Monday, September 26, 2016

Searching for student autonomous self-regulated schooling: I am definitely not a disciplinarian!

First I would like to define self-regulation as a system of conscious personal management guiding thoughts, behaviors and feelings to reach goals. Second. I wish to stipulate to there being two types of self-regulation: autonomous self-regulation and controlled self-regulation. Autonomous self-regulation is the feeling that the behavior, the emotion, or the cognition being regulated is being affected for reasons a person values, finds meaningful, and wholly endorses. Controlled self-regulation, by contrast, is the feeling of internal or external pressure conflicting with what one would otherwise choose (e.g., avoiding shame or guilt, interpersonal rejection, or physical or verbal punishment). Conventional schooling and a good deal of unconventional schooling, I'd argue, relies almost exclusively on controlled self-regulation in students. As an educator I have had trouble being the controller, the disciplinarian who pressures students for behaviors convenient to the order of the customary classroom.

I was born to teach. Well, I was born to teachers, a father who taught high school English and a mother who taught high school Home Nursing, Nutrition and Biology after a career as a nurse. Both were in the New York City public school system. From them I inherited the deep seated impulse to help others to learn. However, while my parents somehow managed the deportment of their students so their classes were orderly. I, having no truck with ordering anyone around, found myself at odds with this part of classroom management: Discipline, as we use to say in the Sixties, was just not my bag.

Indeed, I can remember from sixth grade and all through high school really hating “playing sheriff”, that is making sure a balance was struck between every one of my friends having a good time in my family’s finished basement while it, they and me remained in an all-together fine condition. I would plead, beg, cajole but it was only the anticipated and sure visits from my mother which actually kept the friends in check and the basement in good repair. Still, I felt an obligation to monitor and manage my friends behavior. I carried the dreaded sheriff into the classroom.

However, I found a congenial environment in college classrooms as I started my teaching life in the fall of 1980. Here, I could concentrate on “real teaching and learning” as student conduct toward each other, the school property, the material under consideration and the learning goals I set was well self-regulated. However, as I discovered as I learned more about teaching and learning, these students as well as the others to come, mostly were controlled self-regulating. But in the early stage of my career I was happy enough not to have to be a sheriff.

Adjunct work wasn't paying bills. So, in mid-decade I looked to parochial school teaching and was appointed to instruct seventh grade science and social studies in a parish school close to where I was then living. These youngsters were well mannered, but holee, they just kept on talking! I would ask them for quiet and they would be silent, but for only a brief moment, then whispers followed by louder whispers followed by and followed by and followed by my getting angry. At one point I felt I needed to discipline the whole class and I piled on the homework thinking homework as a good punishment (which to each and every student it is so thought even at the best of times). But that didn’t dissuade them from talking so I gave them even more homework. That didn't work either. Now, it became clear to me that I had lost control of the class and having lost control I yelled at them using the most learned language a college professor could muster. Needless to say the principal wasn’t pleased and suggested I go back to college teaching, which I did. And I was happy to return to the college classroom even though it was still adjunct and student self-regulation was still from the internalization of external expectations.

However, adjunct still wasn’t paying bills. So, eventually in the very early 1990's, I followed my parents into the City public high schools first as a substitute teacher than as a fully appointed high school teacher of Social Studies. I mean, talking about playing sheriff! Still, my sub classes turned out just fine as I struck bargains with students: They didn’t bother each other or the school property and I wouldn’t insist they do any school work. I said they could talk at a loud whisper but if the volume of the talk got beyond a certain point I would ask them to lower their voices and I would expect that they would, which they did every time. I also said they could get up from their seats to visit friends but when visiting they needed to be seated. Additionally, I suggested they read, write, or even draw, if they wished. The bargain held strong with only a few minor exceptions.

Everything changed when I was appointed to a Brooklyn high school in 1992 and tasked to instruct! At the time behavioral contracts were a thing. These were behavioral stipulations students had, I repeat, had to agree to follow during all class periods. It included a graduated list of “consequences” for violations. No one, including this teacher, took it seriously. Still, I referred to it several times, but it didn’t matter a single bit. It took me three weeks of insistence to get my four ninth grader classes in an order acceptable for direct instruction. My fifth class was of super seniors and they fell in line from the first day.  But then in one of the ninth grade classes was dropped a young man with definite emotional challenges, more than the rest. He so disrupted the class he destroyed the order I so deftly built. It took me another three weeks to get this class to an acceptable order. Then on the heels of this came report cards where all in the ninth grade classes were shown they were failing three or more of their subject classes and not a few were failing all of them! To say there was pandemonium in each class is an understatement. Somehow I had to calm them down to get on with instructing the syllabus I was given by my supervisor who, by the way, said I had to follow it to the letter. Obviously, the disruptions, eruptions and out-right verbal abuse coming close to blows among students and between students and this teacher continued until I just could not stand it. I resigned and began a search for a school where self-regulation was autonomous.

Actually, I had been in one since 1985, although it was not exactly a school but it was a learning organization: Scouting. When Scouting is done right it requires both youth and adults to engage an individual autonomous self-regulation. You see, a foundation of autonomous self-regulation is the compatible resonance in an individual among innate predispositions of nature and socialization, self-selected goals, available means of goal achievement and pleasing participation in the means of goal achievement. And Scouting from the youngest to the oldest when done right is premised on the presence of these elements and its compatible resonance in individuals. However, too often Scouting is not done right and when not done right it tends to replicate the environment comparable to conventional schooling inducing a controlled self-regulation. But it was my experience with the cub pack and the scout troop through which both my son and I coursed in our Brooklyn neighborhood, him as a scout and me as a scouter, as well as some of the other troops of my acquaintance and participation later in Queens that while the match between scout or adult and Scouting was not always compatible, those who voluntarily stayed the longest with a program as close to being done right as possible demonstrated the necessary compatible resonance among the present elements comprising an autonomous self-regulation setting and, indeed, at least within the context of the Scouting experience both youth and adults demonstrated what I could interpret as autonomous self-regulated behavior. It occurred to me on more than a few occasions that a school based on Scouting done right may just be the type of school for which I was searching. (The next blog post will explore characteristics of Scouting done right marking it a learning organization encouraging autonomous self-regulation and a possible template for the type of school for which I continue to search.)

