Citation
Public School Parent

Material Information

Title:
Public School Parent
Creator:
Wise, Margaret A
Affiliation:
Art -- Art and Art History
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
Publisher:
College of the Arts; University of Florida
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of Fine Arts (M))
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Art
Committee Chair:
Slawson, Brian L
Committee Members:
Tillander, Michelle D
Cech, John O.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Auctions ( jstor )
Child psychology ( jstor )
Childrens games ( jstor )
Creative writing ( jstor )
Food ( jstor )
Homework ( jstor )
Learning ( jstor )
Parents ( jstor )
Public schools ( jstor )
Schools ( jstor )
Genre:
Project in Lieu of Thesis

Notes

Abstract:
Public School Parent centers around the collision of public and private spheres of influence as experienced through the lens of a public school parent. Using irony and satire, the project calls into question current standards and practices in public schools, specifically related to the business and politics of education— and ultimately how that interrupts the individualized nature of human development and intellectual growth.
Abstract:
Through the form of a school auction, the project invites critical reflection rather than consumer choices. An auction catalog, hand-bound, letterpress printed with fluorescent orange ink, offers items for bid that challenge a rethinking of possibilities in education, transforming a traditional mode of consumption into a vehicle for change. The purpose of the project is to provoke a conversation in the community towards a more human-centered and expansive education system.
General Note:
Graphic Design terminal project
Statement of Responsibility:
by Alston Wise

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Alston Wise. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
1022120826 ( OCLC )

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by ALSTON WISE SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE PROF. BRIAN SLAWSON | chair DR. MICHELLE TILLANDER | member DR. JOHN CECH | member A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2015

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2015 ALSTON WISE

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3 To my committee, thank you for your time, ideas, effort and most of all for your trust in me through all the dips and turns on this creative journey. To Brian, for your endless brainstorming and the gift of creative freedom to explore ideas. To Michelle, for your example of moving for ward with new ideas and making things happen. To Dr. Cech, for taking me back to childhood, that place where we can play with language, and challenging me to write in ways that people want to read. Thanks also to faculty members Maria Rogal, Bob Mueller, and Ellen Knudson for your help over the past 3 years—you were invaluable resources to me. To my friends who have supported me during this incredibly full and often confusing time of my life. I am happy to be getting my life back— let the dinner parties re-commence! Special thanks to Sandy Flory, Katherine and Barron Henderson, Aly and Patrick Kee, Laura and Jonathan Muchnick, Ken Duffield, Fuer Liu, and Tianrui Geng for your outstanding yearbook photos. You are all ageless. And to the four magnificent beings I have the great fortune of sharing my life with: Ben, my partner, my love—thank you. Your generous and kind nature was put to the test these past three years — thank you for your unwavering support. Thank you for taking my hand and walking with me through this. Thank you for making me laugh when I felt certain that I would never laugh again because of this project. To Henry, Spencer & Maggie, our three extraordinary creatures, thank you for being my inspiration. Your creative spirits, wild imaginations, and hearts full of goodness have made me a better person. The depth of my love for you is immeasurable, and I will fight for you until my last breath. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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Acknowledgments Abstract Introduction Justification Delimitations Influences + Precedents Methodology Project Report Conclusion Bibliography Biographical Sketch Appendix CONTENTS 03 05 06 08 08 09 13 14 19 21 24 25

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5 Public School Parent centers around the collision of public and private spheres of influence as experienced through the lens of a public school parent. Using irony and satire, the project calls into question current standards and practices in public schools, specifically related to the business and politics of education— and ultimately how that interrupts the individualized nature of human development and intellectual growth. Through the form of a school auction, the project invites critical reflection rather than consumer choices. An auction catalog, hand-bound, letterpress printed with fluorescent orange ink, offers items for bid that challenge a rethinking of possibilities in education, transforming a traditional mode of consumption into a vehicle for change. The purpose of the project is to provoke a conversation in the community towards a more human-centered and expansive education system. ABSTRACT

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6 Public schools. They are in every city across America, and most people have one opinion or another about their existence or the way they operate. Because I grew up attending a private school, I did not think much about them until my children started attending one and I became a public school parent. For me, the experience has been like being a guest at a cocktail party where trays of delicious appetizers are being paraded right under my nose but every time I reach out for one, the server turns; every time I call out for him to come my way, someone interrupts me. The delicacies are things like art classes, active learning environments, nature hikes, and creative, project-based curriculum; the servers are politicians and the interrupters are corporations. At the end of the night, I am left with sore feet and an empty stomach—the servers and interrupters dominated the evening. There are many questions one could ask about the public school system: why do we have one? how did schools become they way that they are? who is responsible for inadequacies? But the one that I’m most interested in and that is addressed in this project is this: how can parents have a voice in public schools, influencing the issues that truly matter? I’ve been a member of the Parent Teacher Association and the Student Advisory Council, and would generally consider myself an involved parent, but I still have not been able to influence what happens at school beyond what booth to volunteer at during the annual fundraiser or what dish to send for the class room holiday party. The departure point for the project was a regular, unpleasant occurrence at our home: the combination of boring dittos, broken pencils, cuss-words and frustration, otherwise known as homework. As a result of that nightly ritual, I started to question why what my children did at home was not under my purview. Why was my ability as the parent to define productivity and learning in my home being limited by a public entity? For me, productivity would be doing the laundry or the dishes. Learning would be independent, impromptu INTRODUCTION

