JUDE BINDER SAYS "LIFE IS ABOUT NOURISHMENT" - Education: WV Fourth In Nation With Spending, 39th In Achievement


"Art is not a cherry on the top of life" says Heartwood's Jude Binder

By Dianne Weaver

"That which is in children is what education should inspire," said Jude Binder, the artistic director and teacher of one of West Virginia's leading centers for the arts, located in Calhoun County.

Binder spoke to the Challenge WV conference held in Charleston last week. Challenge is an advocacy group for community-based schools.

Binder made a compelling presentation, saying "How can we rob children of their uniqueness?" expressing concern that children are no longer being nourished in school systems that teach to the test.

Life is about nourishment. "You are nourished when you are part of a community," she said.

Marty Strange, the Policy Director of the Rural Schools and Community Trust, said "We need to stop weighing the pig and feed it," referring to teaching to the test.

Strange said "I'm a shameless advocate for rural communities, expressing fear that schools could become "treadmills of despair."

He said Challenge WV is recognized nationwide for changing the political climate and stripping the veneer.

Challenge's Linda Martin (right) welcomes WVs new first lady
Gayle Manchin (left) at small schools conference

Challenge coordinator Linda Martin said the group will be pushing for a "No cost busing bill," which will not only end long bus rides but essentially end a long history of school consolidation in West Virginia.

Dr. Larry Parsons, who was given one of two awards at the conference, said the time has come that "We meet the needs of children and not the wants of adults."

Also recognized was Lincoln County school board president Carol Smith, who gave a "strong and steady voice for small schools."

Dr. Laura Jimerson of Vermont said there are critical problems with No Child Left Behind. "A staggering 53 of WVs 55 counties failed to meet the program's progress, she said.

West Virginia has closed 325 community schools with plans to close another 151. Most are elementary schools.

"Rural communities matter and should not be left behind," said Strange. "Do children have a right to have a good education close to their home?"

Strange said the results are in, students in community based schools do better.

He was critical of West Virginia's educational administrators, saying the state is the fourth in the nation in spending and 39th in achievement.