Towards the end of my Scouting experience I joined another learning organization: scuba schools. I worked out of two shops one in Brooklyn and the other in Staten Island, both of which have been out of business for quite some time, as I too have hung up my fins for some time. The adults I was finding first as a student instructor and then as a full open water instructor had mellowed their regular education controlled self-regulation into a deeply internalized cooperation and voluntary agreement with the instructor on the goals and the paths toward skill development and eventual Open Water Certification. It is unclear to me, even in retrospect, that these adults were exhibiting an autonomous self-regulation. I lectured, explained, tested in class; they listened, read and studied the required material and passed the tests in class. I explained, demonstrated, guided, and supervised in the water; they listened, observed, tried, and practiced in the water. They accepted the conditions of instruction knowing what they were. They accepted the conditions of in class and open water testing/demonstration knowing what they were. They followed instruction increasing knowledge, acquiring skills, demonstrating both, becoming certified. The mere acceptance of direct instruction is not of itself an indicator of one type of self-regulation, I'd argue. But, the acceptance of the need for changed behavior and of its actual change might be. And, believe me, one needs to change all sorts of behavior to live without harm underwater. Just overcoming the survival impulse to hold ones breath underwater and to breath on scuba is one heck of a change. So, on balance in retrospect I am somewhat inclined to think the mellowing of the conventional schooling induced controlled self-regulation is toward an autonomous self-regulation with these adults. If my surmise is accurate to any degree, then it would follow that to move toward an autonomous self-regulation from a position of conventional school induced controlled self-regulation, if movement is possible, requires a certain maturity even undergraduates have yet to achieve. And it appears to require an honest voluntary, freely chosen acceptance of the conditions of instruction and with instruction some very basic behavioral change, a second order change in fact, which is largely unavailable to students within conventional schooling, possibly all the way through to professional graduation. Which ever way self-regulation breaks in scuba schools, though, it is Scouting done right which appears to me the better template for autonomous self-regulated schooling.

Eventually I returned to college teaching. It was adjunct, but that was all there was in the mid-oughts. The students I found in my courses were very well behaved and compliant in class as, they, I discovered, were soundly controlled self-regulated. But it would appear that thoroughly controlled self-regulated students become mightily confused when the external pressure is taken off and the internal pressure of external expectations is unconfirmed. Indeed, I found the students before me consistently incapable of adapting to my switching the locus of control for their self-regulation from me, the teacher, to them, the students, as to spark student complaints to others. Since this was the way of course after course and since I did not see this condition abating, I resumed my search for autonomous self-regulated schooling wondering if I had to actually start a school developing autonomous self-regulated students for me to find such a school.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Searching for Conversation/Part 2

In a very recent Facebook response came the word “institutionalized” describing the behavior of undergraduate college students about whom I was complaining. I had reported that in my most recent college course, the desk chairs I had arranged in a horse-shoe to promote conversation among the students were being constantly re-arranged back into rows. More, I charged, even with the horse-shoe, what I got from the students were eyes on me and mouths firmly shut. I am a firm believer in the power of the environment to structure behavior and one classroom environmental cue to expectant conduct is desk arrangement. However, here and in other colleges, the horse-shoe arranged desks couldn’t overcome the institutionalized roles of the passive, compliant student and lecturing teacher. And the kicker of it all is that for the umpteenth time over the last ten years when I violated the role expectations of student and teacher, especially in initiating experiential and cooperative means of unfolding course content, the young adults while compliant in class with my pedagogy complained loudly to other faculty including the Deans of the universities in which I was temporarily employed! Institutionalized, indeed!

So, okay, when I was instructing audio control techniques, I can understand a certain sharp curtailment of conversation. But, even here there was more than ample opportunity for students to interact with each other in assuring the uptake in proper performance, not to mention off handed remarks over any number of immediate undergraduate concerns. Indeed, once, twice, perhaps three times demonstrated, I, then, would let them on their own working to their own mind images of my techniques. However, each looked for me and at me for assurance. More, doubts were directed to me rather than querying fellow students. Further, conversation of immediate social dramas was entirely absent.

In such courses as audio documentary where I wished students to have conversations on their and each other's work, they completely deferred to me and my critiques, no conversation. Yet again and again when examining radio/tv law, television and print advertising, human communication between two people or within groups, political speech, and every other aspect of the Communication Arts and Media Studies courses I fielded, every student fixed his/her eyes on me keeping his mouth quiet and her thoughts to herself.

Now, pre-service college teachers are taught how to research, not to teach. To teach they rely on how they were taught, essentially following the same technique as my chopping wood, i.e., duplicating as much as possible the mind-image of their student experience of being taught. My student experience, for sure, was for many years one of “teacher says...I do”. However, with graduate school being so congenial to my penchant for conversation, I began following the grad school method of “teacher asks questions and students discuss”. However, I found that asking questions regardless of my intention never provoked discussion, rather it was taken by students as yet another unidirectional process of teacher asking a student for the correct answer. What was so frustrating to me beyond the institutionalized behavior was that in many cases there was either no “right” answer or there were many “right” answers; but, students were always wanting to give the single “right” answer, and not a few were crushed when I redirected questions back to them. I had several young women come up to me recently nearly in tears because I did not say that their answers to my inquiries were always correct!

As it turns out, I saw from where all this collegiate institutionalized behavior emanated as in between college course appointments in the early 1990's I taught in a Brooklyn public high school. Although I had been a teacher for ten years, I had to return to undergraduate school to complete my methods requirements for to assure teachers in public schools possess a minimum competency, public authorities required a number of college courses in the teaching arts which I did not have. I completed the courses and was duly State certified and City licensed as a high school Social Studies teacher. (How it was I became a Social Studies teacher is a long story for another day.)

The fellow who was my principle teaching instructor was then the Social Studies Chair of Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School. Chairs of departments are able to assign themselves their own classes and this fellow loved teaching honors classes. He was so taken by his methods of honors teaching he taught us to instruct in the same manner. He called the method “Developmental Lesson Planning” which relied on, of all things, a series of pivotal questions students would answer in a manner to induce in class discussions. Each class, in essence, was to be structured as a collective investigation of a topic question exploring why something important happened. To say I took to this as the proverbial duck to water is a gross understatement.

