A Pictorial Essay About Re-Thinking American Education (for Home page, click on Bellows symbol, above)

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 3.02.42 PM

Fremont Rock Art at Calf Creek, Boulder, Utah


PastedGraphic-8(Please use Zoom, above, to enlarge text)

Steve Boyle had the privilege to serve as a middle and high school teacher at Patagonia Union High School, Patagonia, Arizona in the 2008-2010 period.  He was encouraged to experiment with an unconventional classroom environment that eliminated the traditional set up with individual school desks and chairs in favor of a university seminar-style arrangement to measure important learning dynamics.  Steve’s experimentation was influenced by Dr. Vera John-Steiner of the University of New Mexico, who, in 2000, wrote a very thought-provoking book titled CREATIVE COLLABORATION, which was based on a study of successful collaboration of notable partners and groups, some in face-to-face interaction and others in distance interaction. The result of her examination is that:

“….humans come into being and mature in relation to others, (and that) new skills are acquired, participants develop previously unknown aspects of themselves, and they increase their repertory of cognitive and emotional expression.”

For this phenomenon to occur the learning environment must support both cognitive and emotional development. She states that there is a powerful “relational dynamic” in collaborative work that requires fully articulated and shared goals, a safe place for creative explorations, and unimpeded trust.  The impediments to trust, according to Dr. John-Steiner, are uncertainty, competition, hierarchies, bureaucracies, intellectual ownership, financial dependence, inequity, separation, and emotional disconnectedness.  When the relational dynamics are in order, Dr. John-Steiner believes that there evolves:

“…’thought communities’ that collaborate with an intensity that can lead to a change in their domain’s dominant paradigm……pressing each participant’s perceived limits of human potential.”

Steve tried to incorporate Dr. John-Steiner’s thinking into the atmosphere and functioning of his classroom with good results.  Some traditional rules were intentionally broken in order to play into certain students’ expression of individuality, such as wearing hats in class, and arranging seating for students who preferred to be a bit back from the seminar table, without having to explain why.

He was responsible for the economics course for high school seniors, general science for grades 6-9, and a high school elective in entrepreneurship.


This website of The Bellows Foundation represents an evolutionary stream of consciousness about rethinking American education.

The author, Steve Boyle, shifted over to American education in 2001, when he attended Teachers College at Columbia University.  Subsequently, upon completing a Masters in early 2004, he returned to Arizona and began to develop The Bellows Foundation and The Bellows Institute, in an effort to carry out that rethinking process.  He continues to work on his Ed.D dissertation.

This process was furthered by orchestrating a five-day Colloquium (a “listening”) at the Circle Z Ranch outside Patagonia, Arizona in January 2005, which consisted of forty-three students, faculty, administrators, and other interested parties representing Alverno College, Daemen College, Deep Springs College, Evergreen State College, Fairhaven College, Hampshire College, New College of Florida, Pitzer College, Ursuline College, Columbia University’s Teachers College, University of Arizona, Texas Christian University and University of Wisconsin.


We were privileged to have with us Deans Mike Ford and Steven Weisler of Hampshire College; Dean Alan Jones of Pitzer College; Dara Molloy, a Celtic priest and founder of a learning community in the Aran Islands of Ireland; Josiah Bunting III, President of the H.F. Guggenheim Foundation; L. Jackson Newell, former President of Deep Springs College; Dr. Meredith Aronson, the former mayor of Patagonia; and Carol Soth, a highly respected Patagonia educator.  Absent, but with us in spirit, were Dr. Lee Knefelkamp of Columbia University’s Teachers College (Steve’s dissertation advisor) and Dr. Gregory Prince, former president of Hampshire College (for details, click on  “Evolution of Bellows” in top menu of this website).

The process of rethinking was also advanced when Steve had the privilege to become a teacher at Patagonia Union High School, in Patagonia, Arizona.  He taught the required course in economics to seniors, general science at the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade levels, and entrepreneurship at the high school level in the 2008-2010 time-frame.

Regrettably, progress of The Bellows Foundation and The Bellows Institute was substantially impeded after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis due to the increasing unavailability of grant money for the niche we represented.

Accordingly, the contents of The Bellows Foundation website only reflect the evolution of our rethinking process.  For example, the four prospective field bases to be established in Patagonia, Arizona, Petersburg, Alaska, Boulder, Utah, and the Ecuadorian Rainforest have been visited and researched, but no construction has been commenced due to the absence of funding.  The Bellows Foundation website is simply a repository of ideas that have the potential to transform American education.

We await a real economic recovery and a much stronger public awareness that American education, in its present state, is in financial and operational degeneration and must be rebuilt from the ground up to meet the actual needs of our next generation in terms of meaningful and effective content, as well as affordability.

