove right straight ahead, through them and scattering them and everything; they couldn’t stop him,” she recalled years later. “We were all yelling and screaming in defiance, we were so mad.”

Despite his liberal sympathies, Douglas’s father initially relegated her to writing for the paper’s “society” page, covering weddings, tea parties, and other so-called “women’s issues.” She rebelled, insisting on covering more hard-hitting topics, and was soon writing editorials, columns, and articles that expressed her concern for civil rights, better sanitation, women’s suffrage, and responsible urban planning. In 1923, she wrote a ballad lamenting the death of a 22-year-old vagrant who was beaten to death in a labor camp, titled “Martin Tabert of North Dakota is Walking Florida Now,” that was printed in the Herald and read aloud during a session of the Florida Legislature, which passed a law banning convict leasing, in large part due to her writing.

After leaving the Herald to become a freelance writer in 1923, she published more than 100 short stories and nonfiction articles in the Saturday Evening Post and other popular magazines, as well as several novels and a number of books on environmental topics. Her most influential work, the 1947 bestseller The Everglades: River of Grass, “changed forever the way Americans look at wetlands,” according to her New York Times obituary. The book transformed popular views of the Everglades from a worthless swamp to a treasured river. Many environmentalists have compared it to Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring, published 15 years later. “There would most likely be no Everglades wilderness without her,” the Times noted.

In 1941, Douglas wrote the foreword to the Work Projects Administration’s guide to the Miami area, part of the New Deal’s controversial Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project American Guide series, designed both to provide jobs for out-of-work writers and to compile detailed histories and descriptions of the nation’s cities, regions, and cultures. Douglas served as the Miami Herald’s book review editor from 1942 to 1949 and as editor for the University of Miami Press from 1960 to 1963.

According to a profile of Douglas on the National Park Service website:

In the 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rose to the top of her list of enemies. In a major construction program, a complex system of canals, levees, dams, and pump stations was built to provide protection from seasonal flooding to former marsh land—now being used for agriculture and real estate development. Long before scientists became alarmed about the effects on the natural ecosystems of south Florida, Mrs. Douglas was railing at officials for destroying wetlands, eliminating sheetflow of water, and upsetting the natural cycles upon which the entire system depends.

To do battle with the Army Corps of Engineers and others, in 1969, at the age of 79, Douglas founded Friends of the Everglades. One of its first campaigns was to protest the construction of a jetport in the Big Cypress portion of the Everglades. President Richard Nixon scrapped funding for the project due to the efforts of Douglas and her environmentalist colleagues.

She continued to work to preserve the Everglades for the rest of her life. Her tireless activism earned her the nickname “Grande Dame of the Everglades” as well as the hostility of agricultural and business interests looking to benefit from land development in Florida.

In 1948, angered by the fact that many black residents of Coconut Grove, the racially segregated section of Miami, had no running water or sewers, Douglas led a successful campaign to pass a law requiring all Miami homes to have toilets and bathtubs. She also set up a loan operation for the black residents of Coconut Grove to borrow money interest-free to pay for plumbing work.

Douglas was a charter member of the South’s first American Civil Liberties Union chapter in the 1950s. In the 1970s she campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, urging the state legislature to ratify it. In 1974 she cofounded the Friends of the Miami-Dade Public Libraries and served as its first president. In the 1980s Douglas lent her support to the Florida Rural Legal Services, a group that worked to protect migrant farm workers, especially those employed by the sugar cane industry near Lake Okeechobee.

In 1985 Douglas campaigned to get the Dade County School Board to provide a building for the Biscayne Nature Center. Six years later, the Florida Department of Education endowed $1.8 million for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park. The headquarters of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee is called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Building.

Broward County named its new high school for the 100-year-old Douglas in 1990. Among many awards, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1993. She died at age 108 in 1998.

Several books—including An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century by Jack Davis (2009), The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald (2006), and her autobiography, Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River, written with John Rothchild (1987)—tell the story of this remarkable fighter for social and environmental justice.

“Be a nuisance where it counts,” Douglas once said. “Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.”

