Guest Post with Author, George S. Stranahan

My junior year at boarding school included German, Greek history, and for English we read Milton’s Paradise Lost and had to write a 500 word essay every weekday.  Like everybody I wrote it longhand in pencil on lined paper. Mr. Gurney marked them up and returned within a couple of days, long after I remembered or cared for what I had written.

The next thing I wrote was my Ph.D. thesis on neutron proton capture at age 29. I wrote on Smith Corona, very slowly and deliberately. I had counted the number of pages of the shortest thesis currently in the physics library, and was determined to present one page less. That was not that easy, for there were many mathematical equations that each required a separating sentence before the next.

I didn’t write again until age 40, the year I spent teaching in the Okemos, Michigan high school. I had made a deal with the superintendent that if he smuggled me into the classroom I would write for him what I found there. What I found there were stories, stories of adolescents lost, confused, experimenting, yet sometimes hopeful. These I wrote each night in long hand in a spiral notebook, and in so doing found that I was writing the story of my own adolescence.

Now-a-days I rewrite these stories into a blog file titled You have to have three drinks to play in this sandbox.  Three drinks are my own rule, and I follow it. A number of these will appear in my next book Phlogs Too, a sequel to Phlogs: Journey to the Heart of the Human Predicament that won the Colorado Books award in 2010. My friend, Hunter Thompson, was one of many whiskey writers. I wondered if I was one too, and there’s only one way to find out. My own assessment? Sometimes, but stay away from poetry.

A Predicament of Innocents is, like the Phlogs books, a deliberate mixture of photographs and words. They complement each other, or sometimes contradict each other. In either event there’s a tension between the pictures and the words. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there’s an ambiguity, they’re not at all equal, and I think put together they present a challenge to the reader, Horseman, pass by.

Why write, why photograph? Why read, why look? You show me your thing, I’ll show you mine.

EDUCATOR OF 56 YEARS ADVOCATES LEARNING WITH CHILDREN RATHER THAN TEACHING TO THEM

A Predicament of Innocents features essays and photographs from George S. Stranahan

ASPEN, CO – December 2012  “When a parent asks, ‘What did you do in school today?’ and the kid answers, ‘Nothing,’ I worry that this is indeed an accurate and complete account all too often,” writes 56-year progressive educator George S. Stranahan in his new book A Predicament of Innocents: Might the schools help? (People’s Press, Feb. 19, 2013).

In his decades of teaching at the army, university, primary, high and charter school levels, Stranahan’s primary concern has been the role of education in building and shaping today’s society. He believes and provides evidence-based arguments in his book that education is something that should be done with children, not to them.

“A teacher as instructor is in charge of everything – he does it to the kids. A teacher as community organizer makes a democratic classroom where everybody influenced by a decision has the opportunity to participate in the decision,” Stranahan explains. “Doing learning with them means they are indeed engaged in their own education, not just passively sitting there having it done to them.”

A Predicament of Innocents is a provocative collection of essays and photographs of local schoolchildren exploring the art of teaching, the minds of children, and how the current educational infrastructure stifles the growth of both. The book examines educational practices, debates and theory, and through it, Stranahan ultimately strives to force dialogue on the national level about what “school” really means.

“The public education, now attached to the military industrial complex, has totally lost its mission and will do great damage to society,” the author said. “I hope this book scares readers. I hope they see it as a call to action. If WE don’t wake up and pay attention to what’s going on in schools, nobody else will.”

Innocents is a follow up to Stranahan’s 2009 Phlogs: Journey to the Heart of the Human Predicament, which won the Colorado Book Award’s Best Pictorial Book and Indie Next Generation’s Grand Prize for Coffee Table / Photography Book. The author’s photography has been exhibited in museums across the country, including the Toledo Museum of ArtNew York Metropolitan Art Museum and Southport Summer Festival in Boston.

Stranahan’s six children fired up his passion for nurturing the problem-solving abilities and creativity in every single child. He is a founder of Michigan Montessori Internationale, the Aspen Community School, the Early Childhood Center the Carbondale Community School, and the Roaring Fork Teacher Education Project in partnership with the Graduate School of Education at Colorado University Boulder. Stranahan served as Executive Director of the Aspen Educational Research Foundation (now COMPASS)  and sat on the boards of many community foundations and nonprofit organizations. The passionate educator has been featured in NewsweekEngineering and ScienceEducation Week and several other education journals and magazines.

PeoplesPress.org

Education: do we do it to children or with them? When you look at the children’s faces in the portraits of this book, you will see their eyes pleading for the with answer. The essays and vignettes also present clear, passionate and evidence-based arguments for the with approach.

This collection of essays and photographs by a long-time progressive educator and photographer explores the art of teaching, the minds of children, and how the educational infrastructure stifles the growth of both. The portraits of schoolchildren taken over six decades invite pause and reflection — what are they asking for?

Innocents examines educational practices, debates and theory, and advocates learning with children rather than teaching to them. This is a passionate book about the intersection of education and the love of learning.

George S. Stranahan is a lifelong educator. In 56 years of teaching he has left his mark in army, university, primary, high and charter schools.

He is a founder of Michigan Montessori Internationale, the Aspen Community School, the Early Childhood Center, the Carbondale Community School, and the Roaring Fork Teacher Education Project in partnership with the Graduate School of Education at Colorado University Boulder.

Stranahan served as Executive Director of the Aspen Educational Research Foundation (now COMPASS), and sat on the boards of the Aspen Institute and Colorado Mountain College, among many other community foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Stranahan is also a lifelong student. He received his B.S in Physics from the California Institute of Technology, and after two years in the Army, his M.S. and Ph.D in physics from Carnegie Institute of Technology. He eventually completed a Postdoctoral fellowship with Purdue University and has even learned the art of ranching from working the irrigation and fields on his Colorado ranch.

He has been featured in Education WeekEngineering and ScienceNewsweek and several other education journals and magazines. His first book, Phlogs: Journey to the Heart of the Human Predicament, released in 2009 and won the Colorado Book Award’s Best Pictorial Book and The Indie Next Generation’s Grand Prize for Coffee Table / Photography Book. The author’s next essay and photography collection, A Predicament of Innocents, releases in February 2013 and features local schoolchildren spanning 30 years.

Stranahan’s photography has been exhibited in museums across the country, including the Toledo Museum of Art, New York Metropolitan Art Museum and Southport Summer Festival in Boston.

The passionate educator has received numerous accolades throughout his career, including the 2012 Jackie Morales Distinguished Award for Community Service; 1997 Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award; 2011 Molly Campbell Service Award; 2005 Kentucky Colonel commission; and 2002 Aspen Hall of Fame induction. The Mayor of the City of Denver proclaimed “George Stranahan Day” on November 2, 1996. But his primary concern has been the role of education in building and shaping today’s society. His six children fired his passion for nurturing the problem-solving abilities and creativity in every single child.

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