1. Motivation — Why did you choose to run for this office?
School boards are always dealing with maintenance issues By Norma J F (Fox) Harrison Candidate for School Board Director
This information is provided by the candidate
School is about complicating learning, making it confusing, forcing unsuspecting students out; supporting advantaged students.
CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE 1. Motivation — Why did you choose to run for this office? School boards are always dealing with maintenance issues – essential to maintaining and expanding the status quo; teaching to retain the present structures, as though those, if done right, could serve us all, evidence to the contrary… extensive evidence to the contrary.
My campaign is the effort to make available a forum to explore, develop and experiment with ways to use education for transformation, not reproduction of this aberrative society. The present social structure is, as we know, deleterious to life, to Earth. There is no available structure within it to acknowledge that no adjustment, no reform, no amount of increased funding, no extension of union rights are going to change school from an uncomfortable – often hated, enforced requirement. I propose forming the forum for that discussion within the framework of the conventional body, the school board.
I see from the Planet that all or most of us candidates are saying the same thing, being very talented at and committing strongly to continuation of the basic structure, the status quo. However, my strategy can be summarized by my encouragement of ‘the withering away of ‘the school’ ‘ , much as the objective of forming a just, comfortable society is ‘the withering away of the state’. I want us to be able to say together that the institutions in which we function, school as basic, serve the profit system, and do not serve our pleasure, leisure, enjoyment and meaningful production of what we need and like.
Once we look at the whole picture and the place of school as formative to recreating it, we can begin to change Federal and State laws, essential to us proposing alternative activities for us all, integrated by age. Age segregation is a most painful convention to which we submit ourselves, and is entirely unreasonable and unnecessary. All people can work and play, relax together in a natural flow, not a format created by the forces that use our labor, segregated by age, for their benefit.
Priorities — What do you believe are the main priorities for the School Board? What are some specific tasks (e.g. specific legislation, policies, etc.) you intend to accomplish while in office?
With the above plan in place, to develop the forum for change, for changing federal and state laws so we can meet to change our locales for learning and teaching, the usual concerns by the school board would become of interim concern. I’d learn from the input of board members, staff and the community, including students, how to deal with the immediate concerns while we’d look toward how to recreate our teaching, learning, and production activities. To these ends there needs to be a place we can acknowledge what we already sense; that, the available labor force, including all able and willing people regardless of age, could produce all we need and like in a 4 hour work WEEK. We’d acknowledge together what we know, that school is an aberration, said to serve what it cannot, and serving what we don’t want it to in ways that hurt us, jobs serve profit, not our well-being and comfort, and are based on an army of the unemployed – forcefully unemployed, with which you’re altogether familiar.
We’d acknowledge that we are all teachers and `students’, learners all our lives, all lovers of learning + and of teaching, sharing our ideas, expanding them, changing them…
Qualifications — Please give a brief summary of your background and qualifications for the office of School Board member.
I was a conventional student in conventional public schools: elementary and high schools and junior and four year colleges, with a bachelors’ degree in education. I studied electronics at John O’Connell High School in San Francisco, where high school-age and adult students were taught that as well as various other shops – auto mechanics, woodworking, etc. – in the same classrooms. I have two children and a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren who went to school. The children still go to school; auto mechanics school; advanced degree in accounting; the two grandchildren completing college degrees – slowly, while they live and work jobs, as well.
I taught schools for 16 years.
I worked as the head of a community organizing program in education in the Total Action Against Poverty (WOP) for two years. As a parent, teacher and especially as a student, I have excellent experience in trying to determine what’s so bad about ‘education’. In my book School Is The Opposite Of Education, by Norma J F Harrison, a study to release us from our confinement you can see some of the reading I’ve done to try to sort that out: Paul Goodman, John Taylor Gatto, Eric Fromm, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis… a long time ago there was a lovely magazine that described efforts and reasons why to attempt alternatives, called This Magazine Is About Schools. It’s tone has changed. It’s not as inspiring and inventive now. A long time ago it was one of the earliest affirmations of the reason for my failure to become a successful teacher.
That’s because it sought alternatives within the conventional framework, the ‘school’ framework. None of my proposal of alternative/s proposes school of any kind as an alternative.
I’ve also read John Dewey, seen the movie ‘Passion for Life’, about a community +age integrated – involved with the plans and activities of a local project. While not depicting my final goals, it employed some of the methods and attitudes I advocate. I saw it 43 years ago when I was studying to get a teaching degree.
Proposed baseball field for the East Campus site — Given the projected expense of building a regulation baseball field at the East Campus site, the scarce resources currently afforded the Alternative High School, and given that the enrollment at that school consists predominately of at-risk youth, where do you stand on the allocation and prioritizing of funds to develop a playing field to benefit the main high school’s athletics programs? Where do you propose the shortfall for construction funds be found? What guarantees would you require to be in place to protect the interests of the AHS students, the King Early Childhood Development program, and the surrounding community including the Berkeley Farmers’ Market that for 20 years has provided fresh produce and a weekly community gathering place for South Berkeley families?
While these needs will have to be met, in an interim effort to answer immediate needs, we need to stop focusing on school as remedial, as curative of society’s problems. It can’t work. I want pools, ball fields, farmers’ markets, all pleasant and meaningful activities. I want us all to be part of making those go on. But I want them as part of how we ALL live, not just for people who’ve been abused by society, or just people of a certain age.
