I’d like you to pretend for a moment that you live in an alternate reality, one where right now, for the first time, someone is proposing universal schooling for all children between the ages of five and eighteen. Now, pitch me your proposal for your school district (or, for folks not in a school district, for your institution). Justify your existence. Tell me what your mission is, and why your institution (as constructed in our current reality) is the best solution to achieve that mission.
Karl Fisch writes this morning, why should your district continue? It’s an excellent question, and one which I think the private schools in Connecticut should re-ask as “why should our school continue?” as he says in the excerpt above. Justify the continued existence of your institution, or explain why it should be founded now. What’s your purpose, and are you successful at it?
Mine would be a middle school or high school. I would start with a high-powered webserver, a laptop or netbook for every child, a high-quality printer, and a store-front classroom with a well-equipped science lab, a lounge, a movement lab (yoga/dance/martial arts), workspaces, and a gallery at the front. In other words, I’d give kids access to the world, and I’d make the school permeable to the larger world by placing downtown right outside the front door. And their work would be visible at the front of the school, all the time.
We’d have ten subjects instead of five: Western Humanities (English Language and grammar, Spanish and one other Romance Language), Eastern Humanities (Chinese, Chinese characters, literature & grammar), Mathematics, World Culture, Art, Music, Biology, Physics/Chemistry, Computer Programming, and Body (health, sex, athletics).
Each ‘classroom’ would have a guide, whose job would be partly as a teacher, an administrator and as a social networker. Her job would be to connect students in her space with competent adults in chosen fields, help assess students’ abilities, schedule group programming, and schedule labtime for other ‘schools’ in the same system within her ‘school’s’ laboratory.
The ‘campus bounds’ would be set as a neighborhood line, and kids would be able to travel through that area on errands, on drawing and interviewing assignments. All school work would end with public projects, either visible as written work on the school website, or as physical art in the school windows, or a concert/recital in the gallery.
Every two to four years, the students would work at the direction of a general contractor, electrician, plumber and architect to redesign and rebuild their space.
To graduate, a student would need to demonstrate spoken proficiency in three languages, writing in two, mathematics through trigonometry, drawing, a musical instrument, completion of a long-term science project, and a successful computer program.
There would be no grades. Each student would have a collected portfolio of recordings of concerts, conversations, math problems, plus a massive digital archive of blog entries, commentaries, and of course, a working computer program.