NYT: Let kids rule school
This article in today’s NYT is too good for me not to say something about it (Thanks to Frank for pointing this article out to me):
Eight public school high school students in western Massachusetts who real danger of dropping out were allowed to form their own school within a school. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard this must have been in the era of NCLB, “accountability” and pressure from high stakes testing. But the results, at least according to this article were incredible.
During the first half, they formulated and then answered questions about the natural and social world, including “Are the plant cells at the bottom of a nearby mountain different than those at the top of the mountain?” and “Why we do we cry?” They not only critiqued one another’s queries, but also the answers they came up with. Along the way, they acquired essential tools of inquiry, like how to devise good methods for gathering various kinds of data.
During the second half, the group practiced what they called “the literary and mathematical arts.” They chose eight novels — including works by Kurt Vonnegut, William Faulkner and Oscar Wilde — to read in eight weeks. That is more than the school’s A.P. English class reads in an entire year.
They also each undertook an “individual endeavor,” learning to play the piano or to cook, writing a novel or making a podcast about domestic violence. At the end of the term, they performed these new skills in front of the entire student body and faculty.
Finally, they embarked on a collective endeavor, which they agreed had to have social significance. Because they felt the whole experience had been so life-changing, they ended up making a film showing how other students could start and run their own schools.
… In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship.
This is astounding. I think many the brightest students at the highest achieving schools in the nation, never experience anything like this—actually shaping their own education, individually and collectively, since many are in a Race to Nowhere to accumulate as many APs and meaningless extracurriculars as possible. Can you imagine what students might do if we freed them from this race to become “authors of their own education?”
Note: the video the students produced is now online. I have embedded it below: