April Feature: Theodore Richards. by Alexa Giambra
“We believe that our students can become creators of culture, not merely consumers..”- Theodore Richards
Theodore Richards is an American writer, philosopher and educator living in Chicago. He is also the father of three daughters, which he reveals is the most important aspect of his life. Twelve years ago, Richards started a non-profit organization called the Chicago Wisdom Project, which trains educators to guide people to think differently about education under a more “holistic” lens. The organization has curated a range of programs from retreats to community gardens to after school and summer programs, etc. The Chicago Wisdom project grew from a small after school program in the south side of Chicago, to a larger organization with a companion program in Baltimore (The Baltimore Wisdom Project). “Several years ago, The Chicago Wisdom Project merged with the Baltimore Wisdom Project, and is now known as ‘Wisdom Projects, Inc.’, Theodore proudly told us.
So, what led Richards to start this organization? He has traveled all over the globe which allowed him to see firsthand how the capitalist industrial worldview is harmful and problematic. Aside from this, he also learned from notable educators that have taught him skills such as martial arts, philosophy, theology, and so on. When he was an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, he spent a great deal of time working an after-school program which struck his passion for creating a more just education system in which young people who come from challenging backgrounds have access to a proper education. His goal is to remind them that they are worthy and each have something unique to bring to the table.
However, the organization is not the only way Richards is spreading this awareness. The Reimagining Podcast, which initially started as an online magazine called the Reimagining Magazine, is described by him as generating an “apocalyptic moment” with a need for new stories. Richards wanted to create a space where people can share these new ideas and offer different perspectives. The podcast covers a variety of genres including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Since its release-date two years ago, the podcast has featured a new guest for every episode who reimagines the process of what it means to be human.
The rewards of Richard’s work are the relationships that are established and nurtured in the culture of caring that has also created a warm and inviting community. Richards has written seven books, each which can be found on his website, including numerous genres such as philosophy, fiction, and poetry. He is currently writing a new book about the work his organization has done! In Reimagining the Classroom, out in December, Ted reflects on “how the classroom is a learning space for the metaphors we want to create.” The favorite book he has written is A Letter to My Daughters.This book is centered around his story; how he traveled around the world at a young age and was able to directly experience the disconnectedness of the world. This realization led him to seek an alternative to this disorder in order to control the world that he fears his children may grow up in.
The most rewarding part of Richards’ job is the relationships that are established as a result. This culture of caring-ness has cultivated a warm and inviting community, building lasting relationships.“I would characterize my work as being centered on figuring out how we can live on the planet in a more compassionate, more sustainable, more deeply-felt way. And for me, that has to do with reimagining the stories we tell about who we are.” Richards is dedicated to ensuring that all students receive an equal opportunity for education, in an environment where all of their creative outlets can be utilized and expressed freely.