The students at Douglas High may not know it, but in translating their anguish into activism, they are carrying on in the tradition of their school’s namesake.


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This very last image is work by First Graders.  The rest is of mixed age students.

The Pringle cans are a stroke of genius and absolutely LOVE the DO NOT TOUCH sign.

They mean it!

Isn’t that Egyptian Cat just the BEST?!



Yes.  These are all school chairs.  Or they should be.

Have a look.

No institutional, plastic, mass-produced, poorly-welded rubbish.


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From Italy


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Sock Monkey


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Bunny Chair



Japanese Company Hiromatsu Children’s Furniture



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Fiber Art Chair





Yoruba People Beaded Chair Africa


The simple act of acquiring non-traditional school chairs can serve as a first step in de-institutionalized thinking about schools.

As long as it is acceptable for chairs to be insignificant, garish and poorly constructed, then everyone’s imagination and appreciation is diminished.

One way out of our current catastrophe is to consider beautifully, lovingly constructed chairs.  The adults change and the children change and it is all for the better inside an enhanced Circle of Children.

But for too many adults working in today’s  USA classrooms, be they public or charter, these chairs would get you fired.  Good luck finding an employee who attached significance to a chair, its artistry, composition or appeal to children.

But if you did locate such a humane individual, you would probably find them subject to the equivalent of a modern day witch hunt.  Imagination and Initiative are lethal.  Anything that lives outside the realm of metrics and data massaging must be extinguished.  The cult of counters know how to look after their own and chair enthusiasts don’t belong.

It begins and ends with what Giroux calls “normalized ignorance”.  The fog of crude, callow and empty gobbles up all available space.  Chairs are ugly on purpose.  No one cares about them and that’s exactly the point.  In such schools, uncouth regimes remain as authoritarian sciolists.  There is money to be made and beautiful chairs obstruct the cash flow.

A Bunny Chair will get you booted.  You can bet on it.

And then there is the problem of going off message.  Curriculum becomes a series of commercials on how to care for and preserve artful chairs.

Next, the Yoruba people arrive bringing with them a vibrant history of beading, braiding, tattooing, clay and ceramic molding, bronze casting, weaving, dyeing and sculpting.

When would there be time for War Room confabs, choking on bulging, black binders bursting with benchmark analytics?























Syracuse Cultural Workers



We did this in Chicago and discovered great, small business people operating hair salons, hardware stores, rib joints and corner groceries. They ALL contributed to our neighborhood curriculum and it was an eye opener how resourced this impoverished community really was. Lots of smart people with an eye on education.



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FREE READ! June Update is that we have been making monthly book drops at area daycares.  Many thanks to an Angel Volunteer at the Barbara Bush Library for contributing thrift store bags of books to our cause.  Hats Off to Educare Daycare on Kuykendahl for emptying out an available room and transforming it into A LIBRARY!!!  We love you for doing this and so will your parents and children.

Another Fabulous daycare we have visited and contributed to is Sharon Talley’s KIDZ K’NECT CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER at 1340 Cypress Station.  Everyone should tour the library and computer lab housed at this site.  Awesome!!!!!

Just pick up a well-loved, well-read FREE book at your child’s daycare and take it home for a FREE READ.

Keep the book.  Share the book.  Read it over and over.  Trade it in for a new FREE Book.

And read, read, read.  It is FREE and it is FREEING.





It was a small cooperative store on a little known island off the coast of South Carolina. During the harshest days of the civil rights struggle, embattled black leaders came through its doors seeking inspiration. Among the legendary leaders who visited the co-op were: Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Cotton, Conrad Brown, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Bernice Reagon, Cleveland Sellers, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Andrew Young, Hosea Williams and many others.

What began in that co-op was a Citizenship School to teach blacks on Johns Island, South Carolina how to qualify to vote. Later, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) spread that program throughout the South. That one class in the co-op became thousands of classes in churches, schools and homes. In 1962, the SCLC brought in other groups who then formed the Voter Education Project (VEP). Between 1962 and 1966 VEP trained 10,000 teachers for Citizenship Schools and 700,000 black voters registered throughout the South.  By 1970, another million black voters had registered.

