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November 29, 2014 6:53 PM   Subscribe

The school in Auckland with a radical 'no rules' policy (12:00; 2014) [via] has a little in common with the school in Framingham with a radical 'no curriculum' policy (9:13; 2009) [previously], which has a little in common with the self-directed IT school in Paris for ages 18 to 30 (2:13; 2014), which takes some inspiration from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (excerpt, 12:24; 1981).
posted by Monsieur Caution (19 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I attended a high school with "no rules." Instead, we had a "philosophy" as the guiding document. What this meant in practical terms was that faculty could bust students' asses however they pleased for whatever real or imagined offense happened to be going on that day, without caring about such trivial details as fairness or consistency.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:13 PM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

faculty could bust students' asses however they pleased

This excerpt from Frederick Wiseman's classic documentary High School might be relevant: it struck me as similar to the ordinary rule-governed public high school I attended twenty years after it was filmed, but it seems very different from the school in NZ.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:30 PM on November 29, 2014

Yeah, that's the thing about rules. Without them, you get anarchy and tyranny.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:32 PM on November 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

So what you're saying is, we need rigidly defined areas of confidence and trust.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:21 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that's the thing about rules. Without them, you get anarchy and tyranny.

which is exactly what's goin' on in that first link. Particularly the part at the end when the little girl asks for help getting down from the tree she just climbed into, but the principal just says, "You got up there, you can get down." And then she does figure out how to get down, then immediately goes right back up.

anarchy and tyranny in action.
posted by philip-random at 10:32 PM on November 29, 2014

Re: Sudbury Valley School. This is not a new thing. In Seattle in the early seventies my neighbors, their father a librarian, sent his two male kids to an alternative school in the 5th grade. It's important to note that what are now called alternative schools are schools for kids that don't function well in the current education system [and I don't blame them] but at one point in time "alternative schools" were a reimagining of education and were open to students regardless of achievement level.

The sole requirement for the students was that they planned out their day. They could do literally anything - read comic books, play dodgeball, be taught math - anything, so long as they scheduled their time.

Of my two friends, brothers, one is a security guard and one is an airline pilot. I want to be careful here in that I don't know which is happier but I don't think they would exchange positions - which might just be the point of alternative education.
posted by vapidave at 11:10 PM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sudbury Valley School costs 8400/yr. As much as I am in favour of radical free schools, they are v. much often not free.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:17 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

There were two things I wondered about as the video started: injuries and bullying.

There is an assertion that both are down with a 'no rules' policy. It appears as if the older kids 'police' against bullying - apparently more effectively than the adults were doing before.

I must say I'm surprised by both results - I would expect both injuries and bullying to be up.

Also, anyone else notice that the principal was sporting a BMW? (speaking of it not being a free school).
posted by el io at 1:19 AM on November 30, 2014

Inspiring and thought provoking, thank you.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:33 AM on November 30, 2014

I must say I'm surprised by both results - I would expect both injuries and bullying to be up.

Also, anyone else notice that the principal was sporting a BMW? (speaking of it not being a free school).

I assume you mean the New Zealand video, since you mention the BMW. That seems like a not-crazy car for someone to own after teaching for 30+ years -- it's not cheap, but it's not a crazy expensive plutocrat car either. I could probably just afford the payments for one and I have a basic middle class job, well below what a senior teacher or principal makes in this area.

I'm not surprised that they say bullying is down, because my experience of New Zealand education was that it was based off of the older British model which institutionalized bullying from both older pupils and teachers (think of some of Roald Dahl stories of canings and fagging, say). Not all schools were that way -- I went to a progressive school which wasn't as free as the one in the video but was still deliberately positioned as an alternative to the more brutal options -- but one place I visited had a real Lord of the Flies feel to it.

