The Bridge 1-4

The Bridge 1.4

October 15, 2017

“I know we have only know each other for four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days”-Navin R. Johnson


The Bridge is a month old and I feel like Navin R. Johnson from The Jerk, we may have only been sending out this news for a month, but the positive response and feedback that we have received makes it feel like at least two months. The interest in City of Bridges is growing and there is a recognition that we need new models for education here in the region. As a result I have a few thoughts to share with you this week:

  1. I had the opportunity to attend the American Middle East Institute Annual Conference this past week. The focus of their 10th anniversary conference was “Transformational Technologies” and the presentations on innovations in health care and business were exciting. (There was also a short film on Oman, which resulted in placing the country near the top of my list of places to visit). One of the presenters told the story of the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. It was built in the 1930s and spanned the Choluteca River.

The Bridge was designed to withstand hurricanes and when hurricane Mitch struck in     1998, these design considerations allowed to to survive the category 5 storm…..unfortunately the river moved….

Schools and education in the United States were designed to withstand the hurricanes and span the river from childhood until adulthood…..unfortunately the river has moved, childhood and adulthood are not in the same places and we need new ideas and ideals for schooling. City of Bridges High School is committed to transforming the learning and experiences of schooling.

2. This week also brought some sad news. My uncle Rev. Dr. David L. Bartlett passed away this week. He was a minister, faculty member at the divinity school of the University of Chicago, Yale Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary and Colombia Theological Seminary. He also served as a minister in multiple congregations. One of his sons, shared a note that my grandfather presented to my uncle.  My grandfather, Rev. Dr. Genus (Gene) Ebert Bartlett, shared the following wisdom:

“It is not a very easy or carefree generation into which you have come, David. Though all men in every country hate war and fear it, we are still killing each other as though there were nothing else to do. Hatreds we had not dreamed of have overrun us like floods. But, son, you must not run away from these things. You must do something about these. The Bible says of your namesake, ‘And David when he had served his generation fell on sleep’. We pray that you, too, may serve your generation. For when you do, son, you will discover the greatest truth that there is in this world. You will learn the wondrous fact that God is here and because of that all life has dignity and wonder and meaning. You will find that His presence in this world into which you have just come will put a song and a lantern in your heart.”
Reading this message this week I was in awe of its resonance 66 years after it was written. It seems as though “Hatreds we had not dreamed of have overrun us like floods.” And we “…must not run away from these things,”… we, “…. must do something about these.”  We continue to be live in times when we must not only acknowledge the hatreds of the world, but we must also not run away, instead we must act. City of Bridges is committed to action against hate and action for empathy, justice, peace, compassion, and joy. 
3. In education, as in many fields, we take ideas from the peers that we admire and adapt them to the needs of our communities and our students. It is my hope that we always make sure to give credit to those who inspire us! Along those lines I received the following message from The Stone Independent School in Lancaster PA, as part of their newsletter:
“And we’re watching Big Companies Make Amazing Mistakes.  Particularly SpaceX, particularly this awesome two minute SpaceX video called “How Not To Land an Orbital Rocket”.  It turns out it takes an incredible number of incredible mistakes to achieve real innovation — a lot of prototyping, a lot of revision, a lot of real failure (and a lot of exploding rockets!).  Here it’s worth wondering….if maybe schools should get a little better at embracing “failure” as a natural part of the learning process?”
I was especially drawn to the final article because I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts, home of Smith College. I can assure you that City of Bridges will make mistakes and poor decisions. We will fail and regret our choices, but we will reflect on our failures and come together so that we can learn and grow and create something that serves each individual students and also the larger needs of peace, justice and love in the world. City of Bridges is committed to always try, to always celebrate our successes and to always learn from our failures.
These were longer thoughts this week, so I am going to leave it to just three. Please share City of Bridges with other people, please share your hope about the future with children and please share your curiosity and talents with the world.
Thank you and Be Well,

The Bridge 1.2

Welcome to the second issue of the The Bridge 1.2 (Year 1 Issue 2)!

I had the opportunity over the past few weeks to be reminded about why progressive education matters and why we need a progressive high school here in Pittsburgh. 

 Recently I spent a couple days in Lancaster visiting The Stone Independent School,, a new progressive high school that shares a common lineage and ethos to City of Bridges High School. The students were engaged with real world learning from building traditional Andean clay ovens to exploring Lancaster’s storm water system.

The students were also deeply exploring the Bahagavad-Gita and Human Centered Design. One of the most important elements of my visit was the daily morning meeting. During the meeting the administration, faculty and the students spoke about the developing culture of their school and were reminded about the importance of a school living through the lens of its mission. Therefore it is time to share the mission of City of Bridges High School:

City of Bridges High School is a progressive, holistic, 9th -12th grade high school which believes that school should be transformational for the students, the community, and the world. It is the mission of the City of Bridges High School to graduate young adults who are prepared to assert their agency in the world, who have the lived-experience, knowledge and skills to follow their passions, and who are dedicated to living with empathy, justice, peace, compassion, and joy in order to transform the world into a measurably more positive place.

 I also touched based with the Youth Initiative High School,, in Viroqua Wisconsin and discovered that the school was largely empty because each class was out in the world learning and experiencing life.  As an example all the 10th graders were learning about the unique geological and ecological environment of the Driftless region while on a week long canoe trip. 

Progressive education has a firm foundation here in Pittsburgh, the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh, Kentucky Avenue School, and the Falk School all provide Kindergarten-8th grade progressive experience for students. The time is right for a progressive high school to complete that journey for our students, and our communities. 

 Here are a few reasons why the time is right:


1. Because Citizenship Matters. Now more than ever we need young people who grow up to be fully engaged with civil society in the service of peace and justice. Progressive schools have been proven to “…cultivate children’s sense of obligation to a larger community and give them the basic tools to contribute to our democracy.” [1]


2. Because students at progressive schools have been proven to attend college at a higher rate than their peers, to earn more credits in college, to achieve higher grade point averages in college, to be less likely to drop out and less prone to violence, and to have a measurably positive impact on college campuses[2]


3. Because the future requires people who are critical thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators. “The teaching of creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and a love of learning itself will be critical to transitioning from the industrial age to the automated age.” [3]


4. Because education is becoming increasingly standardized. The testing industry is now a two billion dollar industry, “non-profits” like The College Board net more than $50 million dollars every year, and public and private school curricula have been genericized for the sake of meaningless test scores


5. Because this is the 21st Century and we need adults who can collaborate, assert their agency, identify problems and solutions, and who approach the world seeking justice, with a critical eye and empathetic heart. If these are the adults we need then our high schools have to reflect these same values


Thank you and Be well,




[1] Little, Tom; Ellison, Katherine (2015-03-02). Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools (p. 170). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition. 

[2] Foote, Martha. Test Duress: A Case Study of a High School with a Progressive Mission and Its Response to High-stakes Graduation Tests. 2009. Print. 

[3] Santens, Scott. Stop Teaching Students What to Think. Teach them How to Think. Education Week. Sept. 26. 2017. Web.