Alternative School Offers Free-Form Education
> 6/9/2006 11:03:22 AM

Today the United States spends more money on education than at any previous point in our history, yet our literacy rates and standardized test scores continue to sink considerably lower than those of previous generations. Could it be that our teaching methods are simply outdated relics of the industrial revolution, preparing kids to turn screws and run assembly lines? 20 miles outside Boston sits a school that offers no lectures, assignments, or grades, yet their graduates overwhelmingly lead successful, deeply satisfied lives. A recent article in Psychology Today spotlights the Sudbury Valley School, an alternative institution that has been teaching kids how to plot their own educational paths for more than 30 years.

Sudbury runs on the theory that curiosity and self-motiovation are the best precursors to effective learning and that students forced to sit at desks and perform tedious drills are more likely to become disillusioned with the educational process. It is a school where, according to their mission statement:

Students learn to think for themselves, and learn to use Information Age tools to unearth the knowledge they need from multiple sources.

Founded in 1968 by Ivy League physicisit Daniel Greenberg, the school runs like a self-sufficient democracy. Perhaps the single most important structural aspect of Sudbury is the weekly School Meeting, an event based on the New England model of a town meeting where students and staff gather to make collective decisions about the school's direction. Each participant has one vote, staff are chosen by election rather than appointment, and students are encouraged to do, essentially, whatever they want throughout the picturesque ten acre campus and mansion.

One might expect such a minor revolution in education to carry a hefty price tag, yet a yearly Sudbury tuition is only six thousand dollars (less for families with more than one enrollee, and less than half the per-student cost of public school.) Though the idea of free-form education will understandably frighten most parents, students at Sudbury have much higher rates of literacy than those at public schools. Also, though graduates typically take more time between graduation and college, alumni studies show that they are more likely to be accepted at their school of choice and to become succesful, creative entrepreneurs later in life. The Sudbury method is hard to dismiss, as more than 40 schools around the United States and worldwide work on the Subdury model. Perhaps the lessons of Greenberg's experiment in academic freedom for developing students could be successfully applied to our public education system. Such changes are highly unlikely on a large scale, but any move to improve our largely flagging public schools should be welcomed.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy