Phoenixville Area Time Bank discusses education reform

Photo by Candice Monhollan Phoenixville Area Time Bank member Brian Atkins listens to guest speaker Dr. Seamus Mulryan during an education talk on Aug. 9.

Education is always at the forefront, especially around presidential elections, but sometimes it’s better to look at the local level instead of national. A group of residents gathered together in Phoenixville on Aug. 9 to discuss problems and possible solutions with education that can be done by citizens.

The community room in Customers Bank filled with eight people to listen to guest speaker Dr. Seamus Mulryan, the professor of education at Cabrini College, with the intent of learning about education and what can be done to better it.

“In order to understand where we are today, or to understand what reform might entail today, it’s good to know how we got to where we are,” Mulryan said. “It’s also good to know what reforms have come.”

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The event, sponsored by the Phoenixville Area Time Bank, looked at the evolution of education for the first hour by Mulryan before it was opened up for a roundtable discussion where all eight in attendance participated. Time Bank allows people to make friends and share skills or services like working on the computer, babysitting, office organization, etc.

The beginning of the roundtable saw the same handful speaking the entire time, but when Richard Liston, founder of The Sphere College Project, took a moment to give the floor to those who had been quiet. The discussion explored what was on everyone’s mind and how they felt about education and possibilities of improvement.

Liston said that there’s a certain group of people feel they have to keep their privilege and the view of “your loss is my gain” when people should work collaboratively.

Adults who are coming to these decisions about things but aren’t actually educated enough to have a realistic view on what’s going on, he said.

Virginia Stewart said she wished teachers could be open with their creativity and if they saw a student excel in certain areas that they could help him or her develop skills.

She said the world would be different if “children were able to develop in their own natural way.”

Jennifer Munson had criticism of No Child Left behind saying that for testing children are taught to learn key words instead of comprehending what they are reading.

Emily Neblock, 21, a native of Downingtown, Pa., opened up after Liston’s gesture.

“My favorite part was when Richard used one of the techniques to open up space,” Neblock said. “It made me feel more comfortable with speaking. Based on one single act of thoughtfulness, the whole conversation took a turn for the more patient and thoughtful and kind and productive.”

Mulryan was pleased with how it turned out and happy to be a part of the event.

“The study of education is a civic imperative because we all are responsible for public school,” Mulryan said. “It’s really important for me to have opportunities like this where I can participate in conversations with the public and not just in a college classroom.”

“Really the only goal that I had was to open people up to the conversations about the purpose of school that’s been going on in this country since Thomas Jefferson,” Mulryan said. “What is it that public schools are for and why do we have them?”

An organizer of the event and Time Bank member Brian Atkins said he was pleased with how the education talk turned out.

“It was great to see young people getting involved,” Atkins said. “I was really pleased with Seamus’ presentation and I learned a lot about why I feel the way I do and what the real story was.”

With the success of the meeting, he said he would like to have several more along the same line.

“There is a plan to have somebody from as many different types of education come in at different meetings and present their educational philosophy,” Atkins said. “I would like to see it be a long-term series. I’d like to see it take off into a group of people who just make education more important.”

For more information about the Time Bank, visit http://patb.timebanks.org.