(Abram’s pre-ALF BIO)
It’s the last day of camp and it seems like a time for reflections. Over the coming weeks, I intend to ‘chew over’ and integrate a lot of the material that we’ve worked on and the experiences we’ve shared.
Right now, I’d like to share with the community the biographical statement that I submitted before coming to the ALF Summer Intensive. Many would have already seen this in the Google Doc, but I wanted to post it here too, for posterity (within our community).
Why I’m in love with Alternative Education and the Agile Learning Model
Most of the details of my working life can be found in my LinkedIn profile. It should be noted that this is more of a working resume: it’s a selective history based on what I think employers would consider positive experiences. I don’t feel like that is an appropriate summary of who I am, so I’ve taken this as an opportunity to try to represent myself in a broader way.
I grew up in Australia with very supportive and loving parents (and two brothers). Before I say anything about my experience with ‘school’ I want it to be clear how lucky I was. My father, a Dutch migrant, is a self-taught/directed artist who works mostly with film and animation, he is also a social worker and an academic (PhD). When I was very young he ran a collective of artists who would present their films in each other’s houses or in pubs. He always brought me along and I loved having all of these amazing Adults to talk to. Sometimes he ran workshops for other adults in various media related areas and I would do them too. I made flip-books, films, videos, computer animations and my own prize-winning CD-ROM (in 1994) on insects.
My mother holds a Masters degree in TESOL but has worked most of her life between her role as a Speech Language Pathologist and in diagnosing and working with children with autism. In 1989 we all moved to Canada because she had landed a job in a remote community (Smithers, BC population approx 3,000) that needed her skills. After two plus years we headed back to Australia, but not before my parents took advantage of the difference in timing of the school years: we traveled from West Coast-East Coast and back again in a family van on an extended holiday. My dad made a film about it, as was inevitable. Back in Australia my mother launched her own side-business importing Education materials and another side-business tutoring children from home.
Really you only need to add those two incredible people together and I’m something like the result, but that would be ignoring the further contributing factors of my (school) environment. I actually remember, vaguely as a child, hearing my parents arguing about the best environment for us kids to learn. All that stuck with me was that there was some kind of option other than the public schools. Actually I think it was a deciding factor in us leaving the remoteness of Canada. My mother was always saying that Australian Public Schools are some of the best in the world.
My Personal Education story
In High School I was fortunate enough to land a position in the select entry “state model school” (for boys) Melbourne High School. I absolutely loved the school, as I excelled at academics, but towards my senior years I was under a lot of stress at home. My parents had separated and a close friend had died of cancer and the school’s answer to this was to make me repeat my penultimate year. The school was obsessed with results/outcomes, I remember being told that I am an A+ student performing at a B+ level. Also, having dropped math classes (which I was good at) in favor of arts was seen as ‘a bad sign’.
A few months into the new school year I made a decision to enroll myself elsewhere, as all of the assessments were marked externally. I had a two-week period where I had to learn the material, submit essays and prepare for all of the tests of my chosen subjects. When I got my results I realized that my ‘gamble’ had paid off. I’d still scored higher than many of my peers at MHS, but not as well as I ‘should have’.
I valued interpersonal relationships over my results anyway: my new school was more like University – my new friends (many of them girls) were experimenting with alternative lifestyle choices. I met friends from other, freer, schools and attended their favorite classes at their schools (my literature class was reading Jane Eyre, I wanted to read/discuss On The Road). My high school band (“Violent Pop”) was now composed of two of us who had left MHS, one still attending, and a drummer who was the nephew of a celebrated Australian rock star. We played as the headline band at the MHS social two years in a row (including the year that I’d left!). At 16 we were playing gigs in local bars, with one or more parent attending, but more often at ‘alcohol free events’ around the city. We formed our own community of young musicians/artists and between my two parents, it seemed that one of the houses was always free for a house party (usually my mum’s)
My older brother (Kees) had been tramping across the U.S.A. and Canada when my parents split up and I don’t think they told him until he came home (a year or some later). I must have still been at MHS because I remember talking to a girl on the train, when she pointed him out as ‘the kind of guy (she) liked’. I jumped off the train (three stops before my mums house was my dad’s house) and ran up to him, I didn’t even know he was back. That may have had as much as anything to do with why I made the leap of faith to leave MHS.
Before leaving MHS, I remember hiding in the boot of his girlfriend’s car to sneak into a Rave Party. I have vague memories of wearing my uniform at the party, but I probably made that part up. “If you can remember it, you weren’t really there”. He was the best kind of big brother; he introduced me to many other mentors too, like his girlfriend. An incredibly strong figure, who taught me all about feminism and helped me learn to acknowledge my privilege and reconcile it with my desire for social justice and equality.
After I finished High School, I bussed and hitchhiked up the East Coast of Australia from Melbourne to Byron Bay with Kees and two of my high-school friends (one a French exchange student). It was 1999 and we had the most incredible time sleeping on beaches, scrounging for a meal and meeting friendly strangers everywhere we went. We were at a ‘renegade sound system’ (read: free, self-organized rave party) on a forest/beach just north of Byron Bay during the countdown with a few hundred others.
The most memorable part was watching the sunrise. They had moved some of the (massive!) speakers to face the beach and everyone was stripping off to go swimming/dancing. A pod of dolphins came in and were catching the waves in to see what all the fuss was about. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and I knew I wouldn’t have been there if I’d stayed in school the extra year.
Arts and Community Involvement Histories
- Worked/Volunteered at Community TV station
o Learned democratic decision making processes
- Edited university student magazine (Rabelais)
o Networked to create a collective of media students
o Ran an election campaign with collective
o Facilitated Rabelais Student Media Collective
o Interviewed inspiring Leaders
- John Birmingham (Author “He Died With A Falafel In His Hand”)
- Gary Foley (Legendary Indigenous Rights Activist)
- William Upski Wimsatt (Author “Bomb the Suburbs”, “No More Prisons”)
o Represented Rabelais at Alt. Media Conferences in Australia
- Created video shorts on social justice and activist issues (SKATV) working out of Rockhopper Productions’ Video Editing Suite at Irene Warehouse – set up and run by Pip Starr and Bill Runting.
o “Woomera 2002” – on the refugee detention centre protests
o “Rockupation” – fighting the closure of the Earth Sciences dept.
o “Mandatory Detention for Politicians” – a staged political action
o “The Werd is Nerd” (assisted with editing)
o Submitted footage for editing of various protests.
[Travelled 4 months in Netherlands, Germany, France]
- Artist/Community member of Irene Community Arts Warehouse
- Dancer/Deviser/Videographer Community Dance Group – “Square Peg”
- Presented performance art/experimental film work (solo): “Cell”
- Presented performance art work: in a curated show by Christian Thompson (http://www.christianthompson.net/)
- Studied/Practiced ‘Sufi Yoga’ daily with a self-directed teacher-learner-sufi for two years.
- Presented performance art work in collaboration with Dirk and Siamak: “InterDifference”
[Studied 1 year in Montreal]
- Founding Member of “Anytime Place” a Community Arts Warehouse in Brunswick
- Created work: “Primary Colored Wardrobe”
[Moved to Shanghai China, 1.5 years]
- Wrote/Recorded musical E.P. (solo) under band name: “Primaries”
- Wrote/Recorded musical E.P. as a member of: “Sooky and the La Las”
[Moved to NYC Jan 2014]
Abram de Bruyn:
Melbourne High School
SKATVaccessnews Youtube Channel:
Pip Starr –
Dirk de Bruyn: