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Philosophical Meanderings

Field of Dreams: If you build it, he (they) will come…

In the day and age of technology, a great deal of information is readily available. There are many ‘answers’ out there just waiting to be accessed but sometimes the answers are not as important as the questions, of which I have several for all the pros here.

  • After you build the school(s) of your dreams, what then?
  • Will they actually come?
  • If so, what will be their purpose?
  • What do you desire or expect to happen afterwards?
  • Does their purpose collide with your desire or expectation?
  • Does their purpose and/or your desire or expectation coincide with realistic ends given society’s form and functions?

The American Experiment is very complex, so I do not really expect you to respond. I’m just asking…

About Brent Snavely

A construct of upbringing and society, holder of a BS. JD and an MA, I have practiced law more than 25 years. "The Truth shall set you free", but only if it is a Personal Truth that is based upon facts. Parrhesia may be humankind's only hope (see,


8 thoughts on “Field of Dreams: If you build it, he (they) will come…

  1. I wonder, too, if education is not supposed to be built. Maybe construction-business-corporate-industrial metaphors are not the best way to think of real change.

    Posted by John T. Spencer | November 8, 2011, 10:38 am
  2. So, as a school (and learning center) founder, I’d like to say, um…no, and yes and kinda’. Taking John’s point, above, whether we built this school or evolved it, created it, or whatever it was we did and continue to do, the project was in no way, by any stretch, finished when the doors opened. HA!!

    Yes, the opening of the doors was in some ways the realization of a counter-hegemonic and utopian vision of what education could be, but despite my idealism, I do find myself helping to run a business. There is a non-profit corporation to maintain and grow, a Board to evolve, a bookkeeper to hire and train, facilities to maintain and enhance. There is tons of PR work, outreach, recruitment, retention, alumni to keep in the fold. There is tons and tons of fundraising work, soliciting donations, searching for and writing grants, auctions and bake sales, etc. There is constant and continual reflection, study and refinement of mission and program, statements of belief, study groups, etc. There is the continuous training and development of staff, including at least one or two new hiring processes nearly every year. And importantly, as you imply, Brent, there is constant collaboration with parents and learners. We attempt to find common ground, and I attempt to provide leadership but community building is hugely about patient listening and openness. And there is sooo much more to holding and caring for a successful school..

    The founding, (building, co-creating, evolving) of a school is a monumental task – with infinite challenges and, of course, infinite rewards, is just the very beginning and the tiny tip of an iceberg. So, no, having “built” it (evolved it, co-created it) we shouldn’t expect “them” simply “to come.” I’m all for idealism, but naivety can have painful consequences. Be prepared for the long haul and for continuous struggle in this movement. There may be a shining beacon you are aiming for, but it’s all about the journey. Don’t expect to actually get there.

    ‘smy advice 🙂


    Posted by Paul Freedman | November 8, 2011, 11:50 am
    • Paul,

      Thank you for your voice of experience.

      I think you correctly point out that cultivating a Field of Dreams primary involves ‘the doing of it together’, with the ‘doing’ being an ongoing series of exchanges without the end (utopia) ever being reached. Insofar as my cohorts and I can tell, the journey itself is the end-goal and the Field merely its context. Still, we have to start someplace, and we are looking for land where the Field will be located.

      With gratitude,


      Posted by Brent Snavely | November 9, 2011, 7:17 am
  3. Hey Brent,

    Hope my previous comment didn’t imply negativity or pessimism about starting “the journey.” If you or anyone has the impulse to start a school, learning center, co-op or whatever, I’d strongly urge you to GO FOR IT!! Imagine if everyone who spends time and energy criticizing education, and sees the flaws within the system, were to launch their own initiative!! Think small, think local and dive in. It is important to do foundational work, but I think it is possible to spend too much time looking for “the perfect field” to play on. Almost any backyard lot will do. “The game” might be a little rough at first, but you’ll make improvements as you go. And you will undoubtedly make a difference in the lives of some children. It doesn’t take that many to make a fantastic game, and if you believe you can provide the opportunity for transformational growth for even one child, you have all the moral imperative you need to begin.

    I guess my previous point was simply to suggest we not think that getting “the field built” means that all your problems are solved. Quite the contrary,once the field is built, then you get to constantly refine how you want to “play the game.” The point after all, is not field-building, but rather game-playing. So let’s all grab some friends, roll up our sleeves and take our best shot. The game awaits.


    Posted by Paul Freedman | November 9, 2011, 9:54 am
    • Paul,

      The voice of experience is important, and I didn’t take your insights as being at all negative. From what I have been able to discern from your posts, I suspect that even had you known what you now know, you would still have engaged in the continuous building of your Field.

      The construction crew I am a small part of is in the process of selecting the Field’s building site. We view the selection and the construction of the Field as parts of the ‘game’ being played, which is a multi-generational process of developing a community (as to which an educational ‘institute’ is an integral element). We are hopeful rather than expectational, and we are Going For It!


      Posted by Brent Snavely | November 9, 2011, 12:05 pm
  4. Brent, These are great questions. I love the spirit in which they’re asked.

    I don’t really believe in building schools. (Hey, no offense Paul, and The Salmonberry School is spectacular.) To me, places where people of all ages go to do learning together, in hundreds of different ways, and in service of the particular community’s needs–multipurpose educational centers–is a much more appropriate vision.

    If learning is increasingly available to all kinds of folks, in all kinds of ways, outside of school, then what is the purpose of school? Do we have good answers to this question?

    Nearby me in a wealthy Boston suburb, a high-attainment town recently spent $200 million building a brand new high school–the most expensive high school ever built in the state of Massachusetts.

    It is pretty much the same old egg-crate classroom, on the big, comprehensive high school model, only shinier and better and more deluxe (athletic facilities to cry for). I can only think, every time I enter it: what a colossal waste of money. The vision of education this school represents is dead. And thousands of taxpayers will be paying the bill for these bricks and mortar for decades.

    So I don’t believe in building it. It’s about evolving it around a new vision of learning, and how and when learning happens.


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | November 9, 2011, 2:33 pm
    • Kristen,

      I like your question more than the ones I posed.

      What, exactly, is the purpose of school? I’ve had quite a bit of schooling, but aside from picking up a few things while ‘in school’, most of my learning has taken place well outside the scope of formal confines.

      Although a site of some sort is needed for ‘learning’ (just as it is for living), the building or constructing of a Field of Dreams would seem to involve developing and then committing to a philosophical framework that is flexible and subject to change more than focusing on a physical location or structure.

      The picture of the Newton school reminds me of the high school I attended. The word ‘prison’ comes to my mind, but perhaps this is simply due to unpleasant experiences…

      What is the purpose of school? My thought on this is not particularly uplifting. As far as the mainstream schools I am aware of go, I think they are social control devices by and through which youths are enculturated, indoctrinated and sorted — a Field of Dreams would be something much different.

      Thanks for asking what may be the “real” question.


      Posted by Brent Snavely | November 9, 2011, 11:59 pm

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