A new type of school

I was floored when I learned about a new type of school. It reminded me of the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

If the colleges were better, if they really had it, you would need to get the police at the gates to keep order in the onrushing multitude. See in college how we thwart the natural love of learning by leaving the natural method of teaching what each wishes to learn, and insisting that you shall learn what you have no taste or capacity for. The college, which should be a place of delightful labor, is made odious and unhealthy, and the young men are tempted to frivolous amusements to rally their jaded spirits. I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.

The schools are known as Sudbury Schools, and the general idea is that you let students study what interests them. Here is a list of Sudbury Schools around the world. The initial premise validates a lot of the quotes I’ve found over the years regarding education and learning.

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
Don’t let your schooling interfere with your education.
Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. — Albert Einstein

Here’s a clip about the school.

The idea that a bunch of students could actually learn what they want to learn about and study the things that interest them is phenomenal. I remember as a child wanting to teach my younger siblings about math over the summer from an old math textbook we had laying around. I had enjoyed learning about it and wanted to teach someone else about it. In the Sudbury schools they find that the students often do most of the teaching. The more advanced students help the younger students, and since teaching something further solidifies it in your own mind, both students benefit from the interaction. It seems like a great way for a student to learn about what he or she wants to learn about, without the forced learning that takes place so frequently in public schools.

I also read the TIME magazine article about homework with interest. The amount of homework has increased by 51% since 1981. Studies about homework show no indication that more homework contributes to better learning or understanding in grade school.

The question of how to improve public education is complicated and there aren’t any simple answers, but it’s an issue that needs to be discussed.


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  1. […] Via Dan Hersam who was inspired by the recent talk of abolishing homework and of a better kind of school. […]

    Pingback by Let’s not settle for any less any more on September 9, 2006 @ 8:22 am
  2. GREAT quote Dan, thank you for it.

    I had to blog it here:



    Comment by Alexander Kjerulf on September 9, 2006 @ 8:24 am
  3. Alex: Thanks for letting me know.

    Comment by dan on September 10, 2006 @ 10:44 am
  4. […] – October 24, 2006 The value of reading As a follow-up to the post about a new type of school, in an article by Dan Poynter loaded full ofstatistics about books and reading It was summarized by Mike Pope. […]

    Pingback by The value of reading - Amidst a tangled web on October 24, 2006 @ 7:32 am

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