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7 neighborhood play—negotiating boundaries, telling stories, making rules, breaking rules, scraping knees, fighting, resolving conflict, walking friends home. Furthermore, as standardization is rapidly consuming public schools, shouldn’t the private space of “home” offer the opposite? Essentially, homework represented a public sphere of influence that collided with our private family values. After attempts to “hack” homework in order to make it relatable— and frankly simply more bearable—to my children, I realized that homework is merely a symptom of a larger problem: that as a parent to a public school child, I do not have a voice in decisions that effect their daily education. I have been shut out of a conversation that has a direct impact on my child’s well-being. If I had to guess, most parents who are active in their child’s life would tell you that they want their children to have an education that will serve them well throughout life. But often, decisions that effect our children everyday in public school are being made by legislators who do not have a background in education or much interaction with children. I was surprised to learn through my attendance at rallies and informational meetings, particularly related to standardized testing, that there were companies actually making a profit off of my child’s taking of and performance on a test. When I shared that information with other parents, they were surprised as well—how can companies be profiting off of my child without me knowing it? Most of these conversations ended with, “well, what can we do?” What can we do? The ultimate purpose of my project, Public School Parent , is to spark a conversation in my local community centered around rethinking the possibilities in education. Through the use of irony and satire, the project encourages a critical reflection on how a large, public entity is currently operating, and seeks to empower parents to find a way to gain back some control over their children’s education. Parents are in a unique position in this issue—we have legal authority over our children and (unless we are employed by the school system) our jobs are not on the line when we speak-up. But we have to know what we are up against and stand together to facilitate change.

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8 There are obvious personal motivations for this project: I want my children to have the best possible education and I believe that is something that should be available to them no matter if they have the means to afford it. The larger motivation is for the greater good—I’m not doing this for my children alone, but for all children to have equal access to the kind of learning that inspires them, challenges them, and shapes them into interested and thoughtful people. I question how we value the children in our community, and essentially what that says about us as a society. If our public school system as it functions now is any indication, we hold little regard for them, especially those in need. Public education should not be a business. No one should profit from it except for the children. DELIMITATIONS + I am addressing parents in a similar situation: collegeeducated with elementary-aged children in public schools. + I am approaching the topic from the perspective of a parent, not as an educator. + Public School Parent is not attempting to overhaul the entire public school education system—as awed as it may be—but to address a central area of conflict: where home (the private sphere) and school (the public sphere) collide. JUSTIFICATION

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9 Design Thinking . Design Thinking promotes a human-centered, intuitive, empathetic and experimental process in finding solutions. It seeks to look at things in a different way than “they” have been seen in the past in order to accommodate the needs of a particular audience. It is a combining of observations, data—both qualitative and quantitative—and experiences to achieve a best outcome for the time, place and people. 1 Empathy, in particular, was essential to the process used in the project, especially in my attempts to relate to children in school. David Kelley is involved with projects that incorporate design thinking in education both as a co-founding partner in the rm IDEO and as a professor at Stanford’s d.school. He advocates nding the cracks in the system where design thinking can start breaking in. One project from IDEO involved rethinking public school curriculum for a school in California. In collaboration with the teachers, the rm developed an “Investigative Learning” philosophy that focuses on cultivating the 21st century skills of investigating and synthesizing experiences while still meeting the requirements of legislature. The K12 Lab at the d.school seeks to inspire educators in new models of learning centered around design thinking. 2 Projects like this are especially encouraging for my work as they seem to indicate a larger desire for change in the American school system. In an interview for Intel, Michael Wolff talks about the “muscles of seeing, of appreciation (noticing) and curiosity,” muscles that are primarily about discovering the world around you, collecting information and storing it. 3 They mold and shape perceptions that allow you to see the possibilities beyond what is expected. I found the exercise of these muscles vital in my interactions with public school, both in identifying the issues at hand and crafting the narrative surrounding them. INFLUENCES + PRECEDENTS

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10 The Child’s World . I am forever fascinated by the worlds children create, and spend a substantial amount of time thinking about the world we often ask them to inhabit. Photographer Helen Levitt captured the raw essence of child-initiated play in her photos of 1930s Spanish Harlem. 4 The “spontaneous street theater” that the children of her photos (fig. 1) play in has essentially vanished in most cities across America, and I wonder what else has vanished with it. I agree with Mary and Herbert Knapp that “it is in playing traditional, not supervised games that children learn how to make rules, how to experiment with their feelings and how to use language with a flair and appreciation of it’s trickiness” (Knapp, 267). How much time do children have unsupervised to play with other children? Do they still have opportunities to be bored? To invent games? To test the boundaries of their bodies, abilities, friendships, the world? I had the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark a few years ago with my then 10-month-old daughter. What left me awe-struck about it, traveling as a parent, was that Danish parents would leave their children unattended in strollers (fig. 2) while they stepped inside a store or restaurant or pub. And no one seemed to mind or even notice. No one called Child Protective Services; it was not on the evening news as is often the case in the United States when a child is unattended. 5 I wonder how adult paranoia surrounding independence in children effects a child’s psyche. Charles and Ray Eames created toys and games for children that incorporated real world objects in open ended forms, begging for a child’s individual input and creativity. 6 Rules could be dened by the child or not at all. The Toy (fig. 3) was conceived to give children the freedom to create their own undefined space. Having an adult handy was not necessary. Through his children’s books, Maurice Sendak recreated dening moments of childhood, particularly related to the child’s imagina tion, the power of dreams, fears, and fascinations (fig. 4) . He was not interested in writing what he thought children should read, but simply writing what was in his head, drawing from personal experience. 7 By allowing truth, reality and strangeness to reside on the pages of his books, he opens up imaginative possibilities. When fig. 1 | Helen Levitt fig. 4 | Maurice Sendak, illustration from Where the Wild Things Are fig. 3 | Charles & Ray Eames, The Toy fig. 2 | Copenhagen, Denmark