In the meantime, from 2010 to late 2013, Steve researched and wrote a book, A Grandfather’s Encouragement To Our Next Generation (2013) to help our American and global next generation develop their own unique perspectives of “how the world actually works” and where and how they can make their best contributions.  In early July 2016, he completed  Restoring The Peace, which is the first part of a sequel to the first book, titled:  American National Service:  Rebuilding America and Its Economy From the Ground Up.  

Mentorship At The Brink

A New, Elder-Driven Mentoring Practice To Serve Our Imperiled Next Generation

Most Americans continue to believe that the education of our youth and young adults is to be accomplished by a combination of parental upbringing and formal schooling——K-12, college, and possibly graduate school——with tutoring and even therapy along the way, if necessary.

Could it be that this established educational track is no longer sufficient when our young adults have to struggle with the mounting social and economic conditions that surround them, including, but not limited to, the unprecedented unemployment rate of their age group, which signals that there is something profoundly wrong with what is going on?

The Federal Reserve reports that “so-called “parental co-residence rates” have risen across the country over the last decade. In 12 U.S. states, this rate for 25-year-olds rose above 50% as of 2012-13. Four states—Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Vermont—have seen rates rise by more than 20 percentage points between 2003 and 2013.  And 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis, as follows:

A Rising Share of Young Adults Live In Their Parents’ Home:  A Record of 21.6 Million in 2012

By Richard Fry

In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This is the highest share in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase over the 32% of their same-aged counterparts who were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007 and the 34% doing so when it officially ended in 2009.

A record total of 21.6 million Millennials lived in their parents’ home in 2012, up from 18.5 million of their same aged counterparts in 2007. Of these, at least a third and perhaps as many as half are college students.

Younger Millennials (ages 18 to 24) are much more likely than older ones (ages 25 to 31) to be living with their parents—56% versus 16%. Since the onset of the 2007-2009 recession, both age groups have experienced a rise in this living arrangement.

The men of the Millennial generation are more likely than the women to be living with their parents—40% versus 32%—continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults who do so.  The steady rise in the share of young adults who live in their parents’ home appears to be driven by a combination of economic, educational and cultural factors. Among them:

Declining employment. In 2012, 63% of 18- to 31-year-olds had jobs, down from the 70% of their same-aged counterparts who had jobs in 2007. In 2012, unemployed Millennials were much more likely than employed Millennials to be living with their parents (45% versus 29%).

Rising college enrollment. In March 2012, 39% of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college, up from 35% in March 2007. Among 18 to 24 year olds, those enrolled in college were much more likely than those not in college to be living at home – 66% versus 50%.

Declining marriage. In 2012 just 25% of Millennials were married, down from the 30% of 18- to 31-year-olds who were married in 2007. Today’s unmarried Millennials are much more likely than married Millennials to be living with their parents (47% versus 3%).

These three compositional changes do not explain all of the increase in living at home since 2007. A Pew Research trend analysis shows that within each of these growing demographic sub-groups — the unemployed, college students and the unmarried – a higher share of young adults were living in their parents’ home in 2012 than in 2007.

Looking at longer term trends, the analysis finds that the share of young adults living in their parents’ home was relatively constant from 1968 (the earliest comparable data available) to 2007, at about 32%.

However, other household arrangements of young adults changed dramatically during this period. For example, the share who were married and living with a spouse fell from 56% in 1968 to 27% in 2007. And the share who were living with a roommate or child or were cohabiting with a partner increased nearly fivefold (from 5.5% to 26%).

(End of Pew Research Center report)


It’s No Wonder That Some of Our Sons and Daughters Are Showing Signs of Personal Wear and Tear

From my mentoring experience, I believe it’s no wonder that some of our sons and daughters are showing signs of wear and tear from the mounting social and economic conditions that surround us all. We know the signs: anxiety, resistance, withdrawal, apathy, unhappiness, lack of focus, lack of self-esteem, irresponsibility, hostility and, all too often, narcotics abuse.

My greatest mentoring challenge occurred while attending Columbia University’s Teachers College, where I was the mentor, guardian and financial benefactor to a 26-year-old heroin-addicted mother and her 6-year-old daughter for a two-year period.  After bringing them under my roof, to her great credit, the mother detoxed in three months and took a 13-week course at a theater make-up school, where she was hired as a make-up instructor upon graduation.   We had our ups and downs over that two-year period, but 12 years later, the daughter is enrolled in a community college, and the mother is clean and the senior make-up artist for a prominent opera and theater company.

