Schools Without Schedules

Schools Without Schedules

At free schools, students choose the curriculum.

Educational programs in which children choose how they spend their time are growing in number, with “free schools” now open in New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, California, and elsewhere. Most free schools base their philosophies on those of England’s 90-year-old Summerhill School, where children have the freedom to make art, garden, and work on the computer in addition to attending class. Democracy plays an important part in school culture, with students voting on issues such as how to structure the school day.

Stateside, free schools have their critics, who question whether such programs can truly prepare a student for college and beyond. “I’m not impressed by the argument that traditional public schools aren’t doing a good job preparing young people for the mix of self-direction and conformity that they will experience as adults,” Aaron Pallas, a sociology and education professor at Columbia University, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Still, many students are finding their place in free schools. “It’s not just your education that it changes, but your approach to life,” Dan Schiffrin, a graduate of Harrisburg’s Circle School, said in the Inquirer.

If the foundational purpose for schooling is to prepare children to enter the world of work, how would a more free-flowing day (that in many ways mirrors today world of work) look for students? How would it impact the way educators operate in the system?

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