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11 writing for the project, I often put myself back into the place of childhood, attempting to feel and translate emotions uniquely different than those experiences of a daily, adult routine. I recently discovered a place called The Tinkering School, which was started by Gever Tulley to provide an atmosphere that empowers children to explore and make and think. One of the philosophies listed on The Tinkering School website says: “If it goes right the rst time, you’re just learning how to follow instructions. A failure-pos itive atmosphere allows children to play in the face of adversity.” Similarly, the Reggio-Emilia philosophy of education promotes a view of children who are competent and uniquely full of potential. 8 It seems we have lost trust in children and their abilities to try and fail, to come up with their own questions and attempt to answer them, essentially to be self-guided and not self-destruct. Through my research, I also studied architecture in relation to children’s spaces. Frederick Froebel, commonly referred to as “the Inventor of Kindergarten,” pioneered an education philosophy based on nature and humanity, introducing “gifts” to children at different stages of development (fig. 5) . He advocated for playbased, holistic learning experiences that empower children to realize their full potential as individual human beings. 9 Storytelling . Ultimately, through this project, I wanted to tell a story. I wanted to tell a story about something everyday—and typically mundane—in a way that people could relate to; to take occurrenc es that happen with frequency, and find connections with others in order to rethink possibilities. I found endless inspiration in Maira Kalman’s work (fig. 6) , particularly the manner in which she elevates the everyday with a sense of humor both in her textual and visual representations. 10 Paul Rand’s playful combinations of type and symbols (fig. 7) also influenced the way I approached this project. 11 The work of Marc Johns 12 (fig. 8) , an artist who crafts narratives centered on everyday things—often with one phrase—influenced my storytelling process as well, challenging me to re-imagine ordinary items and occurrences from a fresh perspective in order to make it new in the minds of those who interact with the material. fig. 5 | Froebel’s Gifts fig. 6 | Maira Kalman fig. 7 | Paul Rand fig. 8 | Marc Johns

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12 Finally, the ideas surrounding design authorship 13 relate strongly to the project. Not only am I the communicator of a message, but I am also the generator of the content. Essentially, “‘what it says’ and ‘why it says it’ are considered as important as ‘how it looks’” (McCa rthy, 13). Both the original writings that I authored and the graphics I created work together to tell a complete story in which my voice is central. Within the framework of designer as author, there is another role of designer as advocate. The project embodies my voice as a public school parent advocating on behalf of children for a higher quality of education in our country. My personal interest in the cause of better public education compelled me to be proactive and create something combining my knowledge of design principles and writing. I chose to use an ironic tone in the piece while addressing a serious issue in order to disarm and provoke action. 1 I attended a workshop at UF in Spring 2014 facilitated by IDEO, so I was able to practice first hand the elements of the design thinking process in a collaborative setting. You will find a wealth of infor mation about design thinking on the IDEO website (www.IDEO.org). There are also several interviews with David Kelley; the one specifically referenced here is available online: https://vimeo.com/8111633 2 The IDEO website contains a section titled EDUCATION including several projects related to the subject at hand: http://www.ideo.com/expertise/education/ 3 I highly recommend watching the full clip: https://vimeo.com/29911491 4 I was fortunate to see an exhibit with Helen Levitt’s work, but you can find out more about her here: http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/artist_levitt.html 5 In one instance, a parent from Copenhagen was in New York City and left her child unattended while she went into a restaurant. She was arrested, but later released (http://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/14/ nyregion/toddler-left-outside-restaurant-is-returned-to-her-mother.html). While there are obvious cultural and historical differences between the U.S and Denmark, the issue I am raising here is the effect on children in a culture where they are constantly supervised. A more recent example involves a family in Maryland under investigation for allowing their children to play and walk home from their local park alone (http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/13/living/feat-maryland-free-range-parenting-fami ly-under-investigation-again/). 6 I wrote a separate piece on The Eames’ (http://www.eamesoffice.com/) titled Charles and Ray Eames: Play Innovators (http://issuu.com/alstonwise/docs/wise_eames_curation_pages). 7 In Spring 2014, I took a literature seminar on Maurice Sendak with Dr. John Cech, where we studied his work and wrote our own inspired pieces. We watched an enlightening documentary on him that can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1509268/ 8 http://www.tinkeringschool.com/ + http://reggioalliance.org/ 9 http://www.froebelgifts.com/history.htm 10 http://www.mairakalman.com/ 11 http://www.paul-rand.com/ 12 http://www.marcjohns.com/ 13 I attended a talk by Steven McCarthy (referenced in bibliography) at UF January 2015, as well as met with him separately to discuss design authorship and its forms.

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13 I have had at least one child in the public school system for 6 years. Over the past two years, I have channeled my inner anthropologist in school settings, stepping back and observing behaviors, taking every opportunity to talk with teachers, administrators, and other parents of children in public school and asking a lot of questions about the personal experiences of others. It was with teachers that I first learned about what was happening as a result of the statemandated testing, especially in the classroom. And it was with parents that I discovered how many of us did not know what was actually happening as a result of standardized testing. It was also through an informal poll I conducted at a get-together with other families that I discovered there were parents who actually wanted their kids to have homework, causing the shift in the project away from one issue that was personal to me and towards a focus on each parent having a voice. I became involved in several organizations and movements related to public education. I joined the Student Advisory Committee at my children’s school, hoping it would be a way to have a voice in the decisions that are pertinent to their education. Sadly, I discov ered it was not created for that, but I did gain insight into budget procedures and what types of decisions can be made from the local level. I joined a Political Action Committee with teachers called A-Tiger in order to connect with teachers who are advocating for similar changes. I attended rallies and public screenings of movies about standardized testing and the common core. It was at one of these screenings that I met the superintendent for our county, and was particularly inspired by his distaste for standardization and his belief that the moment for change is now. I have read countless articles and books on the subjects of school, testing, homework, play, parenting, and children . I sought out Tedtalks and other related videos to stay current on the issues and understand the climate for discourse on public school education (reference SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY ) . METHODOLOGY

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14 PROCESS | writing & design At the onset of putting all of my research together, I started writing. Almost like a journal, I went through different experiences I had had or was having with my children and their school. I wrote about everything from the lady at the front desk who was rude to me one day when I went to make gingerbread houses with my son’s class to the first day of kindergarten for my oldest child. When I start writing something, I try to free myself from the expectation that the writing needs to be perfect and useful. I embrace the following words from Anne Lamott, “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, know ing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page” (Lamott, 22). 14 So while I did not technically use those exact writings, I went back to them, analyzing and reflecting on them in order to get to the place where I could identify and write about the things that are included in the project. The design was originally a handbook, split up into two parts. The two parts signified the public sphere (the school day) and the private sphere (home). The intent was to address the issues based on where they took place. But I got bored. And if I was bored with it, being the one writing and making it, surely others would be bored as well. I also wanted the form not to be some sort of guide— as if I had all of the answers figured out—but something that served as a vehicle for me to tell the story and have others relate. It also lacked a sense of humor at this point, something I find integral to my work. At this point, I decided to think back to a space where I felt compelled by design and writing. I prefer writing narratives that are concise, to the point, and creative with a bit of humor. The layout PROJECT REPORT

