The Summerhill school in England was one of the world’s first, and along with the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, one of the world’s most successful and enduring “democratic-free” schools. “Free” in that the students are completely in charge of what, when, where, how and from whom they learn. “Democratic” in that the students and the staff jointly participate in school governance through use of the democratic process, with youth and adults having an equal voice and vote in most matters.
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So when you are bored and not really engaged with what is going on around you, is that a good learning environment for you? It apparently isn’t for most of America’s high school students.
As reported in a June 15 article in Education Week, “Study: Teens Are Bored”…
Most high school students feel bored and disconnected from school, according to a new survey of students from 103 high schools in 27 states. Begun in 2004, the annual High School Survey of Student Engagement aims to take a pulse on teenagers’ attitudes toward school and learning. But the latest results, released last week, show that students were just as bored in 2009 as they have been every year since 2006.
So you have probably already been “ism’d” within an inch of your life and may be ready to roll your eyes if I attempt to direct your attention to another one! Seems the 20th Century was full of positive movements and negative systems being coined as “isms”, including “feminism”, “progressivism” and “environmentalism” on the one side and “sexism”, “racism” and “militarism” on the other. Some might make a good argument that we should leave all those “isms” behind with the last century and turn our focus forward and reframe the way we look at liberating movements and the restricting systems that hinder human development.
Given those disclaimers I want to alert you to one more “ism”, “adultism”, that has been defined by and comes out of the milieu of thoughtful people, youth and adults, working in the democratic education and youth empowerment movements. One of my colleagues in the newly formed Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), Adam Fletcher, has compiled information calling out this negative system on his website (freechild.org) page titled “Challenging Adultism”. Continue reading →
I continue with my unschooling theme and my quest to convince people who are skeptical that this is a valid learning path for some as an alternative primary educational “engine” to formal schooling. Just to recap, our son Eric left school in the middle of eighth grade and our daughter Emma after ninth. Eric has had no “formal” schooling since then. Emma has taken several French courses at community college along with a six-week French language immersion school in Montreal, Canada. The many things they have learned since then have been in the context of “real life” and some tutors that Emma has hooked up with along the way to help her learn dance, piano, art, and now continue her study of French.
Anyway… on with the post! Continue reading →