Monday, April 24, 2006

Educational Philosophy from the Rafters

The Washington Post leads today's edition with a front page story on an 'alternative' high school in Maryland. Its a 'free school' in which kids aren't compelled to do anything -- no tests, no mandatory class attendence, no gold stars. And the kids are hanging from the rafters -- seriously, they put a big picture on the front page, above the fold. (If you want to see that picture, you need to click the link to the article and then click on the picture of the little girl looking at the snake and it will take you into the photo gallery. Whats up with the little girl and the snake? The print addition leads with kids hanging from the rafters and the on-line version shows a little girl looking at a snake -- how Biblical). Anyway, I'm detecting the message "If you don't compel kids to learn, they will be hanging from the rafters." The horror, the horror.

I don't see anything in this article worthy of a diatribe and that is a bit disappointing. I would like to add a bit of information about this type of school. While the article does trouble itself to mention the Sudbury School in Vermont from which the Fairhaven School, featured in the Post article, derives its educational model, it fails to mention A.S Neill's school in England and his book about it (hey, if its not American, why discuss it, right?).

Summerhill give a lot of background about this educational philosophy and even troubles itself to discuss why its not always successful with teens who have been in conventional schools all their lives. Basically, some are so trained by the stick and carrot of conventional school, that they have lost their internal motivation to learn (this can be overcome, but often it takes years of deschooling to get there. I guess it took me at least 8 years after law school.) Anyway, for those who want to go beyond the in-depth reporting of the Post to learn more about this philosophy, I'll provide a link to the Summerhill school's website, and some links to my own posts about the book, here on unclimber.

Interesting, seems Sudbury sees some differences between itself and the Summerhill school, so maybe my links miss the point. (The Sudbury School website allows for searching, which I briefly did, using the term Summerhill). Regardless, I think Summerhill makes for an interesting read.

Excuse me while my children and I climb the walls.

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