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15 and typographic potential of catalogs became appealing to me as well. But how do you relate a catalog to public school? Where is the point of sale for parents in relation to schools? And that is when I thought of the school auction. From that point on, the ideas started pouring out into my sketchbook. By making the story into an auction catalog, I could craft short narratives for each item up for bid, and also design images to “sell” them. The form of the catalog freed me up creatively to explore each item in a way that would have been limited by something like a handbook, that serves to be an authority on the subject. One of the most exciting things about the catalog, though, was that the form, being a traditional mode of consumerism, ironically addresses the central issue of the business of education in it’s very being. THE CATALOG From the onset, I knew that I wanted the materials and making of the catalog (fig. 9 & 10) to be exceptional, singular, noteworthy. I did not want to mass-produce anything because I wanted people to pay attention, to take notice. The catalog was produced in an edition of fifty. The front and back cover are letterpress printed with fluores cent orange ink, an ink color that cannot be reproduced digitally, onto #100 Pure White Construction French Paper. The double pamphlet binding was hand-sewn using black Irish linen thread. Because of the nature of the binding, I was able to “hide” an extra detail in the middle of the catalog (fig. 11) . The interior pages were printed digitally onto #70 Smooth Bright White Mohawk Paper. Each catalog was sealed with a band of letterpress printed #100 Pure White Construction French Paper, perforated at the open edge of the catalog. The items in the catalog were chosen based on my personal experiences as they related to the research I was conducting. In this edition, there are ten items: 1. Kind Bathroom Graffiti, 2. Well-Written Reading Comprehension Passages, 3. Parental Homework Passes, 4. A Friendly Librarian, 5. An All-Inclusive “Contact Your Legislator” Kit, 6. More Time Outside, 7. Art, Art & More Art, 8. Lunch That Looks Like Food, 9. An Anti-Gravity fig. 9 | Auction Catalog Cover fig. 10 | Auction Catalogs fig. 11 | Inner Binding

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16 Backpack, and 10. No More Bullsh*t Testing (refer to the APPENDIX for the full content of the catalog) . I intentionally mixed the more serious items in with more playful ones in an attempt to balance the mood of the catalog. Again, the goal was a critical response—for people to want to read it in order to spark a dialogue for change. The writings for each item tell a unique story. Sometimes the story is about mold or vertebrae, but the text relates to the image on the opposing page, each complementing the other. The ironic tone of both the text and the graphics seeks to disarm and attract. For the images, I used a variety of sources. Some photos were used from the Library of Congress primarily because I felt compelled to show historical significance in addition to the contemporary relevance. The three items with Library of Congress photos relate to bathrooms, librarians, and school lunch, all three of which have a cultural history in public schools. I art directed and photographed the additional photography used in the catalog, often designing a piece and staging a set for the photo as well, for example, the parental homework pass. The typography used on the images was customized, created by manipulating existing typefaces, to respond to each photograph uniquely. For the additional items, I created graphics in Adobe Illustrator. By offering a variety of mediums and time periods, the catalog is more visually dynamic, drawing the audience deeper into the content. THE EXHIBITION The purpose of the UF University Gallery exhibition 15 , in addition to fulfilling the requirements of the MFA, was to enhance the catalog and place it in front of a community audience. Because it was an auction catalog, I felt I had an opportunity to engage attendees both reflectively and actively in the material. I separated the two spaces into the reflective space and the interactive space (fig. 12) . On one side, you go to read, understand, reflect; on the other, you are asked to engage and act. The reflective space contained a 9 foot long table with three stools and “desk copies” of the auction catalog (fig. 13) . I constructed three fig. 12 | The Gallery Space fig. 13 | The Desk Copies fig. 14 | Catalog Copies on Shelves

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17 9 foot long shelves for the space above the table and filled them with multiple copies of the catalog (fig. 14) . Because it was para mount for participants to read the material in order to understand the project, I custom designed the table as a place for them to comfortably immerse themselves in the text and graphics. The scale of the table was designed specifically for the gallery space, both to command it, and practically, at a height that would accommodate participants who preferred to stand while they read the catalog. The height of the stools were chosen in order to make engagement easy for attendees. The perpendicular wall in the gallery (fig. 15) became the “bid wall,” containing the interactive elements of the show. Ten sheets of #100 Pure White Construction French Paper were letterpress printed with the same fluorescent orange ink to hold the number and title of each item in the catalog. I called them the “bid sheets.” Prior to the show, I transferred each item number and title to the posters with a blender pen, and hung them using thumbtacks. I wanted the bid wall to be cohesive in style with the catalog, but also not as precious in order for people to feel comfortable engaging with it. A pennant with bold letters saying “PLACE YOUR BID” was hung to the left of the bid sheets. The text on the pennant directed participants with steps on how to navigate the bidding process. A pedestal (fig. 16) on the far left edge of the bid wall held Bid Cards (fig. 17) that contained three gold stars with instructions for the participant on how to place their bid on the bid sheets. The Bid Cards were letterpress printed with fluorescent orange ink onto #100 Pure White Construction French Paper. There was also a question at the bottom of the bid card with instructions for participants to answer, tear it off, and place it in a white metal mailbox that was installed directly above the pedestal. The bottom portion of the card was hand perforated to make it easy to tear-off. A pen with a neon orange string was attached to the pedestal in order for people to write their answer. In addition to the Bid Cards, the pedestal held a quick reference of the items listed in the catalog and temporary tattoos (fig. 18) . Having fig. 15 | The Bid Wall fig. 16 | Bid Wall Pedestal fig. 17 | The Bid Card fig. 18 | Bid Wall Pedestal Contents

