Ms. Frizzle recently sat down and interviewed (virtually speaking) the founder of the Free School of Brooklyn, NY, which opened this fall. Free schools (such as The Free School of Albany, NY profiled in the documentary Free to Learn) are a very unique educational setting in which the students direct their own learning with help and guidance from their teachers, parents and peers. Most notably these schools are completely free of standardized testing – of any formal testing at all.
According to Alan Berger from the Brooklyn Free School,
We don’t profess to know what each individual person will need to "succeed" in college or the working world. Our primary goal is the social and emotional growth of each child and for each child to develop within themselves their own responsibility for and love of learning (it doesn’t matter what it is that they want to learn about and we reject the paradigm that society has set up for any set curriculum of knowledge and skills). Students who have graduated from democratic schools typically have the self confidence and have learned how to learn and be their own best teacher, so that they are ready to meet any challenge that stands in their way to fulfill their own individual dreams and aspirations.
Sounds pretty radical! And if you do a little searching on the web you’ll find quite a few education opinionists who loudly criticize this style of teaching and learning, often applying the derisive term "progressive education"* to it.
I don’t understand their objections. Most of these same people are champions of school choice. This format for learning certainly won’t appeal to every child or parent (or teacher for that matter). But shouldn’t Free Schools be offered as an option for those students who will thrive in that atmosphere? I’m sure any real advocate of school choice would loudly answer “Yes”!
* Isn’t the opposite of Progressive, Regressive? Just thought I’d ask. :-)