Above Nav Container

Utility Container

Search Trigger (Container)

Button (Container)

Button 2 (Container)

Mobile Menu Trigger (container)

Off Canvas Navigation Container

Close Trigger (container)

Search

A giving economy is where we take care of one another to benefit everyone. If we think of our campus and our community as a gift going in all directions, we are drawn into relationships now spanning two generations of The Grauer School.

A Giving Economy

We learned of the gift or giving economy many years ago from the Native Americans. We hoped we could have one at The Grauer School. No matter that we, as early Americans, rejected and abused them and their way of life. Maybe too late, but maybe we are coming around some. 

It would be an economy not only based upon the currency of dollars demanded, but equally upon what we know we must give to have a healthy community—to take care of one another. Basic in what the indigenous Americans showed us, we would treat our land and assets like a tribe does: a regenerating micro-economy right on campus.  

At first, the discovery of the concept of the gift economy only highlighted how far we were from such a campus. I was never sure we could live up to it. There has been much to unlearn. Now we are planning a trip to visit the Kumeyaay Indians, who live inland. They may have insights.

Dr. Stuart Grauer drinking water from a mountain forest stream in Bigfork, Montana  - July 21, 2022

 
The Kumeyaay Indians lived in our area before us and believed in the spirit of all living things. That has been easy to embrace when we see a bobcat or family of quail, not so easy when a rattler slithers onto our deck.

Kumeyaay may have hunted, gathered, and farmed on our very land generations ago. Here is a hint about that: our campus coastal sage is thick, not uneven as it is in most natural settings—it is as though our land was once cleared and tilled and has now grown back. And why do they not live here or own this land when we believe they once did? I don’t know.

In their day, the Kumeyaay planted trees and fields of grain, and they grew squash, beans and corn, “the Native American trinity.” They gathered and grew medicinal herbs and plants, which we have labeled behind our school—please take a walk back there if you haven't yet. They dined on fresh fruits, berries, pine nuts and acorns.

Ethnobotanists say that these bounties tasted nothing like the mass-produced grocery store varieties: they were more complex and richer in flavor. With a little imagination, there is something inspiring about this as an image of independent schooling: Tribe-like, place-based, and outdoor oriented. We study our own land and learn how to grow there. What could make more sense?

Dr. Peter Mannisto, Grauer Math Teacher, playing violin to his son Sammy - August 2022

Farming was regenerative back then, and soil was treated as a sacred commodity. Kumeyaay knew they could only benefit from the land to the extent the land benefitted from them. 

I have never seen mention of native soil or campus wildlife in any of the scores of accreditation studies I have read, though gardening has gained steadily in popularity as a program in schools all over. Having a giving or gift economy meant we would have to treat the soil on campus just as well as it treats us, with gratitude, and to express that gratitude. Soil nourishes us, we consciously recognize that, and we nourish it back with aeration, cover crops, compost, rotations, etc. To have a gift economy means we teach our children about this nourishment, to be aware of what the soil is doing for us.

As our school gardening program has grown, I have learned that we are not working on plants so much as we are working on soil. Today, this is just exactly as we treat our most precious resource, our students, and not as something we add chemicals to, then extract from for personal gain. We are not creating students, or even creating learning, we can only create the fertile conditions for learning. Given that, students are natural learners. That analogy might not be for everyone, but it would be a gift economy.

Not just kids, it is not easy for any of us in this contemporary Western culture of ours to consider that the grass does not grow just for us. This is the “anthropocentric” viewpoint that could be our demise.

Grauer Music teacher Isaac Langen, meeting seniors Embry R. '23 and Tate S. '23 while vacationing at Big Bear, California - August 8, 2022

Once, when we were worried about water use, we almost swapped out the soil and grass for artificial, plastic turf, sometimes called Astroturf. When we heard about a field like that heating up and melting in Los Angeles, and thought about our gift economy, and also about the quail and rabbits that clean things up in the way they do around campus, we scrapped that plan. Now we are studying putting in a well or recycled water for irrigating the campus greenery more sustainably.

The Indians tried to teach us that a giving economy is not only for people or based on people. On our campus, the crows and robins have a fair time with our fallen peaches, as do other critters. I admit, we have set traps for the rats which devour our crops to no end, and multiply for it. 

The monarch, with its orange wings laced with black lines adds delicate beauty to our campus. This species is severely threatened right now and dying off fast. We created a monarch butterfly way station because, if we don’t create a home for the monarchs, who will? We give them milkweed, they give us pollination. They give us beauty. Recognizing and supporting nature’s beauty is added value—that’s an element of the giving economy. We have owl boxes and chicken coops and vegetables and flowers coming up every season, focusing heavily on native plants.