And for injuries, there have been a number of FPPs recently about the resurgence of free playgrounds (with tools and sticks and mud) that claim lower injury rates because kids are allowed to find their limits and explore. I'd expect more injuries in a more regimented situation where everyone does the same thing regardless of interest and ability and students are explicitly not allowed to look out for each other (I am reminded of the quite brutal PE classes I had to attend for many years, for example). (And in fact Swanson school is one of the places that the articles about free playgrounds are based on, so it's been discussed here before.)
posted by Dip Flash at 5:37 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, anyone else notice that the principal was sporting a BMW? (speaking of it not being a free school).

I just checked. The principals of the public school district I went to all have salaries rather evenly distributed across the range of 115,000 - 175,000 USD. I recall the high school principal (the one making ~150k when I went to school) drove a heck of a car.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:47 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

The school in Auckland with a radical 'no rules' policy

That's not even what this is, though. It's a school with rules, except for two no-rules play periods. Interesting concept, but a big difference.
posted by Rykey at 6:05 AM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

The bit with the girl who had climbed in the tree as an example of letting kids figure things out on their own was a nice touch, I thought. Even though she had only been there for a short moment and was in no danger, it was nice to see her given a chance to figure a solution out on her own.

Even better was seeing her continue to climb.

Setting everything else about these videos aside, everyone could use more safe chances to fail and learn rather than helicoptering "Don't Do That!!"

**Speaking as a parent of kids who had more than a few scrapes from figuring things out on their own.
posted by kinetic at 7:04 AM on November 30, 2014

One of the most intriguing ideas for schooling I've heard recently - in conversation with a radical architect, and I haven't yet found it talked about online - is pop-up schooling on the high street. This is based on a few observations - that the high street is dying, but still very well connected in terms of utilities and communication, that there are lot of semi-public spaces available in closed shops, that parents need more flexible options for educating their children due to modern family life and jobs, and that you can create and access educational resources online in ways that mean you can build a very functional classroom anywhere in hours and for little investment. It also supposes that many children would benefit from having a much wider range of options in how and what they're taught than at a typical school, which has to fit the kids in to regimented times, teacher availability and fixed resources that are often very inefficiently used. .

I can really see this working, especially in conjunction with more traditional schools. Children and parents could build their desired curricula and timetables, the lessons and classrooms would be allocated as optimally as possible for travel and class size, there would still be whatever appropriate supervision was necessary, and things like family holidays or temporary absence from school would just be folded in on demand per family. It would even work for families that move around a lot, either seasonally or to follow job opportunities, as well as adapting well to distance learning and community revitalisation. As children progress and need different amounts of structure in their education, that too could be part of the equation, and there's no reason it would have to stop at the current boundaries of primary, secondary and tertiary education. As for the social side of education - these days, if you have to move school you leave your friends behind. But if you've been working with someone you like these days, your social structure already extends into the internet - physical distance is no longer social distance.

So much of our education system is rooted in historical needs that no longer apply, around relics of agricultural and industrial societies that went away a long time ago. You really wouldn't invent what we have now from scratch - so creating a system that encourages fluidity and flexibility around the current technological and practical lifestyles, while still being compatible with the current educational habits, would be a good and humane way to reboot what we need.
posted by Devonian at 11:48 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Devonian: That's intriguing; do you mind unpacking the definition of "High Street" a bit more for someone not in the field and not used to this kind of discussion? (That's why I am not going Googling myself; with no domain knowledge I don't know where to start to home in on what you meant).
posted by seyirci at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

seyirci, I'm assuming Devonian is using high street in the British colloquial usage, meaning (roughly) the place in town where there are lots of retail shops.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:29 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, sorry, that's indeed what I mean. I don't know what the American equivalent term is, but it's the place where all the shops are - or were, before out-of-town malls, shopping centres (UK term again, I guess) and the Internet closed lots down.
posted by Devonian at 6:48 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Main Street?
posted by Kiwi at 5:50 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh. I was wondering if it was a term of the art in pedagogical theory :D . That makes sense, thanks all.
posted by seyirci at 2:08 PM on December 1, 2014

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