Ideas Worth Sharing

We all have ideas worth sharing with others, and this is the place to do it. I am particularly interested in those ideas which, if enacted, might make a significant difference in the world in which we live. I'll start with a few of my own ideas which I've mulled over and nurtured for years. I welcome your constructive feedback and will post ideas from others that I think fit my criteria. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 26, 2002

IDEA #7 NAPS--Neighborhood-Associated Primary Schools

Some years ago I wrote up a proposal for our local school district for starting Neighborhood-Associated Primary Schools--NAPS. The idea was to have Preschool-Grade 3 in home-like buildings located throughout residential neighborhoods. This would allow children to walk to school, to be near their familiar neighborhood surroundings, to know where they are and how to get home from where they are. It would also mean that their first experience of school would be on a small, human scale, not very different from what they are used to in their own homes and neighborhood.

Classes would be small groups and parents would rotate as teacher's assistants. Students would get individualized mentoring as they learn social behavior as well as reading, writing and arithmetic. Each student, parent and teacher would be known to all the others. No one would slip through the cracks. Students would be tested at age 7 and each year thereafter; no one would be advanced to the local elementary school until they had gained the basic skills necessary to succeed as 4th graders.

NAPS could be located in any residential development in one of the larger homes, or a special community services building could be built for every 20 homes in the development and would include a NAP School. Ideally NAPS would be part of Professional Parenting Communities (see IDEA #5 below), and graduates of Schools of the Nurturing Arts (IDEA #3 below) would make ideal teachers and involved parents.

The school board which heard my proposal turned it down as too costly and too hard to maintain in multiple buildings spread throughout the district. I think education is a poor place to economize. Economies of scale may be necessary for adult workplaces, but quality education for our youngest children requires small classes and low teacher-student ratios. We cannot afford to have any of our youngsters fail to learn basic social and academic skills, and numerous studies have shown that young students learn better when they receive personalized attention in a comfortable social setting.

Today parents can join together with teachers to form charter schools along the lines of NAPS. Many homeschooling parents might find NAPS an ideal midpoint between educating their children themselves in isolation from others their age and sending them to the local elementary school. I believe elementary school teachers would be delighted to have NAPS graduates coming into their 4th grade classes ready and fully equipped to learn.

As charter schools, NAPS might have different emphases while being alike in teaching the basic academic and social skills. Some might be bilingual whether or not the students speak a language other than English at home. These early years are the very best for learning language skills. Others might emphasize multi-cultural or historical learning-by-doing, re-enacting scenes from other countries or eras. Others might specialize in observing nature first-hand or growing their own food in school gardens. Still others might emphasize the arts and music.

The school district might offer use of elementary school gyms and playgrounds to NAPS at specific times and use of school buses and vans to take NAPS students to children’s museums and other local learning opportunities.

I believe a society that puts its children and its people first will eventually end up creating something like the NAPS. Why not here and now?

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Posting the link below to an NPR radio report on Grandfamily House in Boston got me to thinking, and thinking is how I get my ideas worth sharing.

IDEA #6 Replicating Creative Solutions

Many organizations in this country and the world offer annual or periodic prizes for excellence in every conceivable area of accomplishment. Some of those prizes are for wonderful, effective solutions to the problems that plague us as Americans and as people of the world. I think Grandfamily House (see the September 17 posting below) is one such wonderful solution that makes a positive contribution to everyone involved--a true Win-Win solution. It also won a prize, according to the NPR report, and has gotten local and national publicity as a result. Nevertheless, it has not been duplicated anywhere in the country or the world so far as Tony Randolph had been able to find out, in spite of the fact that it has been around for four years already.

What's wrong with this picture? Is Boston the only city with grandparents raising their grandchildren at a time in their lives when they themselves have specialized housing needs? And are there only 26 such families in all of Boston in need of such a creative housing development? Certainly not. Across this country and around the world there are many thousands of grandparents in the same situation, and I'll wager that Grandfamily House has a long waiting list of other grandparents in Boston in need of such a housing development.

So why are there no duplicates of this prize-winning development? I think there are a number of factors involved, at least one of which is that we do not seem to have a clearinghouse where developers can go to find creative, proven solutions to local housing needs which can be freely replicated in their own communities. Nor is there an institute or foundation which has devoted itself to finding the creative solutions to social problems in every city and county of this country and making its findings available (on a website, perhaps?) to everyone everywhere seeking solutions to the same problems.

In Twelve-Step recovery circles there is a saying to the effect of "Live in the solution, not in the problem." To move forward without having to constantly reinvent the wheel, we need to have a willingness to seek out and implement the effective solutions that have already proven themselves elsewhere and build them again wherever they are needed. If we put half the effort into spreading and replicating creative solutions as we spend analyzing and bemoaning our problems, we could make a tremendous amount of progress toward a world we'd all like to live in.

To do that we need to have people who are willing not only to "Do It", but to Do It AGAIN. We need franchises of proven solutions to human problems. We should be able to rest assured that we could move anywhere in this country, and eventually anywhere in the world, and find a Grandfamilies House. Just as an American community considers itself incomplete if it does not have schools, a library, and a hospital, the day must come when it will consider itself second-rate if it doesn't have a Grandfamilies House for every family that needs one.