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18 an alternate, shorthand way for viewers to see what was up for auction provided an opportunity for those who did not want to sit and read (or perhaps simply did not have time) to still engage with the material. I also felt that people who did read the catalog might want to take something with them to remember what was in it. The quick reference was digitally printed onto #110 Smooth Bright White Mohawk Paper, front and back, and contains thumbnail images of each item, the title, as well as a sentence or two from the story in the catalog. Because I saw the quick reference as something people could take with them, I included the hashtag #publicschoolparent on the cover to encourage people to connect on social media. It was important for me to have ways for people to remember the show, and also to empower them to keep talking about it. In a similar vein, I decided to make temporary tattoos for partici pants to take—and hopefully apply—thus taking the show out of the gallery and into the community. The packaging for the tattoos also included the hashtag #publicschoolparent under a line that says “Please share your strength!” The language on the packaging seeks to connect the need for a joint movement with playful incorporation of words of empowerment—”It’s time to flex your muscles!” THE OPENING During the show, people fully engaged with the material, often sitting for long stretches of time at the table, seemingly absorbed in the writing and graphics (fig. 19) . The original set-up of the show included three catalogs on the table to correspond with the three stools. The catalogs on the table had broken seals, while the ones above the table were still sealed. My vision was that the three on the table would serve as “desk copies” to be handled and looked through, while the ones above would remain on display, seal intact. At one point, the entire bottom row of catalogs had been taken down—and the seals broken—because readers demanded to see what was inside. I found this curious for two reasons: one that people would break the seal on something on display in a gallery, and secondly, that people were so responsive to a printed catalog that contained material they had to read. fig. 19 fig. 20 fig. 21

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19 Often, people would take the catalog with them over to the bid wall to seriously consider which bid sheets to put their stars on (fig. 20) . Since each bid card contained only three stars, there was a limit to the number of items that one person could bid on, requiring critical reflection of the material to make a choice. By the end of the show, it was evident that items #06, #07 & #10 (More Time Outside, Art, Art & More Art, and No More Bullsh*t Testing, respectively) were the winners, containing noticeably the most gold stars. In addition to adults and college students, there was also a fair number of kids in attendance who got involved in the bidding. At one point, a parent had a group of kids around him, reading out the items in the catalog as the kids decided on their bids (fig. 21) . The kids seemed to find satisfaction in putting the stars on the bid posters, as if they too had been starved of exercising their voices. The feedback portion of the bid card was not used as consistently as the bidding was performed. I would estimate that about half of those in attendance filled in the bottom portion of the bid card and submitted feedback into the metal mailbox (fig. 22) . The question I asked on the card was “If you could add another item to the catalog, what would it be?” Answers ranged from “No more homework” to “P.E. classes not separated by gender” to “More Music!”. Along with suggestions, some people also wrote small notes of encouragement about how the project resonated with them. The interactive element of the exhibition gave me an opportunity I would not have had without one because the venue is open and accessible to the community. In order to make the content available for those who are not in town, I created a website (fig. 23) with the content of the catalog, also posting updates and photos, along with a facebook group—both in hopes of carrying the project forward. CONCLUSION I believe it is my role as a designer to be a purveyor of culture, a curator of experiences, synthesized and applied to innovate objects, systems, and ideas. In this particular project, I collected and curated fig. 22 fig. 23

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20 my experiences as a public school parent. I reflected on them and attempted to re-imagine the current discourse in a way that was engaging. My project adds to the eld of design by building on the design thinking movement—both in form and content. By applying design thinking to a broken system of decision-making in education, my project can be a catalyst for change. It also adds to the grow ing body of work categorized as “designer as author,” particularly authoring work for advocacy. Since the show opening, the project has been written up in the Gainesville Sun newspaper, and a selection of the catalog text was published in the Sun as a guest editorial column. I also presented a portion of the project at the National Art Education Association Annual Conference in New Orleans. 16 It is my hope that it will spark a grass roots effort that will gain momentum on a national level. Parents are interested—these are our kids—but we need to find our voices in a system that currently shuts us out of the conversation. 14 Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird , is worth the read, not just for writers, but for those who engage in any type of creative process. Your life will forever be changed once you are free to write “sh*tty first drafts.” 15 The group exhibition, titled “MFA Thesis Exhibition I,” ran from March 12-26, 2015. 16 The write-up of the show was published in the Gainesville Sun Sunday, March 15, 2015 by Nathan Crabbe. The Guest Editorial was published in the Gainesville Sun Monday, March 23, 2015. The National Art Education Association Conference was held from March 26-28, 2015 in New Orleans, LA. The title of the presentation was “From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Repurposing Homework and Garbage.”

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21 Alger, Vicki E. “Rotten to the Core.” US News, Dec. 13, 2013. Web. Barseghian, Tina. “The School Day of the Future is DESIGNED.” Mind Shift, Feb 22, 2011. Web. Baudrillard, J. “The System of Collecting.” (7-24) Cardinal, R., & Elsner, J., eds. (1994). The Cultures of Collecting . Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Print. Beck, Julie. “How to Build a Happier Brain.” The Atlantic, October 23, 2013. Web. Beltzig, Gunter. Kindergarten Architecture. Barcelona: Corte, Madera, Ca: Loft; Ginko Press, 2001. Print. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corp, 1977. Print. Bishop, Deborah. “Structured Play.” Dwell, May 2007. Web. Brosterman, Norman, Togashi, and Kiyoshi Togashi. Inventing Kindergar ten. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1997. Print. Carroll, Lewis. Letter to Georgina Watson. 10 October 1869. The Let ters of Lewis Carroll . Ed. Morton N. Cohen. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. Print. Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language . (230-237, 250-257) Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print. “David Kelley Interview.” 21 Foundation, 2009. Talk Video, www.vimeo. com/8111633. Davis, Meredith. Graphic Design Theory . New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 2012. Print. Davis, Michelle R. “’Big Three’ Publishers Rethink K-12 Strategies.” Edu cation Week, Feb. 6, 2013. Web. Edwards, Carolyn, Lella Gandini, and George Forman, eds. The Hundred Languages of Children . Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1993. Print. Feuerbacher, Erica. “Behavior Analysis for Fine Arts.” The University of Florida, November 5, 2013. Lecture and Discussion. Galindo, Michelle. Kindergartens : Educational Spaces . Salenstein: Braun, 2010. Print. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

