A Pictorial Essay About Re-Thinking American Education (for Home page, click on Bellows symbol, above)
Fremont Rock Art at Calf Creek, Boulder, Utah
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.