The Progressive Club main entrance from South Carolina Dept of Archives and History.

Aldon Morris in his book, “Origins of the Civil Rights Movement,” wrote: “…the Citizenship Schools were one of the most effective tools of the movement.” That class at the co-op led to millions of blacks voting for the first time and as a result the South and US history were changed.

The co-op was called the Progressive Club. Johns Island is one of the Sea Islands, home to the unique Gullah people who had retained a lot of their African cultural heritage. In the 1940’s Johns Island was remote and a nine-hour ferry ride to Charleston, SC. After WWII, bridges slowly began to connect Johns Island to the mainland.

The Progressive Club was started in 1948 by Esau Jenkins and other Johns Island residents as both a consumer co-op and a mutual aid organization. About forty families started the co-op. The co-op bought an old school building on River Road that sold everything from groceries to gasoline and seed to feed. The members used it to trade goods and services and as a mutual aid program to help each other in time of need.  Every member of the Progressive Club had to be a registered voter and had to pledge to get one or more voters out to vote on Election Day. A little later, Esau and others organized the CO Federal Credit Union (still operating) to serve low income blacks who could not get mortgages or loans.

Esau Jenkins with children. Photo courtesy of Avery Research Center.

In his business life, Esau Jenkins ran a bus service which served the needs of high school students and daily workers going from the island to downtown Charleston. One day, in the 1950’s one of the passengers, Alice Wine, said to Esau Jenkins, “I’d like to hold up my head like other people, I’d like to be able to vote. Esau, if you’ll help me a little when you have the time, I’d be glad to learn the laws and get qualified to vote. If I do, I promise you I’ll register and I’ll vote.”

Esau Jenkins heard her plea. He copied off the laws and handed them out to his passengers.  He began a daily custom of teaching them how to read and write and learn the law while he drove the bus. Blacks could not get the vote in South Carolina unless they could pass the literacy test. Alice Wine was the first of his passengers to register to vote. What Esau Jenkins was teaching on the bus to a few passengers he wanted to make available to all the disenfranchised blacks on the Sea Islands. But how?

Another avenue for Esau’s road to democracy was about to be opened by Septima Clark.

In 1953, Septima Clark, an activist Charleston teacher learned about the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee as one of the few places in the South where blacks and whites could meet together. The Highlander Center was modeled after the Danish Folk Schools which themselves spurred the Danish cooperative movement.

Septima Clark teaching at a

Septima had taught on Johns Island and Esau had been one of her students. In 1954, Septima went twice to the Highlander Center. There she met the founder Myles Horton and his wife Zilphia who that summer came down to South Carolina, to Johns Island to learn about what was going on.

In 1955 & 56, Septima taught a leadership class at Highlander. She used her car to transport three groups of people there from the Charleston area, including Esau Jenkins. During his time at Highlander, Esau Jenkins saw that a combination of the Highlander teaching technique and his rolling bus classroom was the next step. Esau saw also that Septima Clark was an exceptional teacher of the Highlander method. Propitiously, Bernice Robinson, a cousin of Septima, was another of the Charleston attendees. Jenkins asked Highlander to help merge the two formats and sponsor a Citizenship School on Johns Island.

The first form of the Citizenship School began at the Progressive Club in 1957. But with the co-op having grown to 400 members, the old school building could not also accommodate the growing needs of the Citizenship School.  They tried to rent, however, none of the schools, churches or organizations on Johns Island dared to let the “Citizenship School” use their buildings. They were afraid of what might happen to them.

Esau and the members of the Progressive Club saw that the only option was to do it themselves by buying land and building a new co-op store with meetings rooms. Esau called Myles Horton at Highlander to talk about where the Progressive Club would get the funds.

Highlander lent the funds to the Progressive Club to buy land on Johns Island to build a new larger co-op store.  The new store was built nearby on River Road and opened in 1963. (The building still exists and is now on the National Register of Historic Places).  At the front of the co-op’s building was the retail shop with a store room behind it that acted at night as a meeting room. Behind that they built a dormitory to house participants from afar and also an indoor basketball court. There amongst the weighing scales and storage counters democracy for many blacks in the South was born. Alice Wine became one of the cashiers at the co-op and she can be seen in a lot of the historic photos.