But when as a student teacher I put Developmental Lessons into practice with the group of seniors in a Principles of Government class, I found it didn't work as advertised. First off, students were to have read the assigned pages in the text so they could have the information readily at hand for discussing the material covered the next day. They didn't; so they had no prior information from which to engage in conversation no less answer a question. Second, you know that classroom scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when the teacher asks a question and gets silent stares, well, that was what was happening in these classes. Finally my cooperating teacher said that I was working way too hard in a dismal attempt at moving these students to discussion and for me to change my instructional approach. I kept asking pivotal questions, but in a fashion enabling me to answer them for the class rather than having to rely on the students.

And then I was let loose on four Global Studies classes of ninth graders and one Principles of Government class of seniors at Erasmus Hall High School. The conduct of the ninth graders was typical of the age, which meant they had to be disciplined sternly (more on that in an upcoming blog) so they could stay silent, in their seats and attentive to my instruction. The instruction the school's principal told me was to consist of solely my transferring the material in the syllabus I was given directly into the brains of all the students of my classes. No conversation, no discussions, just here are the facts, read them in the text, copy them from the board and give them back on the tests. The seniors were well institutionalized by the time they came to me, so their conduct was quite orderly. In fact, they were so orderly in the entire process they did as told without a peep.

I quickly tried to break away from the oppressive routine in which I was engaged. I attempted an experiential activity with the ninth graders to instruct on the Animist religion in ancient Africa. They were very compliant and they appreciated the break in the routine. But, it put me so far behind the other Global Studies classes in the syllabus that I felt I needed to quickly repair “the damage”. So, I did a marathon of board notation which ruined whatever had been gained by the experiential exercise. I should also report I tried doing Development Lessons with the Seniors. But, it generated the same results as the student teaching experience.

So, here it was, the institutionalization. Boiling it down it comes to that teachers have a curriculum syllabus whose content they are required to transfer into the minds of their students through techniques which require students to be seated, silent and attentive. Students are to talk only when given permission to talk and, largely, the student talk must be in direct answer to teacher questions. Any other talk, either extraneous to school topics or on school topics which is not a direct consequence of teacher demands is not allowed and must be actively discouraged or punished. For one who has a near compulsion for conversation this is just intolerable! More, for the sociable creatures us humans are especially in adolescence, having to be disciplined into silence is as equally intolerable. Yet, a good number of children, adolescents and young adults have so internalized the required behavior as to have come to expect it as the way it all should be. On the other hand, there are quite a few, like me, who refuse to go against their biological imperatives to be social, to converse on all matters of interest, school and non-school related, that they are made crazy, or drop out or in some other way become injured. It is we of this bent to whom I search for a congenial means of formal education. And it is we of this bent I've conceived this learning institution.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Searching for Conversation/Part 1

People find different ways of acquiring what they want or need to learn. But, it strikes me the notion of learning by doing is universal. Doing up the information ladder of abstraction takes on forms from mostly physical to totally conceptual. Learning concrete action such as chopping fire wood, for instance, required me to first create mind-images of the procedure I observed over years of adults accomplishing the task and then to replicate the mind-images as accurately as possible as I took my turn to chop fire wood. Or, learning to manipulate a car's manual transmission, again, required me to first observe for some time, to form mind-images and then to closely replicate the mind-images in action. On the other hand, the concept of ironic conflict in a black hearted, maimed Capt. Ahab against a white whale in Melville's Moby Dick required first solitary reading, interpretation and reflection AND THEN extensive conversation. The same process unfolded when encountering much later the massive conflict between technological determinism and free will. In this realm of high abstraction I found externalizing my inner conversation to colleagues captured by the same question not only clarifying concepts, but intensifying the understanding of them, in other words, deepening learning. Over the decades engaged in professional education pursuits, I have concluded that my manner of doing up the information latter of abstraction is mostly like everyone else. And I also discovered the universal need for conversation in completing the learning process, especially, in areas of high abstraction. However, as a both a student and a professional practitioner in the structures of formal learning, I have found the procedural instruction of say learning to chop fire wood applied to nearly every aspect up the ladder of abstraction, leaving totally aside the need for extended conversations. Indeed, one should find in such as English Language Arts the perfect conditions for conversation, but the procedural process of deconstructing text ecumenically employed throughout contemporary schooling precludes the conversational arts exploring concepts inherent in literature under review.

I come to conversation through my mother's attention. On more than a few occasions as a boy, my father struggling from his bedroom to the kitchen in search of some wake-up juice and silence would discover my mother and me in rapt conversation. Ugh, he would say, how can you two be so awake and talking and talking about so heavy a subjects as you constantly do? We would apologize, shrug shoulders, allow him to pour his coffee in silence, and then as he sat down at the table we continued with whatever “heavy” conversation we were having.

The subjects were not all that “heavy”, but to my father, that early in the morning was not the time to consider questions of such as “Why can’t an egg stand on its ends?”, or “How come I can get Chicago radio stations at night (we lived in Brooklyn, NY) when I can’t get them during the day?”, and stories the like of how my grandfather and my mother fixed pancakes on a favorite griddle when my grandmother was away from the house, or the several about her and her friends having a real special treat of a tiny serving of ice cream from the candy store when they were children during the Depression. This was not the typical kid question and parent answer as my mother would ask of me my experiences of, for instance, trying to stand an egg on its end, or about what it was like listening to Chicago radio. I mean, we listened intently to each other and responded to what we heard: it truly was that perfect exchange of ideas between two people wanting to know.

But then I went to school and had to be quiet. In both elementary schools through which I traveled (St. Angela Hall Academy through fifth grade and Our Lady of Angles parish school through eighth) teachers occasionally asked questions of me which I answered, but they were not the kind provoking conversation, nor did the teachers desire conversation with us kids. Largely they demanded we copy notes from the black board into our composition books from which we drilled answers to teacher questions, read prescribed books from which work book answers were derived, mimicked solutions to math problems, and so on.

Definitely looking for conversation, I started up with classmates before and after classes and during recess but they just looked at me as if I had two heads. That was the way it was until I met Brother Joseph, my high school English teacher at LaSalle Academy, Manhattan. He was thrilled to have a student as interested in conversation about the topics of his instruction as he. Indeed, while I did not read all he assigned, I had developed a question/dialogue style which enabled on topic conversation at a drop of a hat and the hat dropped frequently. I discovered over time that teachers, most especially Brother Joseph, considered me “well read”. Being actually well read or not, my other high school classes were just the repeat of elementary school. And my high school classmates were as unresponsive to conversation as were my elementary schoolmates, that is beyond the mutual boasting of their great feats of sportsmanship or dating, or dishing the gossip about other classmates and our teachers. And the group of neighborhood friends, well, they had not a single interest in any conversation outside of dickering over which sand lot sport to play, later which bar to go into, and always who was doing what with whom.

