Students running their own schools

This past Monday, the New York Times had an interesting op-ed article titled “Let Kids Rule the School”, which caught my eye. The article’s author, Susan Engel, writes:

I recently followed a group of eight public high school students, aged 15 to 17, in western Massachusetts as they designed and ran their own school within a school.

Apparently, the students in this program “designed their own curriculum,” and “critiqued one another’s queries, but also the answers they came up with.” Of course, this reminded me of Ender’s Game. The author of the article concludes: “We need to rethink the very nature of high school itself.”

The article also reminded me of a book (which I have seen referred to in several places over the course of the past year or so, but have not yet had a chance to read): The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, by the French philosopher Jacques Rancière. The book seems very interesting, and I mean to read it this summer, when I have some free time. This short wiki page about the book suggests that Rancière’s argument in the book is that “all people are capable of learning, without explication by a teacher.” While the total absence of a teacher may be rather extreme, are not initiatives such as Quest-to-Learn pushing education in this direction, at least to some extent?

On a (only somewhat) related note, there is the Ann Arbor Free Skool (sic), which consists of groups of people teaching, and learning from, each other. And apparently, in the 1970s, Ann Arbor Public Schools did some  experiments on its own in this direction, opening a school that ran on the basis of a “schools-without-walls” philosophy, in which students assumed responsibility for their own learning. But the legendary UM campus personality, arwulf arwulf, who himself was a student in that school, says that the experiment “didn’t work out for everybody.”


 

 

 

 


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