Septima Clark is one of the most unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. (In 1955, Septima invited Rosa Parks to her class at Highlander. Just months before she refused to give up her seat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama). In 1955, the State of South Carolina passed a law stating that teachers who were members of the NAACP would not be allowed to keep their jobs. Septima Clark would not leave the NAACP and in 1956 she lost her teaching job in Charleston. Myles Horton learned that Septima had been fired and asked her to become Director of Workshops at Highlander as well as the Highlander’s liaison with Esau and the Citizenship School.

In “Ready from Within,” Septima Clark comments about the co-op store, “…Esau’s group fixed the front part like a grocery store and sold things to themselves …There were two rooms in the back and in those two rooms we taught. We didn’t want white people to know we had a school back there. We didn’t have any windows…”

Bernice Robinson leads a “Citizenship School” on Johns Island, teaching blacks to read and write so they will be able to vote.

Brought in to be the regular teacher at the Progressive Club was Bernice Robinson, the young cousin of Septima Clark who had also attended Highlander. Highlander raised funds to pay for the program and had Septima Clark oversee it. Soon the Marshall Field Foundation in Chicago took an interest in growing the program beyond Johns Island.

However, at this time the State of Tennessee decided to use illegal tactics to close down Highlander. As a result, Highlander was closed and all its properties and assets sold by the local sheriff at auction. To protect the Field grant and the Citizenship School program, the Highlander quickly transferred the funds and the program to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson and others were transferred with it. Andrew Young and Dorothy Cotton were asked by the SCLC to grow the program beyond Johns Island to the rest of the South.

Young and Cotton, and many other civil rights leaders, were still taken to the Progressive Club to see how the program best worked. On her way back with other Mississippi voting rights activists from their visit to the Citizenship School Fannie Lou Hamer was infamously beaten up in Winona, Mississippi.

There are many other stories about the impact of the Progressive Club. For example, one of the stories would be about the Sea Island Folk Festival that took place in the field behind the Progressive Club. Intertwined with all of this is the work of Guy and Candy Carawan of the Highlander Center who lived on Johns Island in 1963. Carawan spread an old song from South Carolina through the Highlander Center to Pete Seeger and the rest of the world. That song, “We Shall Overcome” is now a freedom anthem worldwide, and the song rights are owned by the Highlander Center.

“We Shall Overcome” reminds us of the accomplishments of that simple Citizenship School humbly created in a co-op shop that became one of the greatest stories of the Civil Rights Movement.

David J. Thompson is writing a book about, ”The Role of Cooperatives in the Civil Rights Movement.” He visited the Progressive Club store about 1996 when it was covered in vines and almost forgotten.


Dear Mother, Dear Father, Dear Teacher, Dear Friend
Public School as we knew it, has come to an end

Across the U.S. we dissect and discuss
How Smarter & Balanced is a spectacular BUST

All true, can’t deny it, I loathe it, I hate
Fabricating fragile inferences on coyotes and the wild honey they ate

But a Yote is a carnivore, and not one to mimic
A bear in a beehive, it really is ALL one big gimmick

Teams of technocrats sitting far from the fray
Of imaginative 4th graders on Pearson Testing Day

Don’t care that the passage is a “diversity” bore
A deliberate distortion of Native/Hispanic lore

A topic we don’t study, but maybe we should
Is how corporate conglomerates came to conquer our Hood

Every subject manipulated to maximize shame
While misguided systems chase after profit and blame

So here we all sit, not to be fooled
Stewing in outrage, not about to be cooled

We’re smart! We know it! This test is no measure!
Of US, Your Children, Your National Treasure

By Kathy Irwin


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Once upon a time Teachers collected and exchanged ideas and images about Starting Points for student learning.

Teachers were Original and Imaginative and not dictated to by colorless technocrats terminally clueless about complex and creative curriculum.

Here’s one repository.

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