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22 “Gever Tulley: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do.” TED, Mar. 2007. Talk Video, www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_5_dangerous_things_for_kids. Goldstein, Dana. “Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework.” The At lantic, March 19, 2014. Web. Goldstein, Dina. “Fallen Princesses.” 2007. Photographic Series. Hoover-Dempsey, Kathleen V., Angela C. Battiato, Joan M. T. Walker, Richard P. Reed, Jennifer M. DeJong, and Kathleen P. Jones. “Parental Involvement in Homework.” Educational Psychologist, 36 (3), 195. 2001. Print. Hough, Lory. “Are You Down With or Done With Homework?” Harvard Graduate School of Education, Winter 2012. Web. Kalman, Maira. The Principles of Uncertainty . New York: The Penguin Group, 2007. Print. “Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms.” TED, Oct. 2010. Talk Video, www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_para digms. Kinchin, Juliet and Aidan O’Connor. Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000 . New York, NY: The Museum of Modern Art, 2012. Print. Kohn, Ale. “Homework: New Research Suggests It May Be an Unneces sary Evil.” The Hufngton Post, Nov. 25, 2012. Web. Knapp, Mary, and Herbert Knapp. One Potato, Two Potato: The Secret Education of American Children . New York: Norton, 1976. Print. Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Print. Laurel, Brenda. Design Research: Methods and Perspectives . Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2003. Print. Long, Cindy. “Does Cursive Need to Be Taught in the Digital Age?” NEA Today, Jul 22, 2013. Web. Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia . Folio Society, 1996 (rst published 1956). Print. “Maira Kalman: The Elements of Style.” The Frist Center for the Visual Arts. 919 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203. August 14, 2014. Exhibit. Marzano, Robert J. and Debra J. Pickering. “Responding to Changing De mographics: The Case For and Against Homework.” Educational Leader ship, March 2007. Web.

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23 McCarthy, Steven J. The designer as author, producer, activist, entrepre neur, curator & collaborator : new models for communicating . Amster dam, The Netherlands : BIS Publishers, 2013. Print. Meggendorfer, Lothar. Surprise! Surprise! : a Reproduction of an An tique Book of Magical Moving Pictures . New York, NY: Viking Press, 1982. Print. Paley, Nicholas. “The Collection Connection: The Educational Value of Children’s Collections.” School Library Journal 36.5 (1990): 31-3. ERIC. Web. Partanen, Anu. “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success.” The Atlantic, Dec. 29, 2011. Web. “Paul Rand: Dening Design.” Museum of Design Atlanta. 1315 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309. October 16, 2013. Exhibit. Portraits in Creativity: Maira Kalman . Dir. Gael Towey. Gael Towey & Co., 2014. Film. “Private Dramas, Public Dreams: The Street Photographs of Helen Levitt & Friends.” Harn Museum of Art. 3259 Hull Road, Gainesville, Florida 32611. February, 2014. Exhibit. Rand, Paul. “Paul Rand on the Play Instinct.” Design Dialogues . by Ste ven Heller and Elinor Pettit. Allworth Press, 1998. Print. Reed, Sheri. Things Teachers & Schools Wish Parents Would Do.” The Stir, Sep. 21, 2010. Web. Rock, Michael. “The Designer as Author.” Eye No. 20, Spring 1996. Print. Ruscha, Edward. Every Building on the Sunset Strip . Los Angeles, Cali fornia. 1966. Schwesinger, Borries. The Form Book . London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 2010. Print. Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are . Harper Collins, 1984 (rst published 1963). Print. Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style (Maira Kalman, Illustrator). New York: The Penguin Group, 2000. Print. Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak. Dir. Lance Bangs, Spike Jonze . Home Box Office, 2009. Film. “Visual Life—The Expressionist.” Perf. Michael Wolff. Intel, 2011. Film. Von Zastrow, Claus. “New Designs for Learning: A Conversation with IDEO Founder David Kelley.” Learning First Alliance, Jan. 20, 2010. Web.

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24 Alston approaches design as a storyteller, harnessing the power of language, typography and image in her work. The story can take many different forms depending on how it needs to be told to reach the intended audience—a brand, a children’s book, an identity system, a map, a game or simply the perfect combination of photo and type. She began her artistic career while living abroad in Florence, Italy. When she returned to her hometown of Atlanta, GA, she studied drawing and oil painting, continuing classes when she moved to Houston, TX. Her design studies began at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. In 2008, she started an on-line paper goods company along with a freelance design practice. In 2013, she expanded her freelance business to include consulting in merchan dising, product development and styling. From 2012-2015, she studied at the University of Florida, pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in graphic design. Her research focused on themes of identity, language and empowerment. Through her creative project, she combined her abilities as a designer with her desire to advocate for change for the greater good, seeking to empower parents to fight for a better system of education for all children. BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

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25 Auction Catalog Inner pages containing items #1-10 APPENDIX

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I’ve been to school auctions. They are usually happy, social occasions where parents, family and friends bid on a year’s supply of bagels or baseball tickets or a basket of gardening supplies. Within the established educational framework of our country, which gives minimal voice to parents and forces schools to perform epic feats of accounting for any facility related purchase, they serve an important purpose of enriching the school environment for our children. But this is a different kind of auction. It’s an auction where we can bid on the things that really need to change in public education. Within these pages are 10 things that have the potential to alter the public school experience for all kids for the better. This catalog seeks to challenge the generally accepted mediocrity in public schools, and then to inspire a rethinking of the possibilities. Schools can be places of active exploration and real thinking, not just test-taking centers with prison-like atmospheres. No more true or false, right or wrong, but more trying and failing, observing and reflecting, discovery and wonder. Let’s start the bidding! And the bidding should not end here. Join a movement, reach out to others—you can make change happen. PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENT Spring Auction Catalog 2015 www.publicschoolparent.tumblr.com @publicschoolparent

