26 Mei 2009

Vito Perrone and the Struggle for Democratic Schools

English Version

North Dakota, large in territory and sky, light in population. Grand Forks, a small city on the banks of the Red River (which famously runs north), a university town, located on the far eastern border of the state and, in latitude, some 60 miles to the north of Quebec City, Canada. In the winter, snow crystals glint in the air even on sunny days. The first semester I spent at the university (1982), euphemistically known as the Spring Semester, temperatures were often 20 or more degrees below zero and once dipped to -40ยบ (without factoring in the wind chill). Grand Forks, ND, might not seem to the uninitiated a likely locus for revolutionary thinking about education and social action. Yet, in the period from the late ’60s until well into the ’80s, it was exactly that.


I first met Vito Perrone at what turned out to be the charter meeting of the North Dakota Study Group on Evaluation (NDSG). The year was 1972. I wasn’t previously acquainted with Dean Perrone, though as a resident of Vermont, another rural state, I knew that in the late sixties he upended traditional teacher education to create the New School of Behavioral Studies at the University of North Dakota.

The mission of the New School was comprehensive, including all levels of education. Among its aims was an exchange program that sent master’s interns into rural North Dakota schools as temporary replacements for the many North Dakota teachers lacking four-year diplomas. The teachers, in turn, rotated to the university to take the courses required for a baccalaureate degree, bringing with them their years of classroom experience. Ranked 50th among the states in the educational preparation of teachers, a specific aim of the exchange was to improve North Dakota’s educational standing. Of further reaching consequence, the exchange set in motion a larger aim for which to my knowledge there is no precedent: to establish a reciprocal colleagial relationship between university and schools as co-partners, co-equally responsible for shaping the educational opportunities for all North Dakotans.

Vito’s conviction that “universities and schools can develop meaningful relationships in which each influences the other’s directions” (Perrone, 1983, p. 40) altered at a stroke the top down structure which positions the university at the pinnacle and the schools and classroom teachers on rungs far down the academic ladder. It was in this spirit that the New School matched a novel interdisciplinary program merging liberal arts and professional training at the teacher education level with advocacy for informal schools for children,promoting for students at all levels more intensive learning opportunities and greater learner autonomy Perrone, 1983).

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1 komentar:

  1. What youre saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I also love the images you put in here. They fit so well with what youre trying to say. Im sure youll reach so many people with what youve got to say.
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