sustainable schools

Map of epicenter of May 12, 2008 earthquake in...public domain image via Wikipedia
An amazing new school was opened in China last spring. China-US Center for Sustainable Development:
A safe and sustainable New Jindai Elementary School for 540 children, survivors of the devastating May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake, officially opened on April 29, 2011.
This school is sustainable, at least in construction and design of the physical infrastructure:
"Dr. Gary Dirks, Chairman of the China U.S. Center’s US Board of Councilors, stated “Everything from its safety and environmental features to its place as a community center, speaks to how special this school is. The seismic resistant construction, quality of finish, the produce garden, the rain-water capture system, the black water processing, the light and openness provided by the angled ceiling are among this school’s features. We also wanted to build a school in partnership with a community that believed in integrating sustainability into the curriculum and could serve as a learning hub for environmental principles. Every brick, every stone, every tile of this school reflects the heart, passion and talents of a great number of people.”"
But an even more important Schools could be made socially and economically sustainable parts of communities if they used a cooperative rather than a coercive approach. Working with people and communities would mean grasping the importance of social networks, diverse social interactions, and the power of decentralized democracy. Alongside classrooms and gardens, there should be a wide range of hours and services available, online wiki-type coordination of events, services initiated by users as well as school staff, and many other innovative ways to learn and work together in the amazing spaces provided by this school.

Schools could become more sustainable. Grading and testing for hierarchical placement worked well enough when the majority of the population did not depend on schooling for jobs and most worked in agriculture or truly local small businesses. (This was tru until the 1920s.) But when the vast majority of citizens now work within the industrial state, using grading and sorting based on flawed models of human intelligence and ability means a huge loss of talent and initiative. Human beings and their abilities need conserved and strengthened if the emerging problems of peer-dependency and the over-processing of people within institutions that work against independence and strength of thought. Sustainable school buildings need sustainable social organization that is democratic and deeply rooted within the people in the community.


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