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The Star City Shadow School aims to facilitate and build experiences of c
ollective 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 organizations 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 co-ordinators, 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