And then came college, well, I should say colleges as I attended three different undergraduate schools (State University of New York, Maritime College; Long Island University, Brooklyn; and New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, from which I received my Bachelor’s degree). The professors I had in all three schools remained as uninterested in conversation with us as all earlier, but I was able to find small pockets of schoolmates who were as thirsty for conversation as I. And on topics of great and little significance, on the meaning of life, on the planes of existence, on war and peace, on sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. We talked Smith, Locke, Rousseau; we talked Freud and Jung; we talked Kierkegaad, Kant, Schopenhauer; we talked Civil Rights, the Draft and The War; we talked Dylan, Joplin and Cream. Deeper conversations over beer were had as faculty joined in at The New School where I took my Masters in Media Studies as we discussed the concepts of such as Diane Arbus, Marshall McLuhan and Lewis Mumford and the films of such as Truffaut, Cassavetes and Barbara Kopple. They widened further through New York University’s now defunct Doctorate in Media Ecology as we considered in class and out such as technological determinism vs free will, the impacts of the transition to a new orality, and the fact that our society is Amusing Itself to Death. The near daily conversations during these times and at the conferences I attended then were as mother’s milk to me. And then I went to teach!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

School Project Summary

(Up until March, 2016, I was working with the Queen's Borough President's Education Director on a brief presentation of my school concept to the Borough President.  The Education Director thought it was necessary for me to prepare a bullet-point paper from which to present and to leave for the BP's recall of the meeting.  The Project Summary posted here is the paper's final draft...It was anticipated that once the preparation reached its conclusion, the presentation would happen and it would be in such good order that the BP would recommend it and me to the Department of Education's office of new school development.  There, I would work closely with folks who would shape the proposal for acceptance by the powers that be in the City's DOE.  Also, I thought I could leverage the recommendation as a recruitment vehicle as folks I would approach would know that the concept was being taken seriously by the powers in the DOE.  With the eight or so people on a proposal committee, the project stood a good chance of actually happening.  It is hoped that with the start of '16-'17 school year, the BP's Education Director and I will continue where we left off in March.)

Project Summary for 

A New, Small Demonstration School

 for The Bright Neurologically Diverse

Formulated by Leo J. Fahey, BFA, MA, (ABD) PHD

For Whom: The Bright Neurologically Diverse: They are children, adolescents and young adults of above average cognitive capacity having neurological, social-emotional and/or developmental differences than what are expected of youngsters of the same age. This population is characterized by a broad asynchronous growth in social, emotional and cognitive aspects of personality making schooling success and psychological wellness within contemporary, cohort school settings difficult, at best, extremely problematic, at worst.

Proposed: a small-500 student-early childhood through early college learning institution constituted in five sequential programs housed in two administrative units: Early Childhood and Primary Education Programs are in one unit; Intake for Secondary Education, Secondary Education and Early College Programs are in the second. 

Location: Queens. 

Rationale for this institution: Direct public education service according to this population's asynchronously developing social-emotional, cognitive and talent characteristics continues to be absent in spite of New York City School’s Response to Intervention and Queen’s District 30’s positive contributions.  Consequently, emotional disturbance, underachievement and denial of equal opportunity for college, career and life readiness remain in almost all of this population.

Mission: to cultivate in all its students a solid psychological foundation for future growth, a cognitive deftness for adaptability to life’s challenges and a full capacity to work both independently and interdependently by providing highly supportive, whole-child, learner-responsibility-based, cooperative learning programs.

Means: By the effective synthesis of authentic Montessori, Democratic Education and Talent Development principles.

The major principles born of the synthesis are: 1) whole-child education integrating Head, Heart and Hand, that is, students growing through developmentally appropriate abstract (Head), intrinsically motivated (Heart), and manual skill (Hand) learning engagement; 2) mentoring, a close student psycho-cognitive, psycho-dynamic, emotional and learning objective support;       3) student intrinsically motivated, talent driven, self-directed and mentor negotiated learning-negotiating, especially, between strong intrinsic inclinations and necessary advancement/credentialing decisions; 4) individual continuous progress, that is, developmental and learning goals accomplished at one's own pace; 5) learner responsibility for the course of one's education; 6) school site community governance, a structured equal collaboration among students, staff and parents/caregivers.  

School Site Community Governance: Shared Decision Making through Consensus Process. There are proposed to be three interconnected levels of governance where staff, faculty, students and parents/caregivers come together in a consensus decision making process to organize, supervise and operate this institution: The Institutional Level, The Unit Level and The Program Level. The Institutional Level organizes the common elements unifying the two separate administrative unites into a coherent education establishment. The Unit Level organizes the particulars of each unit. The Program Level organizes the specific elements of these components.

The Programs fulfilling the Mission:
Early Childhood: Students develop early self-regulation of social-emotional dispositions and executive functioning and cultivate talent based learning instincts, self-efficacy, advocacy for others and appropriate language competency. 

Primary Education: Students develop competency in talent compatible book literacy, language competency, numeracy and subject topics while strengthening self-regulation, executive functioning, social-emotional management, self-efficacy, advocacy for others, and behavioral habits of independence and cooperation.  

Intake for Secondary Education: Students adapt to the secondary education program’s cooperative self-directed, talent development and school site community self-governance culture while developing/strengthening social-emotional and cognitive awareness driving self-regulation, self-efficacy, advocacy for others and behavioral habits of independence and cooperation.  

Secondary Education: Students develop high quality academic and manual skills, deepen language competency and habits of independence and cooperation, and cultivate talent driven subject topics.  

Early College: Young scholars engage in deep, cooperative study into questions of curiosity, interest and passion, greatly enhance language competency, and, as fully as possible, satisfy general core university requirements enabling graduates to receive a high school diploma, an Associate of Arts degree and, if desired, entrance into a college or a university to complete a Bachelor’s degree.  

Establishment Timing: Early Childhood is started first with Primary Education available for Early Childhood students in time for when they are ready. The Intake Program for Secondary Education is established in time for Primary Education students to enter when ready. The Secondary Education Program should be available for students to enter when they are ready and, likewise, the Early College.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Well, I'm at it again!