I became further immersed in these personal wear and tear situations as a teacher in an Arizona school system. I taught economics to the seniors, general science from 6th through 9th grades and I offered an entrepreneurship course as an elective. I was also a mentor to the hardest-case, at-risk students in the school system, where my assistance included, (i) moving one student, with the help of a justice of the peace, from impending incarceration to a counseling group; and (ii) extricating another student, with a quiet warning from a police friend, from arrest just as a multi-agency narcotics bust swept through town to indict 21 persons of interest. The path was cleared for both students to advance and they moved to higher ground.

Moreover, I found that mentoring and teaching entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand because our next generation is yearning to compare notes and swap ideas about how to proceed with their plans for the future. And they yearn to do this with older, well-experienced, trusted individuals——resembling a caring uncle or aunt, or a devoted grandfather or grandmother——the authentic figures in their lives who are good listeners and storytellers of the real world; those who will provide their insights from long and diverse personal experience——and, in doing so, help each student develop his or her own inner compass.

Our Young Adults Are Facing Obstacles That Parental Upbringing, Formal Schooling, Tutoring and Therapy May Not Be Able To Address

My experience as a mentor confirmed my belief that the obstacles many students face are not able to be addressed by parental upbringing, formal schooling, tutoring and therapy. Do we conclude that Americans are out of ideas about addressing the full education needed by our next generations under these unprecedented times?  Does history have anything to offer?

Thankfully, there is long historical evidence that the resilience and solidarity of many indigenous societies rested on a strong educational force of elders who, because of their advanced age, long experience, and insights, held the respectful attention of their youth and young adults and prepared them—in terms of resilience and moral character, as well as competency——to face and address changing social and economic conditions of great difficulty.

What About A New Breed of Mentors Who Are the Elders of Our Current American Society To Bring Their Age, Long Experience, and Insights To Our Next Generations?

The goal of this new mentoring practice is to assemble, train, and deploy a force of American elders who have the age, the life-experience, and the insights our next generations need to cope with increasingly difficult social and economic conditions predicted ahead. Such elders are the women and men who have already connected the dots; who know how the world actually works; and who have tremendous energy to draw in our youth and young adults to give them the grounding and the expertise needed to advance with a sense of solidarity and with their inner compasses revitalized.

These elders must come from all walks of life and rely heavily on experiential education to maximize their effectiveness.  Accordingly, classroom instruction, which is the forte of conventional academic education, will be minimal.  Instead, internships, on-the-job training, apprenticeships, workplace studies, and extensive use of workplace simulators will dominate the learning environment.  The elders will play a major role in sharpening the critical thinking of their students by broadening their perspectives and organizing them into “thought communities” in which the impediments to trust are eliminated and openness, creativity and the challenging of existing paradigms is routine. One such example is to reexamine the premises of education along the following lines: Institutions of education of any society, in the best cases, hold and project the group compass of those societies; becoming the repository of the ideals, the core beliefs that provide vital direction, and the sense of solidarity to sustain themselves under the most adverse conditions.

This is not an abstract issue:  There are many credible predictions of an upcoming national, and possibly global, collapse on both the societal and economic levels.  And American education must lead in preparing our next generation to face and cope with this prediction.

Accordingly, the inner compass of any society and its embedded educational system must have a “great narrative” as its cornerstone, which reinforces the personal identity of its members. Neil Postman, in his THE END OF EDUCATION (1996), provides an excellent insight into the importance of a great narrative as a fundamental necessity of any society, community, or group.  All such narratives, according to Postman:

“…….tell of origins and envision a future, a story that constructs ideals, prescribes rules of conduct, provides a source of authority, and, above all, gives a sense of continuity and purpose…..one that has sufficient credibility, complexity, and symbolic power to enable one to organize one’s life around it…….one that provides people with a sense of personal identity, a sense of a community life…..Our genius lies in our capacity to make meaning through the creation of narratives that give point to our labors, exalt our history, elucidate the present, and give direction to our future.”

Could it be that this new breed of mentors—elders of our American society—are the right ones to re-illuminate the great American narrative for the benefit of our next generation, and the next generations to follow?  If it is unlikely to come from the parents, from schooling, from tutoring, or from therapy, who are more ideal than the elders—ones of long experience and insights who already know that great American narrative and have internalized it long ago—to pass that folklore on to their next generation?

As we move forward to develop this elder-driven mentoring practice, your critique and fresh ideas are more than welcome.

A Mentoring Tool In Early Development: A Workplace Simulator To Make “Job-Ready” a Reality



The initial conceptualization of the Workplace Simulator followed our experimentation with replacing the school desks and school chairs of a traditional classroom with a large seminar table with leather chairs (see photo of experimental classroom at top of this page).  This changed the dynamics of the traditional classroom in that it created a greater sense of trust and community among the students and that, in turn, helped pull up their collaborative creativity and heightened their self-expression.

