Ted Richards and the Chicago Wisdom Project

In the bigger picture of our Daily Meditations we are currently holding up people who are walking the walk of the Four Paths and bearing witness to a mystical and prophetic vocation. 

Recently we have celebrated Rabbi Michael Lerner and the International Association of Sufism that bestowed a much deserved honor on him, as well as Aeesha and Kokomon Clottey and their daughter Amana Harris who have been active in their Attitudinal Healing movement in West Oakland for thirty years.  We have also celebrated Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker movement and her commitment to that spiritual work of mercy we call Education and how to renew it.    

“Emilio” Excerpt of the West Street mural “The Super Heroes” conceptually designed by West Oakland Middle School ArtEsteem students as an outreach of the Attitudinal Health Center. Photo from the AHC-Oakland site, summary here.

For the past few days we have discussed the YELLAWE program that I launched as a pilot project to serve inner-city teenagers by offering an alternative learning experience, one that emphasizes creativity and the educing (from which “education” gets its name) the wisdom within all of us. 

Theodore Richards. Photo from TheodoreRichards.com

In the YELLAWE program we were particularly blessed when Ted Richards joined as our director.  Ted had graduated from the California Institute of Integral Studies with a degree in cosmology and consciousness and was committed to working with inner city youth–something he had done previously in South Chicago and Harlem before landing in the Bay area. 

After a very successful year directing our YELLAWE Project in Oakland, Ted Richards and his wife Arianne, who also taught with us, moved back to South Chicago with their newborn baby.  There Ted started the Chicago Wisdom Project which serves inner-city youth. Since then, his co-worker Gabriel Pickus has birthed the Baltimore Wisdom Project. Much of the DNA from the YELLAWE program is carried forward in these latest incarnations.

Creatively Maladjusted by Theodore Richards

Ted has written a fine book on reinventing education called Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto.  The title comes from Martin Luther King’s observation that “human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” 

He talks about the “deficit in imagination” among leaders in our culture and while most of his work has been with marginalized children, “I do not believe we are doing a good job with the elite, either.  If we were, our elites would not be destroying our planet.”  He urges us “not to pacify a child, but to allow her to safely explore her world.”  What a young child needs is not more TV but a chance “to safely explore her world, to share stories about the world with her elders, and to be loved.”  

In our YELLAWE program we were trying to instill values such as creativity, community, courage, critical thinking, ecology, and more.

Classroom and desks. Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Ted is also talking about values and how to teach so that learning is not boring but bracing, not corporate-bent but children-oriented.  He writes about how the “factory school” arose in America parallel to the “factory farm” and both are based essentially on a model of a prison.  “In each case an organic process has been turned into a machine.”  Speaking from his experience working at the margins of the school system, he comments that he is “not the first to notice the clear connection between the bad school and the prison.”

A critical teaching of values is missing.  Without that, what happens in education is a reflection of the status quo, which is to say of the capitalist worldview.  His Chicago Wisdom Project teaches alternative values.  We shall explore more about it tomorrow.

See Theodore Richards, Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Eduction Movement Manifesto, pp. xix, 18.

See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, p.  356.

Banner Image: Theodore Richards works in the Chicago Wisdom Project food forest/community garden. Photo by the Chicago Wisdom Project, shown in TheodoreRichards.com.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you recognize truth in Dr. King’s remarks that the future lies with the” creatively maladjusted”?  Be with that concept.  Why do you think it rings  true?

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.

After 29 successful years of offering an alternative educational model to adults, Matthew Fox here lays out his basic educational philosophy and presents a revolution in education in the process.  “A.W.E.” stands for Ancestral Wisdom Education: balancing the three R’s by honoring the teachings of the Ancestors of all species, and by teaching values through what Fox calls “the 10 C’s.”

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2 thoughts on “Ted Richards and the Chicago Wisdom Project”

  1. Avatar

    Is there a way the AWE Project book can be sent directly from the publisher to a person serving a sentence in New Lisbon Correctional Center in New Lisbon, WI?
    Thank you for all your goodness and creativity.
    Montel Menting. Mmenting @comcast.net

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