Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models

Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models

Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models

Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models


A passionate deconstruction and reconstruction of learning, development, and schooling that urges teachers to explore and create new educational opportunities for themselves and their students, Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models asks the following questions:
Can we create ways for people to learn the kinds of things that are necessary for functional adaptation without stifling their capacity to continuously create their growth?
Can schools become environments that support children to perform not only as learners but as developers of their lives?

This book challenges educators to look at the deeply-rooted assumptions about schooling, learning, and development and urges that the way psychology and education have constructed our conceptions of what it means to teach, to learn, and to grow may be the most serious impediment to the learning and developing of children. Beyond the criticism, the author presents an original methodological reformation of what learning and development are as relational activities and then takes readers on a visit to three radical independent school settings.

Arguing that current educational models have been misguided by scientific psychology, the author states that the dominant model of human development actually hinders development. Moreover, as learning theory has become infused with developmental theory over the past 30 years, the overly cognitive manner in which psychologists have come to think about thinking, learning, and development has become further insinuated into education. Both theories--learning and developmental--fail o recognize the human capacity for relational-revolutionary activity and for performance. The prevalent mode of education--acquisitional learning--is grounded in a world view that gives primacy to knowledge and knowing which Holzman believes is inconsistent with ongoing developmental activity.

The author focuses on "developmental learning"--a social constructionist, activity-theoretic conception of development which includes a transformation and synthesis of Vygotsky and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. She also discusses educational projects that are self-conscious attempts to break with key elements of modern epistemology and the dominant psychological paradigm as they are perpetrated in contemporary educational theory and practice. Their specific philosophies and practices highlight important methodological issues raised in the attempt to create "postmodern schools"--schools more concerned with growing than knowing.


Schools for growth--ones where developmental learning occurs--are much more like theatrical stages than classrooms. This is my thesis. Schools for Growth "unpacks" this claim in several ways: by examining how psychology's conceptions of development and learning actually thwart development and learning; by offering a radically new cultural and performatory psychology based on a revolutionary reading of Lev Vygotsky and many years of independent community-building practice; and by examining a few radical educational models that are not grounded in the conceptions and investigative practices of the dominant psychology.

Exploring education's psychological and philosophical roots, we find Western culture's obsession with knowledge (cognition, epistemology) perpetuated in educational theory and practice that overidentifies learning with knowing. I argue that as long as schools continue to try to produce "knowers" (children who know how to read, count, write, be nice to each other, not fight, think critically, and so on), they will not only fail in this task, but also thwart the kind of creative, continuously emergent developmental activity that characterizes infancy and early childhood. For it is in activating the human capacity to perform--to create ourselves by being who we are not--and to collectively create performatory environments that we learn and develop.

Schools for Growth was written with both the novice and the specialist in mind. Hopefully, both will find things that require "performing beyond themselves" (to use Vygotsky's phrase). Some of the discussion of developmental theory and philosophy (especially dialectics and activity theory) might be hard going for those unfamiliar with the terminology. The school practices described in Part III concretize much of this earlier theoretical discussion, so the reader might want to flip back and forth. I have tried to create a book that deconstructs the philosophical presuppositions of developmental and learning theory in order to help teachers, teachers-in-train-

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