I’m going to briefly explain why we are part of the Agile Learning Centers and Flying Squads networks. While schools and learning community networks often say that they believe in Self-Directed Education and that they want children to be in charge of their own decision making, when one gets past the veneer of their website and promotional talking points, one often finds that they’re are actually trying to create certain types of adults by subjecting their students to behaviorist rewards and punishments that are tied to mandated projects, subject blocks, or ‘personalized’ or ‘adaptive’ learning apps. There is a monumental difference between Self-Directed Education communities and the adultish schools who co-opt the language of Self-Directed Education as they are try (and mostly fail) to mold their students into wealthy entrepreneurs or try (and fail except for the most affluent of students) to position them to get into top ranked schools. The latter almost always engages in selection bias that denies opportunity to those who struggle academically or whose families are economically disadvantaged, while actual Self-Directed Education communities honor and respect the child for who they are today, not some idealized version of who they will become (measured by the college they attend, the job they can get, or the wealth they can accrue).

When I launched Abrome I was willing to help explain to parents and guardians how they can hack the college admissions process by giving their children the freedom to choose how to approach their education (also known as life when children are free). But my goal at the time was to make it easier for parents to justify emancipating their children from the oppression of schooling, not to get them into Harvard or Stanford (unless the young person wanted it). I did not want to associate Abrome with any networks that did not get that the goal is liberation, not just beating out others. And I did not want to associate Abrome with any networks that thought the way to success was to focus on screening out kids because of who their parents were, as opposed to focusing on admitting kids who would benefit from more autonomy. And the kids who would benefit from more autonomy are all of them.

Both the Agile Learning Centers network and Flying Squads get it. They’re not comprised of a bunch of tech bros who think that putting kids in front of computers is the way to turn them into super entrepreneurs, or a bunch of right wing conservatives who believe that every kid can simply access the American dream by doing well on a series of tests, collecting badges, and packaging themselves well. They’re also not a bunch of liberals who think that by working hard and getting straight A’s that will kids will be able to navigate the college admissions process and get high paying or high prestige professional jobs that allow them to gently nudge society in a better direction from their positions of influence within oppressive systems, and through voting.

Don’t get me wrong, the people who allow their kids to enroll in an Agile Learning Center or a Flying Squad may be tech bros, right wing conservatives, or status seeking liberals. That’s the nature of living in a schooled society, and their kids deserve autonomy, too. But the people who choose to dedicate their time to building community in ALCs and Flying Squads are usually those radicals who reject hierarchy and forms of domination. Many of them might consider themselves anarchists or leftists, and some of them may be called libertarians or social justice warriors, but all of them trust children, believe in autonomy, and have no interest in creating clones of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. They most want children to be able to practice freedom, and they believe in intentionally living in a way that reflects the more liberatory world they hope to help bring into being.

When I went to my first Agile Learning Facilitator training in Sacramento, CA, in the summer of 2018 I was two years into Abrome as an in-person K-12 learning community. I appreciated what I saw online about ALCs and felt that what they were saying about their approach to working with young people aligned really well with what we were trying to do. But I’ve learned to not take people at their word, and to wait to see what they do to be able to better understand what they believe. I’ve learned the hard way through both activism and politics that most people who say they share the same goals and vision as I do are often willing to sacrifice those goals and vision for approval from the general public and media, a seat at the table, funding, or short-term wins as a form of external validation that can help get them more approval from those who are oppositional to the cause, the illusion of influence with another seat at the table, and more funding.

At the ALF training, which lasted less than two weeks, I came in with a bunch of questions such as ‘how does conflict resolution at an ALC work’ and ‘…..

Flying Squads .. http://www.abrome.com/blog/2020/1/16/austin-joins-flying-squads-as-a-collaborator

From planning doc: While we are an independent SDE community, we are affiliated with two groups that have influenced our approach to building community and supporting young people, which will prove very beneficial as we navigate through the uncertainties and challenges of this pandemic. Our work with the Agile Learning Centers network has helped us stay agile and unwedded to processes that do not work for the people within our community. Our work with Flying Squads has helped us build community with each other outside of a designated education facility (e.g., school). So as we move into a period where we expect to be outside in public spaces for weeks at a time, in cells that require high levels of consensus and mutual support, we need only to continue the work that we’ve been doing over the past few years.