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ITEM # / 01 A public restroom without graffiti is like a radio on mute. It’s one of my favorite things about public restrooms because it’s a part of the local conversation. I’d like it even more, though, if the graffiti was nice. Just for a moment, put yourself back in 7th grade. You’re having one of those days. The day when everyone has a date to the Valentine’s dance except you, the cafeteria served beef au jus and ran out of grilled cheeses, you forgot to get your social studies test signed and in science you had to partner with Todd Pitts, who instead of working on the assignments, likes to flick boogers across the lab table. You decide to go to the bathroom to take a break, and when you walk in, the first thing you see is “You’re a superstar.” The next thing you see is “You got this.” School days are long and hard enough, and bathrooms can be a whole different kind of scary — that’s where the bullies tend to lurk. I say go ahead and write on the walls, but write words of kindness, words that make people laugh, words that make people smile, words that help others get through “those days.” We must never underestimate the power of words. KIND BATHROOM GRAFFITI

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80. ROOM 16, MEN'S RESTROOM. PAINTED DESERT INN, AZLibrary of Congress | Prints & Photographs Division | Reproduction # HABS ARIZ,1-NAVA.V,1--80 you look good y ou'r ea ** ****

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WELL-WRITTEN READING COMPREHENSION PASSAGES ITEM # Does the world need another poorly written story about boring people? The answer is an emphatic “No.” Yet, that is what is being xeroxed at an alarming rate in schools across the country. And we expect kids to want to read them. I don’t want to read them, so why would a 9-yr-old? I can barely make it through the first two sentences of one of these blocks of text before my mind begins to wonder — who writes these things? I imagine Boring Betty sitting in a cubicle somewhere randomly putting dictionary definitions together during breaks in an online solitaire competition. She’s been up all night trying to outscore @blitzsolitaire2000. Her coffee machine is on the brink, making slightly off-colored water, and her miniature schnauzer took a bite of her sausage and cheese croissant before she left the house this morning. Poor Betty. Let’s give her—and thus by extension, our kids—a break. Let’s put Betty in book keeping, and use narratives that actual writers weave together. Let’s give our children grand adventures, passages that show them the magic of words and language, stories that speak to their humanity — and then see how many of them comprehend. 02 /

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what?! how would that even work? what do you think of this verse? by JACOB + WILHELM GRIMM | 1880S ONCE UPON A TIME...1. Phew— glad she got her baby back! How do you feel after reading the story? Enjoy the following story (anything can happen!) and answer the questions below: ANGRY HAPPY SAD CONFUSED FINE OTHER rfn (Because it is! Words are magic.) t t bwritten by actual writers.nQuestions don’t have to be so serious. t n Why a random man from the mountain?

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ITEM # / 03 After spending 6+ hours sitting at a desk in school, there are many things I can think to do when you get home other than sitting back down to work on another worksheet at home. Plus, if my kids are going to work at home, I’d prefer they work at the laundry or dishes. And if they are not working around the house, I’d rather they go outside and play. The social and language skills they’ve gained from independent, impromptu play is impossible to replicate in adult-regulated settings. I’ve watched them negotiate boundaries and hierarchy, tell stories and lies, make rules, break rules, scrape knees, fight, hit and yell at each other, make up, walk each other home. They find out about people, how to navigate social situations, how to play with words, to make people laugh, to resolve conflict, what it means to be a friend. As a bonus, we’ve also had the pleasure of accumulating a 90” screen TV from 1997, a pleather sofa, and wagons full of grapefruits and kumquats from their neighborhood expeditions. The Parental Homework Pass gives parents control over what happens at home. Besides, some say homework only exists because of the Cold War. That ended — why hasn’t homework? PARENTAL HOMEWORK PASSES

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r fn tb r b rt f r fb !

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ITEM # / 04 A FRIENDLY LIBRARIAN On a regular basis, my children come home talking about how mean the “media specialist” at their school is. What’s a “media specialist” I ask? “You know, the lady who works in the media center,” they respond. After a bit more digging for clarification, I realize that that is the name for school librarians these days. Ahhh. A mean librarian? That’s so weird. I understand adults who do not enjoy the company of children. But what I do not understand is why those same adults decide to work in schools. Because schools, as most people know, are filled with...kids! Perhaps these folks did not get the memo, and we need to campaign to inform them of this fact in order to keep them out of our school libraries, a place that holds all kinds of goodness on it’s shelves. Libraries should be a place where kids feel happy, encouraged to think and explore and share ideas— not scared or bored or shamed or shushed. I want Mary F**king Poppins as our school librarian, guiding our children through the magical walls of a library with excitement. That excitement might be contagious.

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BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY | FEB 1941Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc. photographer | Library of Congress

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ITEM # / 05 The letter I’m writing to our state legislator starts like this: “Dear Sir, If I had supernatural powers, I would haunt you. I would give you the energy, wit, creativity, and curiosity of a 9-year-old. Then, I’d have you sit at a desk for 6+ hours a day while every inch of your body is aching to move, run, explore, talk, create. I’d force you to read mind-numb ingly boring reading selections, and then ask you inane questions about their idiotic characters and uninteresting plots. I’d provide you with a steady stream of worksheets on fractions and long division that must be completed in the “right”common core way. After that, when you think you are finally going to be released from the prison of your chair, I’d put you in front of a computer and give you standardized questions that are designed to confuse you, questions with multiple right answers, questions that have nothing at all to do with actual learning, but everything to do with companies out to make millions of dollars. And I would revel in every moment of your suffering. Because you, sir, have failed our children. And by failing them, you have failed our community. You have sacrificed true education on the altar of corporate greed and political capital. I hope karma is a raging b*tch to you.” That’s what I’ve got right now, and I still don’t know to whom or where I’m supposed to mail it. The words “contact you legislator” are almost mystical. If only there was a kit for parents to take the mystery out of contacting those sneaky bastards. AN ALL-INCLUSIVE “CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR” KIT