To let me know what you think
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Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Toni Randolph from NPR station WBUR reports from Boston on the nation's only housing project designed for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. "Grandfamilies House" has been set up with on-site daycare and accommodations for both the elderly and the young. (5:06) This housing project opened with 26 apartments and on-site daycare in 1998 and as yet has not been copied anywhere else in the country. It is an example of one possible form of Professional Parenting Community (see IDEA #5 below). Every city could use many projects like this. One of the problems we seem to have in this country is that good ideas often do not get replicated.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Because today is one year after 9-11 and the horrific and tragic events of that day in 2001, I've decided to take a break from sharing my accumulation of ideas with you and share instead some of the things that have touched me in my remembrance of that day. I have just returned from a commemoration held on the steps of the state capitol in Salem, Oregon, the city I call home. The focus of the memoriam was to honor and thank those people who dedicate their lives to keeping us all as safe as possible--the fire fighters, police officers, military personnel, public health workers, medical and emergency workers, and volunteers in all these areas. As the representatives of each group were asked to stand, the crowd clapped loud and long in appreciation. I wonder how many times our public safety workers of all kinds have felt the esteem of their fellows expressed so directly.

It reminded me of an occasion a couple of months ago when I attended my first powwow. It was a small, annual powwow held by a nearby tribal confederation (the Grand Ronde) each year to honor the many veterans who have fought overseas to protect this nation which has done so much to wrong its native peoples. After a grand entry parade led by the flags of the United States and various veterans groups, members of the audience were invited to come out onto the large, grassy circle to shake the hand of each veteran and say "Thank you." I took the opportunity to do that and was very moved by the deep sense of rightness this evoked in me. I would have liked to do that with the fire fighters, police officers, military personnel and other public safety workers who were present at Salem's Capitol Mall today.

So let this be my moment to pay tribute to our dedicated public servants who risk their lives to make us a little safer each day. May they know the esteem and gratitude of their fellows. May they find the strength to do their jobs in the safest and most effective way each time they respond to a call for help. May they be surrounded by the love and respect of their families and friends. And whether they fall in the line of duty or simply reach retirement safely, may the honor of their lives of dedicated service follow them wherever they go. May their families and friends take pride in them and let them know they value their commitment to the safety of us all. And may their families be valued and cherished by us all should they no longer be present to love and support them.

I would also like to thank those members of the media who have helped me to absorb and understand the new situation we are in as a nation. I rely each day on receiving the news from NPR--the National Public Radio--and appreciate their role in keeping me informed and educating me by interviewing experts in every area of public policy and international events. I also appreciate the sensitivity they have shown in their programming to the psychological and spiritual needs of the people of our nation as we have learned how to respond in a positive way to the assault upon our way of life on 9-11. Likewise, I appreciate Oprah for having a whole series of programs on short notice which put faces and individual stories on the events of 9-11 and helped us all to work through our shock and grief.

I'd like to conclude with a question I heard a Quaker ask on an NPR program yesterday, "Have I lived today in such a way as to make violence unnecessary?" If all of us all over the world would ask ourselves that question each day and live by the insights we gain from such honest self-examination, we may yet be able to look forward to a world at peace in our lifetimes. May there be no more 9-11s in our future. May there be liberty and justice for all.

If you would like to share your own thoughts about what has moved you on this remembrance day,
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Thursday, September 05, 2002

Check out this web address for an article about one way states are beginning to compensate parents for their stay-at-home parenting. Is a paid parent a professional parent? Well, at least it's a step in the right direction, in my view.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Last week I put "Ideas Worth Sharing" into the Google search engine (still my favorite) and found this website listed as the 9th entry out of 208! It looks as though my efforts to make this site accessible are bearing some fruit. However, I still don't know you are reading these ideas. To drop me a line and let me know what you're thinking, just click on the Click Here at the end of any of the ideas presented below.

IDEA #5 Professional Parenting Communities

My major commitment over the years of adulthood has been to my family, and I believe the family is the fundamental building block of all society and civilization and even the prerequisite for humane survival. As I see it, the essential task of the family is parenting. Yet this is a function for which few of us are prepared either by education or by informal observation. Unless we are fortunate enough to have been raised in a family where exceptionally fine parenting skills were demonstrated on ourselves and a variety of siblings, cousins, and neighbor children, we enter parenthood ignorant and scared, or too ignorant to be scared. This is a poor way to run a society.

I believe we need to have professional parents-- parents trained and skilled in raising healthy, happy children who will become productive members of our society--in every family. In order for this to become true, we need to develop, value, and compensate parenting skills and the people who have and use them. We cannot afford to allow the foundation of our society to be the last refuge of the amateur.

An ideal education for the professional parent might be found at the School of the Nurturing Arts (IDEA #3 below). The graduate of such a program might choose to start a single nuclear family or add their skills to their own extended family of relatives. This would be equivalent to other professionals establishing a private practice for a limited clientele, and the compensation for their skills would need to be privately negotiated with their clients--their family members. A wise society would encourage such career choices by establishing health care and social security benefits for such professional parents in private practice.

Professional parents might also decide to use their skills in a variety of more public settings. Some examples include: running a nursery, day care or aftercare program in their home or in a business or agency; taking foster care or adopted children into their home; mentoring or tutoring others' children in a home school or after school program; working in a children's group home; working as teachers' aides or in children's libraries or with a pediatrician practice; working as a visiting home nurse, childbirth educator, or giving in-home care to new mothers and their babies; or working in recreational programs for children. The compensation for such professional parents should be at least living wage (see IDEA #2 below) and preferably family wage.

Professional parents might prefer to live in PPC's, professional parenting communities, where the neighbors are also professional parents (or aspiring professional parents). Such a community might start as a block of families cooperating in a planned common playground for their children and pets (see IDEA #4 below). The parents of several blocks of this type might join together in building a combination recreation/preschool/health center where professional parents could rotate in providing classes, activities, and health care for the area's children. Local and state governments might well build or buy houses in such communities for foster families headed by professional parents.

In time perhaps developers and architects might design communities of homes with professional parenting community needs in mind--clustered homes with large common yard/playgrounds and a community center. This would be another application of the planned unit development (PUD). An urban variation of this would be a high rise development with its own daycare and sick child facilities on site.

To send your own constructive feedback, comments and ideas worth sharing
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