Yep, I’m at it again…trying to get somebody(bodies) to work with me to put together “my school”.  The last I posted on the blog was in great despair for it ever being realized.  Indeed, it keeps on happening:  I get a couple of folks to listen; they say encouraging words but nothing comes of them.  I give up, place the project in a deep dark drawer and retreat into myself, blaming myself for being such a gigantically imperfect salesperson.  Then, having recovered some sense of “reality”, I open the drawer take out the concept, rework it and, again, reach out to whoever would agree to listen.  But, the pattern repeats.  This has been the way for over ten years!  Maybe it’s time to accept it will never fly!  Naaa! 
I should report that through a good deal of last year and into this I thought I was making progress in building allies in the NYC Queens Borough President’s Office.  Since I was looking for the school to be sited in my home borough of Queens and since I was working for it to be a new, small public demonstration school, I had thought the Queen’s Borough President’s advocacy for it would greatly move others to come on-board eventually collecting enough political clout with which to finally open the Office of the Mayor and his folks in Education to sanction the effort.  In fact, the prospect of approval of concept and recommendation to the office of new school development in the Department of Education was held out to me as almost certain.  And with starting to work with the folks in the office of new school development, I was anticipating, I could far better recruit folks wiling to team to get the project translated from black marks on white screens into brick and mortar.  As you might have surmised, the pattern is holding.  Still, folks in the Borough President’s office have yet to say no.  So, until then, I remain in hope and in hope I am reaching out to others in the BP’s office and to others with whom I’ve connected these last couple of years to see what can be done on getting the project underway.
In the past I have used this blog as a repository for my concept writing so to steer folks to it instead of handing them reams of paper.  Somehow small book length manuscripts scare people to the point they will decline to read and take seriously anything contained within, although I do gift them a short synopses which seem s to be acceptable.  Thus, I will continue to do so now with the current iteration of the concept. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, then, this blog will fill with the “new, improved” vision of the school concept.  As it is said, “Watch this space!”

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Explaining Democratic Education

A term unfamiliar to others demands an explanation. And, that is so with “Democratic Education” as it is a model of formal learning known to only a few, unfortunately in my opinion. This blog entry re-writes, edits and re-posts much earlier ones to provide a general explanation of the concept in one post.

Defining Democratic Education:

Democratic Education rests on its conviction of children as owners of their own course of learning and as full participants in their school governance.

Democratic Education sees children's native curiosity as a powerful learning driver making unnecessary any adult coercion to engage learning activities. It also fully acknowledges the draw of childern's different talents to pursue different aspects of knowledge. Through their native inclinations, then, children within a Democratic Education school self-select what is learned, when what is chosen is learned and the depth, scope and duration of leaning. This intrinsic motivated self-directed engagement in the accumulation of knowledge ultimately leads Democratic Education to an individualized and emergent rather than a uniform and mandated course of study over a term and over a school residency.

Additionally, Democratic Education views children as principal stake holders in school governance. It places its school governance in the immediate learning community where adults and children have equal voices and equal community decision-making powers on all issues open to community decision. Through democratic participatory practices the learning community self-governs its school.

Yaacov Hecht ( developed the principles of Democratic Education in the mid-1980’s and in 1987, in Hadera, Israel, he founded the first Democratic Education school. To spread the word and to advocate for this model of formal learning he founded the Institute for Democratic Education (

A brief history of Democratic Education in the U.S. starts with Francisco Ferrer, as my friend and colleague, Cooper Zale, maintains: “The ideas of ‘non-coercive’ and ‘learner-led’ schools have roots in the educational philosophy of Spanish educator Francisco Ferrer (1859-1909)…” (if still available see “What is a Democratic-Free School?”,

Ferrer looked to develop children’s knowledge and skills according to each student’s abilities rather than through drilled instruction and uniform lessons. He opposed religious and nationalistic indoctrination, but frequently instructors in Ferrer schools would instill values of liberty, equality, and social justice into students, and Ferrer’s textbooks had a general anti-statist, anti-capitalist, and anti-militarist line.  He was a firm believer in what today is called life long learning which impelled him to institute adult classes at his schools.

Ferrer’s ideas in the U.S. sparked the Modern School Movement which established a handful of schools beginning in 1910. The small number of Modern Schools shrunk as the founders either died or moved on with most closing during the 1920’s. The Ferrer Modern School in Piscataway, NJ, was the longest lasting, not closing until 1953. (

The Modern School Movement was a reaction in education to the moves by the American industrialists of the Guided Age to concentrate power, to be authoritarian bosses in their factory fiefdoms. But, as history rolled on, the Modern School Movement dissipated and disappeared leaving reaction to authoritarian social and economic structures for another time. Then in the fullness of another time there came to the surface another group of folks reacting in the same vein to a similar creeping authoritarianism. And in the arena of formal learning they discovered their own path to rebellion, to restructuring the education process: They found A.S. Neill and his Summerhill school.

From Mary Leue, founder of The Free School in Albany, NY, to Daniel Greenburg, founder of Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts and to many other Americans in the 1960’s, there was a flat out rebellion against the authoritarian, conventional school. Like the progressive educators of John Dewey’s time, the rebels were looking to structure schooling as a mirror opposite. Thus, the confluence of vectors in time and in culture landed Alexander Sutherland Neill and his book, Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing on an American shore prepared to take from it everything fitting their rebellion. And so, regardless of Neill’s insistence that day schools could not be free schools at all, the Americans of the 1960’s founded free day schools.

These “free schoolers” latched tightly to the freedom in Neill’s notion that freedom to choose means doing what you want to do, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the freedom of others. They as well focused on Neill’s idea that freedom to choose that which affects the child individually, that which is of interest, of passion, of felt need, is essential for only under this kind of freedom can the child grow in his/her natural way.

Under their rebellious zeal to construct a mirror opposite of the authoritarian, conventional school, free schoolers fixated on elevating child impulse over self-regulation, in my view, and, thus, confused and excused license for freedom. Free Schooling includes self-selected learning and community self-governance, of course, but it extends far greater sufferance to child impulse than the preponderance of other Democratic Education schools ever have to date.