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An important letter for:mo day yrI am a (select all that apply) : The thing I am currently most concerned about in our public school system is : One way this concern could be addressed is:I live in the following school district:My opinion of the current state of public education in my area is: (rate your opinion / add any comments that would be helpful in clarifying your choice) My preferred contact method for follow-up is : SIGNEDPARENT STANDARDIZED TESTING THE FACILITIES OTHER SCHOOL NUTRITION A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT STUDENT TEACHER TAXPAYER OTHER AMAZING PRETTY GOOD JUST O.K. TERRIFYING A GIANT DISAPPOINTMENT rrffrrnrr fnnt fbnnb rnn !USA

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ITEM # / 06 MORE TIME OUTSIDE I recently spent some time in a middle school classroom. It was dark, dank, old, and musty with a tiny window in the back left corner that was covered with a layer of algae. Mold spores were swinging from the fluorescent lights, filling the air, baring their fangs as they laughed at their good fortune of finding such fertile ground to procreate. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, not just out of fear that I would contract a rare fungal infection, but also because it was so damn depressing. Where was the natural light? All I could see was cinder block upon cinder block upon cinder block. Who designed this place — the winner of the Prison Architect of the Year (PAY) award? Why do we expect children to want to be — let alone spend a significant part of their days — in these depressing spaces? And if we do not have the money to rebuild schools ( wait — that can be #11! ), why can’t they learn outside? What if being in the outdoors was incorporated into the curriculum? Not only would it get them out of those wretched buildings, but they could actually benefit from learning in nature — exploring, observing, reflecting and breathing real air.

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ITEM # / ART, ART & MORE ART It’s true — art really does make you smart. It expands the way you think, observe, and reflect. And it is being cut from public schools quicker than any other subject. Our children are being robbed of a process that expands their person. No more of this art 30 minutes a week business. We need art every. single. day. The people who say art is irrelevant in education have never experienced true making. When you are engaged in the process of making art, you need math to understand proportions and ratios, science to understand the human form and color, social studies to understand culture and the human experience. And what if art is the way some kids are wired to express ideas? Individual brains function differently, and I think we can all agree that we see this truth at work every day in the conversations we have — the morning people talking about how they pop right out of bed v. the night owls who get more accomplished after midnight than any other time of the day; the visual learners v. the auditory learners; the 3-meal-a-day eaters v. the 6-snacks-a-day eaters. As adults, we intuit what makes our brains and bodies work best, and have some freedom to follow that intuition. So why are kids expected to learn the same way, process information the same way, express knowledge the same way? Who decided that art had the least value? And why do we keep allowing “them” to decide? 07

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makes youSMART

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ITEM # / 08 It’s lunch time. You’ve been in a classroom for about 4 hours already, and you finally get a break. Your stomach is growling. You’ve made your way in line to the milk cartons and are only 6 people away from the lunch bar. The air is electric. Food awaits. And then you see the brown, smothered lump that awaits you. What is that? Is “chicken fried steak” chicken or steak? Or neither? Why is the fruit swallowed up in syrup? Can I get some fresh vegetables up in here? You grab your tray, and walk to your table with disappointment and an empty stomach. No lunch again today. Historically, school lunches have fallen short and despite recent “food revolutions,” poor nutrition remains rampant in American public schools. Why is it so difficult to have real food in schools? And why do we tolerate what passes for food? I have a simple wish: that the food listed on school menus actually look like the food. Potatoes don’t need to smile, they can just be cooked. Chicken doesn’t need a creepy sauce. Vegetables can be raw and rinsed. Food can simply be food. LUNCH THAT LOOKS LIKE FOOD

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WOODROW WILSON HIGH SCHOOL | OCT 1943Esther Bubley, photographer | Library of Congress can’t Oh is EVEN look.

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ITEM # / Sometimes when I watch my 5th-grader walking to class, I hear his back cussing. His back has a dirty mouth, too. “What the hell? I’ve got to carry this load again? Why do you carry bricks around all day? I’m sick of this crap.” You see, his back is hurting from the daily backpack haul. The 6th cervical vertebra starts feel ing the pressure and asks the 7th to step up. The 7th thinks he’s being dramatic until the full weight sets in. That makes the 1st thoracic vertebra super pissed and when he’s out of sorts all 33 of them start flipping out. Books — at least the ones not written by the Boring Bettys of the world — are good. Carrying a bunch of them around on your back is not. And since school supply lists require “non-rolling backpacks”, we need to come up with something else. So how about a backpack that could be filled with books and still weigh nothing? It would save young vertebrae all over the world. AN ANTI-GRAVITY BACKPACK 09

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NEWBACKPACKTake that, Newton! Holds over 30 lbs & remains completely WEIGHTLESS!

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ITEM # / NO MORE BULLSH*T TESTING 10 This is the big ticket item, the one that I wish I had $220 billion dollars in order to buy off everyone behind this conspiracy. We, as a society, are buried so deep in a testing frenzy that even the legislators who are passing the state-mandated regulations and tests have admitted to not knowing exactly what they are passing. We are drowning in a sea of corporate greed and political maneuvering whose current is so strong that I’m afraid we will not realize we are drowning until it’s too late. It’s not just a test. It’s hours of real learning lost. It’s a change in the way classrooms operate. It’s a way of thinking that promotes unoriginal ideas. It’s questions designed not to evaluate a true depth of understanding, but only to trick and confuse. It’s a myth, a facade manufactured by companies making millions of dollars off of our children at the cost of true knowledge. It must stop. My child is not a paycheck. Your child or grand child or cousin or niece or nephew or neighbor is not a paycheck. We need to stand together — mothers and fathers, teachers and administrators, all tax-payers — to be the voice for the small and powerless in our community and demand education that matters, education that is effective, not based on test taking and test scores. The stakes are too high if we don’t.

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