It’s challenging for me to summarize Brent’s contribution to education for in doing so I need acknowledge his passing and I’m still a little frozen in doing so.
For the past few months, when it was apparent how thorough cancer’s grip was on Brent, I reflected on our many ‘ed-ventures’ from launching and running ‘Virtual High’ in Vancouver from 1993-97 and again launching ‘SelfDesign Learning Community’ in 2002 with the help of a few other like-minded colleagues, to many other initiatives big and small. All designed to make a positive difference in the learning lives of children, young people and families seeking something other than conventional schooling.
Brent had already pioneered the award-winning and extremely innovative ‘Wondertree’ program for kids in Vancouver by the time I bumped into him in 1991 in Vancouver. I had just quit conventional teaching in frustration, after 4 years and about 15 different school-based jobs. On reading his Masters thesis (Simon Fraser University) on Wondertree, I recall pumping my arm in the air and shouting, “Yes!”, in recognition that what Brent uniquely conceived and described was what I had mind – and heart – when I began teaching in 1987.
Not long after he and I put our minds and hearts together to design and launch Virtual High for teens in Vancouver, a program that many people told us was a noble concept, but “impossible.”
Brent didn’t know the meaning of “impossible”. And, led by his tenacity, we garnered support enough to turn “impossible” into “possible” for 4 remarkable, life-changing years. Just ask the youth that participated in it until we were stymied by bureaucracy. “Ahead of our time,” we were told.
Brent was a brilliant, uniquely-spirited educational genius and I and many, many people will miss him dearly. And we are grateful – and richer – for his insights and legacy.
If you’re an educator, or interested in education, and especially progressive education (make that nurturing authentic learning) and you’re not yet familiar with Brent’s work and legacy, I encourage you to discover it. Seldesign.org is a starting place. So is his book, “SelfDesign: Nurturing Genius Through Natural Learning“. You will never conceive of learning nor its little brother education in the same way.
Good-bye my friend.