Today I met with Mr Boyte to have a research interview. We met in his office at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship on campus, an appropriate setting for such a discussion.
We started off the discussion talking about a book called “Blood Struggle” which is about Native American cultures and their resistance to assimilation into the American culture, and how successful they have been. Free spaces in the Navajo tribes and reservation areas were discussed to kick off our discussion.
I explained to him how we were explaining Free Spaces to the other people being interviewed, and I read an excerpt from his book Free Spaces to provide a base definition, also using my forum post on his book to bolster it with what I thought a Free Space to be.
We moved on to the questions and he remarked on while he doesn’t typically engage directly with campus issues, he feels the policy makers and administration could do more to prepare students for a lifetime of employment, not just employment in the next few years. Too often things are done too quickly, focused on making things faster and cheaper, and students are not encouraged to get an education, but to complete a major so they can find a job. Its job training rather than getting an education. I remarked this is similar to the situations I encounter when I tell people I’m a history major but do not wish to be a teacher or a museum curator. I’m getting an education to know things, not to know how to do a job.
He mentioned one issue he finds is with students and their mental health. Students deal with depression and anxiety, affecting all aspects of their life. He feels the administration could do more to help students with this.
We also talked about the struggle to explain a Free Space is not a place to go to. Its not a physical location where you go and complain, or talk about things that bother you. People seem to think that a Free Space is a forum to complain to the people who you think can change things, and we need to re-define this to be a place where you can find mutual self-interest with organizations or people that can help you make change happen. It’s a place to organize with others, a place to build civic responsibility and a place to learn skills that empower individuals and groups to make change happen.
Next we talked about Public Achievement and he gave some examples of he and Dennis reaching out to high schools to build programs that coached or taught public achievement. Free spaces enable public achievement.
He recommended I contact Nancy Kari, who organized a free space for student issues at St Kates in the 90’s and also Noelle Johnson, the coordinator of public achievement at Northern Arizona University. As I was leaving, she actually called Mr Boyte and so I was able to briefly speak with her – weird that she would call just as I was leaving.