Butterflies and flowers on the beautiful Grauer campus during the peaceful summer - August 12, 2022 - Photo by Dr. Stuart Grauer

Can a campus ignore all this while its students read about ecology in books? Here is the answer:

Our students ought best to study from nature, in nature, and not just about nature.

Gratitude and reciprocity flow from giving back: we honor grandparents and elders, as well as the impractical beauty that no one owns (like our native habitat corridor). I’m grateful to the Kumeyaay and I hope they would approve of our guardianship. We are not even halfway to a real gift economy, but the vision lures us always further. 

When we think of our campus and our community as a gift going in all directions, rather than a thing someone sells and someone else buys, or as a transaction we make, or as a place for warehousing kids and books, we are drawn into relationships now spanning two generations of The Grauer School. Those indigenous to our nation’s lands taught that we must think seven generations if we are to understand how to honor our past benefactors and take better care of our future. So maybe our school is two-sevenths on our way. But we do not need to wait five more generations. If we are going to be stewards, or trustees, or leaders of our school, we will need to do at least this much: go out to the school quad. Get a sense of our ground. The sky. The four directions. Take a slow walk. Maybe taste a little bit of soil. 


COMMENT! Click on the "Comments" drop-down box below to share a comment about this column.

Photos for Dr. Grauer's Column

Dr. Stuart Grauer drinking water from a mountain forest stream in Bigfork, Montana  - July 21, 2022

Dr. Peter Mannisto, Grauer Math Teacher, playing violin to his son Sammy - August 2022

Grauer Music teacher Isaac Langen, meeting seniors Embry R. '23 and Tate S. '23 while vacationing at Big Bear, California - August 8, 2022

Butterflies and flowers on the beautiful Grauer campus during the peaceful summer - August 12, 2022 - Photo by Dr. Stuart Grauer

Fearless Teaching® Book
by Dr. Stuart Grauer


Fearless Teaching® is a stirring and audacious jaunt around the world that peeks—with the eyes of one of America’s most seasoned educators–into places you will surely never see on your own. Some are disappearing. It is a bit like playing hooky from school. You will travel to the Swiss Alps, Korea, Navajo, an abandoned factory in Missouri, the Holy Land, the Great Rift Valley, the schools of Cuba, the ocean waves, and the human subconscious—oh, and Disneyland.

There you will find colorful stories for the encouragement, inspiration, and courage needed by educators and parents. Fearless Teaching is not a fix-it book—it is more a way of seeing the world and the school so that you can stay in your work and focus on what matters most to you.

"Grauer’s writing reminds us that Great Teaching, singular, rare, unusual, is something that should be sought after and found. Thank you.”
Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, Oxford scholar, founder of The Dreyfuss Initiative

Click here to order Fearless Teaching® today

Dr. Grauer's Column: Archive of Past Columns

Dr. Grauer's Column - Top Tier

High school seniors around the country are in the process of submitting college applications, leading to important decisions about which colleges should they apply to for admission. One of the deciding factors can be whether the school is rated in the "top tier". Does attending a top-rated school lead to happiness for every student?

Dr. Grauer's Column - Thanksgiving

The Native American “giving economy” was based on sustainability for their whole ecosystem. We are learning that our campus ecosystem is just as much a curriculum as any textbook.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Dirt

To the Kumeyaay, the soil was a sacred commodity that they treated well so they could grow everything they needed to live on. Applying the same principles to teaching, we find that our students grow naturally when we provide them with conditions they need to thrive.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Kumeyaay Counsel For Our Teachers

This week's column expands on the concept of a giving economy, practiced by the Kumeyaay who lived on the land long before The Grauer School was built. Our students are learning how to model this behavior, helping us build a giving and sustainable campus.

Dr. Grauer's Column - The Age of Questioning

The Grauer School Faculty welcomed the 9th grade class to high school in our unique annual Matriculation Ceremony. Dr. Grauer shares his advice, which can also serve as words of encouragement for schools to celebrate the coming of age of our youths all over the world.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Stoke and Wisdom

Guest columnist Clayton Payne describes his transformational experience with the wisdom and connections shared between generations on his 39th Grauer expedition. It all comes down to this—do what you love, with love, because you love it.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Four Geese

Dr. Grauer is experiencing nature on the other side of the country in Maine this week, enjoying the quiet beauty of rain falling on the lake on an autumn morning while paddling in his kayak.