I’m not speaking in ANY way of forcing people to be age-mixed in any location. I am insisting that people of wide age ranges will put themselves together in places where it makes sense to them and they want to. …people studying/teaching algebra, or drawing will emerge out of people building structure together.
School today is a method of sorting out the work force. I want to integrate it, young, old, all of us at what we will, can, …
It is irrational to keep producing successful, super successful, somewhat successful, go-alongs, unsuccessful people out of schools, when in fact, all people can be allowed to be comfortable within a reasonable society, a materially just society.
“Achievement Gap” — The “achievement gap” has been an issue in Berkeley for a number of years. Please give us your thoughts on why this issue exists, and how it could be addressed.
It is a basic component of what I’ve described. Age segregation promotes exclusion from normal life, a feeling of being extraneous, of always having insurmountable hurdles to jump, of not having the right tools to leap them. This extends into adult life as well, the separation of the people who will do well from those who will do less and less well, and poorly and badly. The evidence is clear; school creates the various levels of workers. It is a painful procrustean couch. Many people spend their years after schooling getting over what happened to them in school.
Just going about taking care of ourselves – us all – instead of having constantly to direct ourselves at ultimately unattainable goals – just growing the food, playing the piano, taking care of the baby, cleaning the floor – all the usual events, enhanced as we need by the additional activities that add to our well-being – research of medicines, or of mathematical systems by which to further understand our world – any, all, done as joy, as pleasure, rather than as qualifying us as worthy, as getting us higher or lower pay, differential ability to enjoy living here.
Warm Water Pool — Will you vote to destroy the existing warm water pool (used by hundreds of very disabled seniors and other disabled) at Berkeley High School without funding for its replacement in place? Do you support the existing location of the warm water pool at Berkeley High School’s South campus or do you want to remove it from that location — and if so where would you propose locating it, and where would the additional $4.5 million of funding required to build a new pool come from?
If the warm water pool needs replacement – I’d have to find out about that – it must be replaced with a solution satisfactory to people who use it and to people who care that it is replaced.
Clearly funding has to come from progressive taxation. The protection of the Rich to be rich controverts our efforts to afford us all the services we all work to get and to give us all. Paying to get into parks is absurd. Paying outrageous amounts to get on a bus or a train is intolerable. Not being able to pay the rent, or for medicines and all keeps us at bay. Progressive taxation is like a prayer, given U.S. policies, which subvert humane intentions and controvert local planning. Our outlook clearly is on a federal focus, as well as state and local.
Endorsements — Who has endorsed you so far? Whom do you expect to endorse you?
As I put my ideas out to support people who’d like serious change, I’ll see if others want to endorse me. I will be talking with many more people as I try to use my campaign as I’ve explained, to urge development of a discussion of a different way of doing what we do. I’ve been able to get endorsement from a few of the local activists with whom I’ve been organizing for years. Local similarly impoverished activists.
Campaign Funding — How much money do you currently have for this race? How much money do you plan to raise? Where will the money come from? Describe sources of financial contributions for your campaign that you would refuse to accept (if any).
As I proceed I’ll be asking for contributions. I’m sure I won’t have the opportunity to refuse funding from large financing sources. My objectives are so clearly opposite the system as it stands, that that won’t be a concern.
I plan to make flyers and yard signs and to fund them or to get contributions to pay for them. We’ll see. Mine is obviously not a hugely costly campaign. I rely on local interest to take up what I offer. I’ve only decided to be a candidate after having talked these issues over with so many people up until now, many of whom say, ‘You should campaign for school board’. So, I think the issue is out there and can use some encouragement, which is what I’m attempting. Extensive financing, while essential, is obviously not available for such a different program.
Anything Else? — Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
As many of you know I’ve been active in activities here in Berkeley, around the State and the country: Chicago, Roanoke, Va., New York, even traveling to Israel at one point, to try to support socialism – not possible, it turned out; and visited Cuba in solidarity. My commitment is to our just lives, to our fulfilling lives, to gentle care of Earth, our lovely home, all lovely things for all of us. Like any devotee, I’m convinced we can do this for us all, not necessarily today or tomorrow – but sometime. In the meantime the joy of work toward fine goals is sustaining. I hope to let people access at least that joy.
Teaching, learning, studying are a joy of life. They are largely denied us as we relate to life through the commodification of all aspects of it. I look for our relaxation; for our joy in our work, play – all of our lives. I want us all to play the violin, to play ball, to take it easy, to help each other, to fool around, as well as to do our maintenance. I want to end goal orientation, age segregation, material differentiation – one person with greater access to material comfort than another, so we CAn all just enjoy being here, facilitate each other’s enjoyment being here.
All pretense to the seriousness of life is unnecessary. Obviously our lives are controlled by brutal forces and these need elimination so we can relax and enjoy ourselves. That’s all that ‘school’ should be about. Learning the ‘skills’ takes moments!! Reading is learned as people pass a verge of being read to, of looking over a person’s shoulder while being read to, to reading themselves. School is about complicating that easy transition, making it into a fail or pass difficulty rather than an easy transition.
The skills are as nothing. Their use – wanting to use them, to expand them, to employ them, these are what life is – that is largely denied in varying degrees, to most people, who are corralled into a path by which to ‘make a living’, rather than to live.
I want to enable the discussion/s. …and resulting transformation.


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