The City as School: A Radical Imagining

I want to build an educated city, a school without walls where we can live in search of, rather than in accommodation to. I want us to accept ourselves as works-in-progress, searching and unfinished, on the move in a dynamic, going world, with Chicago our commons, our performance space, and our workshop.

De-couple education from schooling: all human beings are learning from birth until death—learning, like eating and breathing, is entirely natural. It’s wasteful to think of education as a K-12 affair, or to think of education as preparation for life rather than life itself.

I want a city poised to learn more in order to achieve more in terms of human enlightenment and freedom.

An educated city would take seriously the notion that residents are the sovereign, neither objects to manipulate nor subjects to be ruled. Education, formal and informal, would become focused on the creation of public citizens.

Schools would be places where the dreams, aspirations, knowledge, and skills of youth are sensible starting points for learning, where democracy is practiced rather than ritualized.
Imagine how much safer, livelier, and more peaceful our communities would become if we reorganized education in this fundamental way—instead of keeping children isolated in classrooms, engage them in community-building activities with audacity and vision: planting community gardens, recycling waste, creating alternative transportation and work sites, naming and protesting injustices around them, organizing neighborhood arts and health festivals, broadcasting a radio show, rehabbing houses, painting public murals. By giving children and young people a reason to learn beyond the individualistic goal of getting a job and making more money, by encouraging them to exercise their minds and their hearts and their soul power, we would tap into the deep well of human values that gives life shape and meaning.

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