Every couple of years it seems someone goes back and revisits what might be the most radical school structure out there: the Sudbury model. Last week Medium magazine introduced the concept this way:
“Imagine a school where there are no academic requirements, no curriculum, and no tests. Children have total control of their education and are free to do what they want all day, every day. Parents pay $8,200 a year to send their children there.”
And oh, by the way, 90% of them go on to college, with about half of them becoming entrepreneurs.
Out there? Maybe. But at a moment when kids can learn deeply around anything they have a desire to learn, it begs the question, to what extent does the current, traditional system stifle a child’s desire to learn?
If you want more on our thinking about that, read on.
The old sporting t-shirt slogan about “the older I get, the better I remember I was” has parallels for us when we think about what school should and could be for our kids. Our memories of our own schooling is very often colored by the passing of years, and almost insidiously offers us the only context that we have to judge the school our kids attend. But how else might we as parents pass judgment on their school? What are the things that really matter, and will endure far beyond the thirteen years they will spend there?
Maybe it’s the challenge of answering such questions that cause us as parents to repeatedly revert to the clichés of literacy and numeracy, and even the so-called basics. What are they? Surely there’s so much more to what school should be than that? While we might disagree on exactly what we want from our kid’s schooling, there seems to be a clear case for more diversity, flexibility and opportunity for choice; and that doesn’t just mean Charter schools or Academies. With the overwhelming shifts that are a part of our daily lives, surely we owe it to our kid’s to explore different models of what school could be. We’ve always had schools that operated at the margins, but they have for too long been the exceptions. Maybe it’s time that we simply started a simple conversation at our local school based around the questions..what’s now possible?
Over coming issues of RML, we’ll continue to share examples of schools that are ‘breaking out’ from the traditional models of the schools we all went to. What we’ll seek to do is explore the possibilities, and not be bound by limitations of demography , geography or pre-conceptions. If we are serious about rethinking the possibilities for our young people, we need to first have a better understanding of what is currently happening.
This issue, we are stretching the boundaries, and sharing a story from Sudbury school in Massachusetts. It’s certainly not your ‘average’ school, but it does pose some interesting questions that are worth thinking about with regard to developing self-directedness in our young people, and the impact of alternative assessments.
Interested in your thoughts on what they’re doing, and if you know of a school that is exploring new ideas and new formats, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.