Hecht, not a free schooler, but like many before credits Neill and Summerhill with opening his mind to children’s intrinsic motivated self-selection of learning. What Hecht saw when he visited Summerhill school during the 1980’s were the youngsters’ ability to choose what to learn and when to learn what was chosen to be learned and the school’s policy of non-compulsory instructional attendance. He saw that even conventional learning happens well when children decide for themselves to, in my words, freely accept the conditions of inclusion in such instruction.

What Hecht also found was the control over the relationship life of the school being vested in a school community governance structure using a democratic process. Neill’s contention was that only in a residential school, where there is a social life, can there be a self-governance of relationships applied. Day schools, Neill insists in his book, have no equivalent to residential life and therefore have nothing over which to govern. Neill did not consider what in this country is called “student life”-clubs, intramural sports, school socials, etc.- embodying the spectrum of living necessary for community self-governance and thus, student governments, which are everywhere here tasked with governing student life incapable of governing interpersonal relationships within a school. Yet, Hecht took away an appreciation of the power of a school community to regulate relations within it.

Thus was formed the foundations of Democratic Education where the unique biology, unique gifts, of each child act as fundamental drivers of individual education without adult coercion visited upon youngsters, where students decide the course of their learning, and where all in the learning community fully participate in the governance of the relationships within the community.

There are different ways by which to be a Democratic Education school. Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA, ( represents the “free school” end of the spectrum where what students want to know is totally up to the them and where school policy and administrative governance is largely controlled by students. Summerhill School in Leiston, England, ( holds a middle ground with a conventional curriculum and administrative governance retained by the community adults, but with its social life governed by the learning community as a whole and with non-compulsory class attendance. Lehman Alternative Community School in Ithaca, NY, a public school, ( offers a mostly traditional discipline curriculum but with a community shared policy and administrative governance.

The Democratic Education Learning System:

Regardless of where on the spectrum of Democratic Education a specific learning community is, there are common qualities marking the learning system as Democratic.

The Democratic Education learning system is driven by the individual social, emotional and cognitive needs of the students as manifested and understood by them, not by an interpretation of them by the adults in the school. Indeed, in Democratic Education schools the child is the definer of his and her own need and the decision maker as to how to satisfy the felt need. This goes counter to the traditional school adult over child relation where the adult is the one to define child need and is the decision maker on how to meet the interpreted need with the result that a Democratic Education school would look quite different in four critical ways from what people have come to expect in schools. 

First, Democratic Education individualizes knowledge acquisition and use, that is, learning would be intrinsically self-directed. Children possess different neurological constructions, interests, abilities, temperaments, learning and communication styles and rates of emotional, cognitive and social development. These natural inclinations and individual differences drive differentiated information seeking, acquisition and use yielding quality differentiated outcomes over the course of a term and over a school residency. An authentic intrinsic self-directed system would put in the way of children the widest possible range of subject matter and let the children’s natural inclinations and differences drive what is learned, when it is learned and the depth, scope and duration of leaning. The course of study over an entire residency, then, emerges unique to every child as each engages learning through his and her talents, passions and interests.

However, unlike the Sudbury Valley free school model of intrinsic self-directed learning which removes the adult from almost all of the child’s decisions, the more prevalent Democratic Education intrinsic self-directed learning fully acknowledges the need for a mentoring relationship of adult to child. All students need the support of deep mentoring relationships with those thoroughly versed in the social-emotional and cognitive styles of the school’s population, and in the negotiation among student native inclinations, intrinsically motivated self-direction and credentialing decisions to assist students in maneuvering through the channels of the academy and to help them help themselves to work through their natural inclinations, individual differences and intrinsic motivation to achieve healthy personal growth and schooling success. Here, an adult mentor and a youngster enter a process mutually respectful of the wisdom of each to attain a common understanding of and an agreement on learning goals and the action steps required to reach those goals. The agreements on what is undertaken to be learned and when and how learning is to happen is known as a “negotiated curriculum”. Mentoring also includes a mentor working with children on social-emotional, psycho-dynamic and learning deficit issues.

Second, in-school engagement within a negotiated and an intrinsic self-selected curriculum during a Democratic Education school day would be through the student choice of one or more of three ways: through independent, individual or small group engagement with the materials and activities open to students; through self-selected small, whole group adult facilitated topic study or activity; and/or through self-initiated one-to-one instruction either with another student or with an adult. However, since the community as a whole has the responsibility of structuring learning, it can, as in Lehman Alternative Community School, agree on conventional whole group classrooms and a more conventional looking class schedule. Still, in the authentically child-decision-centered learning environment of a Democratic Education school the initiation of learning engagement, including instruction, is up to the child's felt need to connect with the knowledge, the materials, the activities, the adults and the classmates, rather than the fully adult initiated whole group classroom process of the traditional taking all decisions away from the youngster.

Third, the adults in the room of a child-decision-centered environment of a Democratic Education school have an additional role beyond being facilitators and mentors in intrinsic self-directed study: They are to model passionate life long learning and the meanings of collaborative work, goal setting, task acceptance and completion by undertaking learning activities of interest to the adult, inviting youngsters as helpers, as apprentices, in what is being done rather than as “students” being told what to do, and to in equal measure with the children of the learning community maintain behavioral norms according to both individual child and whole community needs through The Democratic Process, peer mediation, Non-Violent Communication ( and LEAP pocess(

And fourth, Democratic Education schools are self-governing, like Summerhill. As A.S. Neill states: “Summerhill is a self-governing school, democratic in form. Everything connected with social, or group life…is settled by vote at the Saturday General School Meeting. Each member of the teaching staff and each child, regardless of his age, has one vote…Our democracy makes laws…The function of Summerhill self-government is not only to make laws but to discuss social features of the community as well. (Alexander Sutherland Neill, Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, New York: Hart Pub. Co., 1960, pp 45-47.)

In Democratic schools the community comes together in regular meetings of the whole to decide all issues. Adults and children have equal rights to speak and to persuade within community forums. Each has a single vote on questions up for community decision. The community can decide policies on such as curriculum and assessment, projects and assignments, advancement and graduation requirements, ceremonies, expectant behaviors consistent and inconsistent with the norms of the school as well as the means by which inconsistent behaviors are resolved.

Democratic Education Curriculum and Assessment:

Democratic Education resets the conventional schooling structure and the relationships of adult to curriculum, child to curriculum and adult to child. Democratic Education insists on students taking responsibility for their education choices by self-selecting what is learned, when learning happens and the depth, scope and duration of leaning.

