Framing Statement

The central concerns and ultimate goals of Star City Shadow School are expressed in the mission statement; achieving those goals will occur only through a gradual process of experimentation, trial and error, learning, sharing, and expanding the community networks involved with the school. The practical implementation of SCSS will inevitably present a range of challenges and difficulties which will only be identified and overcome through the collective practice of the Shadow School community as it evolves. As we launch the project we must take account of the conditions from which we start, taking small steps as we learn our limitations and strengths and work to address them. The Mission Statement describes not where we will start out, but the direction in which we intend to grow.

The steering committee came together to conceive and establish SCSS, and to devise a long-term concept of what the project could become and a practical infrastructure to facilitate it. As we work to establish the Shadow School as a sustainable entity, we will act as facilitators and spokesmen for SCSS and oversee the day-to-day administration of schedules, websites, communication and record-keeping while also continuing to work together on completing and adjusting the school’s infrastructure in light of the challenges met in the course of the initial, pilot semester of Fall/Winter 2011. It is our hope that in the course of this period a working structure can be established within which the committee’s role will cease to be executive and become solely administrative, while the SCSS community at large will directly create and guide the curriculum in unmediated fashion. This is when the school’s full potential will begin to unfold.

This initial pilot period will be limited to five semester-long classes, four of them led by members of the steering committee, in order to identify and fix potential problems or difficulties before the school’s size and complexity becomes unmanageable, and while all of the factors can be held in view. In addition to these five classes will be any number of one- or two-day classes, lectures, workshops, field trips etc. which can be proposed and led by anybody involved with the Shadow School. These can also act as experiments or tests for future semester-long classes. Since the steering committee has emerged from Roanoke’s arts & cultural community, most of the initial long-term classes are related to the arts; but after this pilot term, it is hoped that as more members of the community propose and teach classes, the curriculum will expand to address every aspect of life.

After this initial test period, proposals for semester-long classes will be opened to everyone involved with SCSS, so that anyone in the Roanoke community can propose, design, and lead classes on any subject and in any format that they choose. As the school continues to find its footing and run smoothly, it will be open to any number of partnerships with a growing array of community organisations, whether schools or co-ops or shelters, and further explore the ways that education can function and the forms it can take in the community. At the same time, it will begin establishing contacts and relationships with similar programmes in other cities and countries, host lectures and workshops by visitors to Roanoke, and expand its online resources to encourage learning experiments with others worldwide.

Mission Statement

The Star City Shadow School aims to facilitate and build experiences of collective learning founded in the diverse grassroots communities of the New River Valley. We intend to develop a framework for the non-profit exchange of information, skills, and perspectives accessible to anyone regardless of class, age, or previous education. Like its participants and its subject matter, the school’s locations will be diverse and integrated with the community–from informal meetings at homes and public spaces to lectures and workshops hosted by venues and organisations already helping to define and expand the cultural life of Roanoke and the surrounding region. While the need for such projects seems particularly keen in the current economic climate, and particularly in the face of increasingly restrictive and commercially-directed guidelines for the funding of educational institutions, the Shadow School’s mandate more broadly addresses both the form and the content of what education means in our society, reclaiming the control and circulation of knowledge from the grip of state and corporate power.

This involves not only the exchange of knowledge but also the nurturing of grassroots communities. Toward this end, the Shadow School hopes to help forge networks across a broad array of the intersecting communities already addressing and supporting various aspects of civic and cultural life, and foster greater communication and collaboration between them. It will also involve partnering in a number of ways with existing institutions, when those institutions can be seen to play a positive role in Roanoke but are unable to encompass certain forms of knowledge or pedagogical models. In this way communities served by these official institutions have access to educational experiences impossible within that context, while also engaging in direct and non-hierarchical ways with a more diverse group of people rooted in the city itself. The educational models explored will range from structured classes and formal lectures by visiting or local speakers to informal discussion groups and events attempting to explore the intersections of pedagogy with leisure, conversation, and play.

In this way, we hope to encourage the sharing of pockets of vital skills and information that exist, but are not yet fully utilised or explored, within the region. The Shadow School will be cross-disciplinary and non-hierarchical; when fully established, classes will be proposed, taught, and attended by any member of the community with something to share. An instructor or lecturer in one class will be a student in another. Some activities will not correspond to the teacher-student dichotomy, or will re-imagine the ways in which this relationship might take shape.  The pilot committee or administrative board is intended to discover and establish a workable structure for the school, to organise and co-ordinate the school’s activities, and maintain its day-to-day infrastructural needs. Rather than constituting a centralised dispenser or regulator of knowledge, we intend to act as facilitators and coordinators, a forum for the exchange of communal resources and a circuit for the circulation of information. Beyond the curriculum itself, this goal will be further pursued through the maintenance and expansion of resources online which will provide not only a database of current and past classes, but freely accessible teaching materials for past, present, future, and potential classes, thus encouraging the possibilities for self-guided learning projects, and the exchange of resources with similar projects and individuals nationally and internationally.

Star City Shadow School sets itself the task of re-integrating education with everyday life, and situating it within the nexus of personal relationships and civic responsibility. This does not require the exchange of money, the regulation of teaching and learning, or ownership of facilities and resources. It simply calls for the focusing and activation of the collective experience, curiosity, generosity, and imagination already in the process of transforming our community.

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