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Every picture tells a story, and tonight we are surrounded by pictures and the stories they tell. Everyone in the pictures has a different story and each one is part of the whole Kino story. On Kino's 25th birthday, we are aware of how time has slipped by. A school is the people who make it up and who have made it up in the past. All of us. Kino's history, the story of its communal life over the years, is all of our stories combined, intertwined, each made richer by joining with the others. We hope tonight will be a time to hear some of the stories that make up Kino's story. The story of Kino is the story of the people who have lived parts of our lives together.
Kino's story is part of our larger history, just as our personal stories are part of Kino's history. We have roots deep in the past because the ideas that are powerful in Kino are age old; people always return to them. Our slogan, "The mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled," speaks to a belief about people. Oddly enough, this ancient epigram (attributed to Plutarch) is a metaphorical statement of theories child psychologists have developed in the last fifty years. Children (and adults) don't learn by having facts poured in; we learn by getting excited about the world around us and by trying to make sense of it.
We can trace Kino's story and philosophical roots back to an 18th century French thinker, Jean Jacques Rousseau, who wrote an influential book about education and also kicked off the Romantic Revolution and inspired generations of writers and thinkers. Rousseau was also a man condemned by the Catholic Church, outlawed in three countries, a man whose friends deserted him, and who had a penchant for mooning people in the streets. . . It's not all glory. Rousseau, when on good behavior, insisted that human nature was good and that kids needed freedom and activity to develop well. The heart of the Kino philosophy reflects these beliefs about human nature: kids are essentially good and rational, and if they are raised with respect and trust, in a caring environment that allows them the freedom and responsibility all people need, they will grow into fine adults.
John Dewey, the American philosopher who revolutionized education in the early 20th century, thought progressive education, child centered education, arose in times of ferment, when people are at odds with their governments and feel the need to assert their individuality, as opposed to marching in step to the mass drum. This was certainly true in Rousseau's time, and that discontent resulted in the French Revolution. Dewey started his school as an educational reform during the Progressive era. Kino arose out of the rebirth of progressive education in the reform minded sixties.
Like all good stories, Kino's story is made up of drama and conflict, comedy and sadness, romance and inspiration. Kino has been the scene of all that, and has been the home and sanctuary of idealists from the beginning. Being idealistic doesn't make people ideal, though. Put a bunch of idealists together in a small, intense setting, and you can have the most amazing disagreements, and we have had those. Even in disagreement, though, we have all remained true to the ideal of Kino. And the school endures. It endures because it is at heart a school that, with all its flaws, serves kids in a way that other schools can't, or won't.
My story joins Kino's when Martha and I were looking for the right school for our three year old son. Since we both worked for the public schools at the time, we knew we wanted something different for David. We didn't want the regimentation and impersonality built into the structure of conventional schools. David started at Kino, I followed him, he is now in college, and I'm still here.
Other parents bring their kids to Kino for many reasons. Kino may be an escape from a stultifying routine or a lifeless, plodding pace. Some may come looking for a second chance, a place to prove themselves. Some may come looking for a refuge, a place to fit in. These stories are yours, and I hope we'll hear some tonight.
We know that schools are supposed to be a preparation for life, but we know, too, that those years are your life and should be lived as though they mattered, not as if you were unconscious during an operation.
The Kino philosophy has always been hard to nail down; it seems that it depends upon whom you are talking to as to what the philosophy is. That's all right. We deal with individuals according to their needs, not according to our philosophy. The heart of the matter is about freedom, community, trust, and respect. But the appeal of Kino is beyond pedagogy; I doubt that most of you came tonight because you are, or were, deeply interested in pedagogy. I believe the power of Kino is in the human relationships that develop in a small community that stresses freedom and respect for each and every person.
I sometimes worry that traditional teachers will say nice things about us. We like to hear nice things, but if too many in the educational establishment say we are doing the right thing, then I wonder if we're going astray. We have been out of step for so long, we'd be alarmed to find ourselves in the mainstream. We needn't worry that Kino has shifted the conventional schools from their paths. Since the school opened in 1975, the gap between Kino and conventional schools has become more pronounced, not less. This is true even as educational researchers have published study after study showing that school should be more like Kino, not less. So we are proud of dancing to different drummers, and everybody who is here, and has enjoyed Kino, has heard that different beat too. Being out of step is a sign of our vitality.
We encourage you to share your stories tonight. If you know people in the photos, we'd love to know who they are, because, while we know most, we don't know all the faces from the past. We would like to keep something of a record of the school; there are so few schools like Kino, and even fewer that have lasted this long. Perhaps in the future some historian of education will look back at Kino from the test bound future and find a more humane model for a new direction.
KINO SCHOOL, a non-profit, independent progressive school
6625 N. First Ave. / Tucson, Arizona, 85718 / (520) 297-7278 / Email us, click here / Request a brochure
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