In the conventional structure what is learned, the curriculum, is broken down into compartmentalized disciplines which are further broken down into subjects which themselves are divided into units which again are divided into smaller accumulations of specific facts and concepts available for the learner to take up into ready recall memory.

A basic outline of disciplines is as follows:

-English Language Arts


-Social Studies


-Arts (a sort of catch all for everything not included above)

The sociology of knowledge as discipline division is an inheritance of the expansion in knowledge from the late Middle Age European Classical grammar school trivium and the university quadrivium. Indeed, the growth in the complexity of the sociology of knowledge under the agency of print dramatically increased information circulation, popular understanding and intellectual discovery requiring ever more differentiation of knowledge into distinct disciplines which were taken by generations of school folks as the basis for general study, preparing the young for a world where such knowledge was supposedly required.

The more conventional academic end of the Democratic Education spectrum honors this history by providing standard discipline study. But the more free school parts of the spectrum act on their understanding of the contemporary knowledge society.

Indeed, with the growth and societal saturation of electronic information technologies, three distinct effects are recognized: 1) that the pace of information production exploded to the point where it is no longer possible, even if it were in times past, to hold the resulting amounts of information in memory; 2) that the need to hold vast amounts of information in human memory has been eliminated as information is now stored in immediate access, digital memory; and 3) that the connectivity of digital media has broken down discipline barriers to recombine specialized knowledge at intersecting points.

Thus, it makes far more sense today for school folks, especially at the free school end of the Democratic Education spectrum, to make available learning experiences whereby children can master learning rather than to master content, and what content is offered can take full notice of the recombination of specialized knowledge.

Leaning to learn in a child-decision-centered environment of a Democratic Education school is to provide a wide range of opportunities for children to engage using their native instincts and individual differences, their intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy, to slowly gain skills as they test hunches/hypotheses, as they explore, discover and unfold, as they bring to consciousness through meta-cognitive development the mindfulness necessary for intentional learning decision making.

Such a process would begin with the readiness to acquire learning skills as the objective of an early childhood program while the acquisition of learning skills would be the focus of the elementary. The mastery of learning would be the province of a secondary education.

Taking full notice of the recombination of specialized knowledge is to provide an integrated, interdisciplinary thematic curriculum which at the macro-level can be ordered through Curriculum Strands, such as:

-The Life Cycle in the Natural World

-Communication Between Individuals and Within Groups

-Identity Within Groups and Institutions

-The Nature of Time and Space

-Our Response to the Aesthetic

-Our Relationship to Nature

-Our Role as Producers and Consumers

-Our Efforts to Live with Purpose.

Broken down into theme categories the curriculum strand of The Life Cycle in the Natural World, for instance, might include Ecology. And the category Ecology itself can be broken down into themes such as: Geography-life’s web of place and climate, and their affects on the development of plants, animals and people; Change-evolution and extinction, natural and man-made; Conservation-soil, air, water, energy; Micro and Macro Environments-explorations of the smallest and the largest ecosystems. The curriculum strands and their theme categories and individual themes constitute the structural framework of the intentional learning community’s curriculum which the school constructors and governors are obliged to populate richly with resources and activities in order to provide the knowledge sets open to intrinsic self-directed and negotiated learning.

The curriculum strands, as suggested above, would supply the knowledge categories youngsters engage in the abstract and in the experiential. So, as a further example, within the curriculum strand of Our Relationship to Nature might be the theme category of Bugs and Other Creepy Crawly Creatures-explorations into insects and the role they play in ecosystems-whereby those exploring the theme could select a few square feet of property, describe the micro-ecosystem there, observe and note over a certain period all insects in the air column over the property, the creepy crawlers on and around the ground and under the surface to approximately 18 inches. Then they would investigate to uncover the roles within that micro-ecosystem the creepy crawlers and flying insects have. Having noted the findings, a report in a medium of choice would be produced and presented. And on to the next theme, the next inquiry and on the education in this manner goes.

Democratic Education leans heavily on what is generally called “authentic assessment” of student learning progress: Thus, Descriptive Process evaluates behavior (see; Performance Assessment evaluates academics (see Ultimately, the methods of assessing student progress in behavioral and academic growth are a school community decision. However, the individualized nature of Democratic Education so heavily favors evaluation such as Descriptive Process and Performance Assessment as to nearly eliminate conventional testing regimes.


Democratic Education:

-has the mission to cultivate in all its youngsters a solid psychological foundation for future growth and a cognitive dexterity for life long adaptability to life’s challenges;

-by its twin pillars of Mindfulness and Empowerment supports a consistent personal responsibility response to the learning environment rather than through compliance demanded of children by the adults in the class rooms;

-develops the healthy, happy growth in self-awareness, self-regulation and self-actualization so in this century and beyond citizens can leverage these qualities in which ever way they discern is in their best interest and in the best interest of family, community, country and civilization;

-realigns relationship of adult to child from adult over child to an adult and child in partnership respecting the wisdom each possesses;

- recognizes individual social, emotional and cognitive needs of youngsters as manifested and self-identified by them, not by an interpretation of them by the adults in the class rooms, indeed, where the child is the definer of his and her own need and the decision maker as to how to satisfy the felt need, and where, through a deep mentoring relationship, the child will be helped to help him-herself to satisfy the full range of need;

-alters the relationship of adult to curriculum and child to curriculum where what is learned, when learning happens and the depth, scope and duration of leaning is both child intrinsically self-directed and adult-child negotiated;

-fully acknowledges learning as being a child decision driven through an individual’s neurological constructions, interests, abilities, temperaments, learning and communication styles and rates of emotional, cognitive and social development individualizing curricula and yielding quality differentiated outcomes;

-greatly elevates the mastery of learning over the mastery of content, and what content is offered takes full notice of the recombining of specialized knowledge through an integrated, interdisciplinary, thematic curriculum;

-uses authentic assessment such as Descriptive Process and Performance Assessment evaluating student progress in behavioral and academic growth;

-institutes school community self-governance.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Consequences of Misjudging a Life

Papers, books, hand tools, thumb tacks, screws, plant hankers, drinking classes, sewing notions, clothes, shoes and other stuff here and here and here, all over the house, in fact...There are times when the stuff around our small house gets so high and scattered that it drives me to actually do a bit of straightening up. Neatly stacked piles, my mother used to say, is the perfect definition of straightening up; and I was always-well, almost always-an obedient son. So, I made a bunch of neatly stacked piles out of the chaos last week. In gathering a bunch of papers together I came across a couple of them I remember composing in early 2007 (yes, they were hanging around that long!).

