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Open and Democratic Schools: A Case Study

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 22 years ago, in 2001, on the World Wide Web.

Speaking of open and democratic schools, TECHNOS features an interview with Daniel Greenberg about his experiment in democratic schooling, the Sudbury Valley School, which is still running successfully after 33 years. All school governance is democratic (on the New England Town Meeting model), there aren’t any fixed curricula or pre-set courses (though students arrange for courses of study with instructors and do their own self-initiated independent study), and the only requirement for graduation is to adequately–in the judgment of the school community–defend in writing the thesis that they have taken responsibility for preparing themselves to be effective adults in the larger community.

I would like to see a couple more things before I really judge (simply judging from an interview of a school founder is not always the best way to go). Specifically, I’d like to see some experiences (and not just advertising brochure testimonials, but real experiences) from students. I’d also like to see some more comments about how these voluntary courses do end up being set up. Is it all one-on-one study, or do students usually get together and form study groups around a common list of reading (which I think is really beneficial for a lot of subjects, particularly in the humanities), or what? But on the face of it, it really sounds like an amazing opportunity for kids to learn in exactly kind of the environment that I was talking about–one which is open, democratic, respectful, and conducive to imaginative, critical, self-directed learning.

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