The Workplace Simulator was conceptualized to become a major advance in student internalization of learning because teams of six students each would have the opportunity to enter the Simulator and, for a four-hour period, they would become players in scripted scenarios (aka theater games) that immersed them in difficult work environments with multiple and simultaneous obstacles to be dealt with and overcome.  The analogy to the Workplace Simulator is the aircraft flight simulators that all the airlines use to keep their pilots and aircrews at a high level of proficiency.  In the aircraft flight simulator, every conceivable flight problem is thrown at the pilots and crews from bad weather, engine failures, structural problems, landing gear malfunctions, instrument failures, passenger actions, and the like.  In the Workplace Simulator, there is no limit to the different scripted scenarios that can replicate any work environment and its inherent problems.

The Workplace Simulator is designed to become the epitome of experiential learning, wherein the students must immediately engage in highly realistic work environments of all kinds based on scripted scenarios (aka theater games) that lead to planned learning outcomes.  The student teams receive work input by incoming conference calls, regular mail, e-mails, SKYPE, and telephone calls.  Additional work input is created by visits from faculty actors who play the role of customers, auditors, regulators, media representatives and others posing stressful problems to be prioritized and dealt with accordingly.  Faculty coaches will occasionally call for a time-out to critique the student team and steer it back toward the intended learning outcomes.

The most fundamental outcomes sought are to familiarize the students with the 21st century global workplace and its performance expectations, and to help pull up the creativity and leadership potential of each student, thereby closing the gap to “job-ready” status that employers constantly call for.  The Simulator scenarios are designed to enable students to exercise and improve their critical thinking processes to determine how the world actually works and learn to navigate through what the pundits call “The New Normal” to pursue their destinies with good judgment, a sense of equanimity, and with an inner compass reflecting a high social consciousness.


We constructed the initial Simulator in a warehouse that had a loft area from where the operation of the Simulator could be observed from above by faculty coaches and researchers.  It was envisioned that the students and the coaches would wear electronic devices to facilitate communication between one another.  And the researchers could observe and listen in to the communication between student team members and communications from the faculty coaches.



    The Simulator included three work components:  (i) the central work area with six workstations for the student teams, (ii) the conference area, and (iii) a manager’s office to facilitate the supervisor dynamic.


  The manager’s office to the far right.


Closing the gap to reach full job-ready status on the part of our young adults will entail a close working relationship with employers who will participate in the development of scripted scenarios (aka theater games) that are nearly identical to actual operational interaction within their respective organizations.  And there must be considerable repetition and practice by the student teams that make use of the Workplace Simulator, much like aircrews in aircraft flight simulators return frequently for more practice under the most diverse and difficult conditions.

Potential Bellows Field Base: The Achuar Territory in the Ecuadorian Region of the Amazon Rainforest

The Bellows Foundation is considering the development of a new field base in the Achuar Territory of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

This page is under construction and will include the photography shown below:



The Achuar see the Ecuadorian government and President Correra violating their Constitutional rights, just as we witness our own government doing the same to us.  The Achuar see the impact of the transnational oil companies and understand they are essentially killing machines.  They know about the poisoning of the water, the destruction of farmland, the diseases, the tumors, the miscarriages, the dwindling of their food sources, and the ruination of their way of life.  They already know what happened to the Tetetes and Sansahauris peoples in the northern Amazon rainforest in the 1960s and 1970s with the arrival of Texaco (now Chevron).  They know what happened in the Achuar territory in nearby Peru on the Corrientes River.  
The shamans know it, and the children sense it.

It was clear to us that the Achuar are preparing to return to their warring tradition, marked by the high level of savagery described by Spanish colonial authorities who tried to subdue them in the late 16th century.  One of the ceremonies that we witnessed was the traditional farewell dance by the young wives when their husbands leave for battle.

This was not a happy scene.  America might be in the most difficult time of its history, but the Achuar are facing nothing short of extinction, unless they resettle deeper in the Amazon rainforest, which is disappearing under the onslaught of steady commercial penetration.  How can this happen in 2012 in this world?  The answer is that of all the plundering transnational corporations across the globe, the petroleum corporations appear to be the most out of control.  America had its experience with the rogue operations of British Petroleum along our Gulf Coast.  And the Achuar know full well what’s coming.  If the petroleum, logging, mining, and commercial farming corporations are not stopped, they will cause the eventual extinction of the vast majority of the indigenous people in the Amazon and they will kill the Amazon itself; erasing a vital part of our planet and accelerating the demise of the Earth’s processes.


We were a small, multinational group trying to determine ways to come to the assistance of the Achuar people in the Ecuadorian Rainforest to combat the illegal efforts of large oil companies to encroach on their land and leave highly toxic waste that enters the rivers, streams and soil and causes proven widespread diseases attributable to carcinogens that decimate indigenous populations.

Our group was sponsored by The Pachamama Alliance (www.pachamama.org).