I had just come off another episode of sticking to my well honed teaching principles. The professional acumen developed over the preceding twenty-six years got me in trouble with several students who complained to some folks in administration who called me on the carpet for using the principles I favored. For behaving as a professional educator, for being so calmly articulate in the defense of my practice and for having the audacity of pointing to the defects in the pedagogy and course design they were demanding I use, I was refused further teaching at this college. This was not the first and if I were ever to continue in higher education I doubt it would be the last. So, I was thinking about forever leaving The Academy for something else. A career counselor I consulted suggested I write down what I considered the most congenial working conditions and what kind of life I thought I was leading and wanted to live as conversation starters leading to the types of employment I could expect would best work for me.

I placed the most congenial working conditions in seven points (which I will list without comment):

  1. The work must intrinsically hold elevated levels of intellectual stimulation.
  2. There must be high frequency of professional and social conversation.
  3. The job should allow for creative communication through a single medium or through many media.
  4. The position must have sufficient autonomy for me to do what I think is professionally correct.
  5. The employer must highly value shared commitments where my commitment to the firm is shared equally with commitment to family and to community.
  6. The employer must highly value reciprocal commitments where a firm reciprocates my commitment to its mission by its commitment to my professional development, advancement, compensation and longevity.
  7. My job performance must be evaluated on how and what I am doing and the results produced rather than on mere compliance to a supervisor or a manager.

However, it is the life statement which is of far greater importance for it sums-up a dilemma enormously affecting my entire now forty-eight year adult existence.

I wrote:

“I've wanted to live a principled life. From a child's eye, I saw both my mother and my father as principled people. I have been formed and informed by my consistent perception of their principled actions founded in Forgiveness, Courage, Honesty, Integrity, Joyfulness, Compassion, Kindness, Commitment, Consideration, Creativity, Respect, Dignity, Enthusiasm, Morality, Justice, Fairness, Generosity, Gentleness, Patience, Graciousness, Helpfulness, Hopefulness, Humility , Idealism, Love, Purposefulness, Responsibility, Gratitude, Tolerance, Trust, Understanding, Wonder and Wisdom. As a consequence, I have developed a keen sense of right and wrong, of ways of being and ways of working best situated to help others help themselves. I have also cultivated insight into the fitness of structures within which people live, work, and play having the best opportunity to gain peace, love and understanding within themselves and with others and to acquire virtuous lives they themselves wish to cultivate and virtuous lives organizations say participation should develop.

And the reality of life since high school, some forty-one years [at the time of writing this statement] is that I have lived the principled life I wanted. However, keeping the faith of principle has put me at odds with 'the real world' where people, organizations and structures force decisions counter with the consequence that when given conventional parameters of living a successful live, I must say I am a definite failure.

Indeed, the parameters of life I've taken as the goals and measures of success, and, thus, of self-worth, are not those of a principled life but exclusively monetary/employment based, i.e., sustained professional employment and advancement with an upward slopping compensation and a substantial retirement nest egg. They have been given me by the communities within which I have lived, the society at large, and yes, my father-insisting out of deep love that I must be solidly on a permanent career path by age twenty-three else I will be a failure the rest of my life. But, with a deep rooted inability to reject or modify principle in favor of having to make a living subservient to wrong headed supervisors, adversely working organizations and destructive structures and with having the freedom to do so provided by a supportive family, I have a record of sporadic employment, barely any income and no contributions to a nest egg. In other words, by these standards, I am a failure as a human being and as long as I live failure will be a constant companion. No wonder I have always had a sense of being worthless!

But, I want to embrace the way I am, committing fully to a principled life, releasing the power to act accordingly without self-censure. To do so I need to somehow re-frame emotional anchors allowing me to switch from my community's imprint, the society's expectations and my father's demands to a self-acceptance, a self-love, of a who I am. Simultaneously, I need to develop and interiorize the goals and measures appropriate for my principled life. ”

Indeed, the crushing shame of worthlessness brought about by my own misjudging of my life through the years has resulted in a pattern of depression compelling me to withdraw within the four walls of whatever house I am in. More, I self-medicate with food over-eating so much that at one point decades ago I blew up to three hundred pounds. I once described the pattern as: feeling so worthless I hide in the house overeating, gaining a good deal of body weight which re-enforces being worthless...eventually after months have passed, I get up off the floor working through the self-hatred eating less and losing weight...after dropping a bunch of weight I feel capable enough to go out of the house...the more I go out, the more I am propelled to look for work, mostly teaching work...eventually I land an appointment...I do what I know to be professionally right, proper and necessary for the mental well being and the intellectual and the academic growth of the students I am given regardless of organizational imperatives, supervisory dictates or falling in line with what other teachers are standing on professional and personal principle I upset the expectations of a few students who complain to supervision...supervision is upset at me for being uncompliant with their wrongheaded methods and for upsetting the paying customers ...supervision, then, does not renew my appointment sending me out onto the street...I feel a failure, retreat to the four walls of whatever house I am in, self-medicate, gain weight, eat more, gain more, fell more useless...then months later I get off the floor working through the feelings of worthlessness, lose weight, feel capable enough to go out of the house, and so on.

When I wrote the life statement I had retreated into the house, began to overeat, started to gain back weight lost in the last round. However, writing the summary brought to the fore hazy thoughts on the matter I had been having. Indeed, writing it down clarified the dilemma under which I had been working all my adult life: a deep desire to live a principled life yet measuring life success and self-worth with grossly inappropriate criteria, ultimately misjudging my life entirely. Having gained the insight, I began to work through the bad feelings, ate less, went out of the house, engaged the community and gained teaching opportunities, which, I'm afraid ended the same as others. Unfortunately, I had yet to translate insight into a re-framed emotional predisposition, an altered psycho-dynamic, putting myself back into depressions with all its attending pathologies.

Intellectually I have placed my life in the proper perspective as a principled person. But, l continue to struggle greatly to re-set the emotional predispositions, my psycho-dynamic, to feel the power of a life so lived, to be not disturbed by irrelevant criteria of success, to fear no longer any judgment of others, or myself, of a failed life based on monetary/employment criteria. It has become quite obvious to me that this struggle will continue the rest of my life.