by Ben Page, Open School co-founder
April 22, 2018
When we founded this school, I had one conviction, which was that each one of us, each human being, has a gift for the world. But as I thought about it more, it dawned on me that gift was the wrong word, because a gift is something you give away.
Now I believe we each have a medicine that we are born with. When we are in our medicine — when we are doing what we truly love — not only is it healing the world, it is healing ourselves as well. When we are doing what we love, we experience the reciprocal nature of our personal medicine, and all our relationships, including our relationships with ourselves, are healed by it.
The problem with the traditional model of education is that it has created a hierarchy of medicine. As a culture, we have been taught to value some children’s medicines more than others. We have been taught that getting straight A’s is the most desirable medicine. But what about the medicine of laughter? The medicine of imagination? The medicine of being a good friend?
Why are we not evaluating children based on their medicine, so that they are nourished and healed through their work in the world?
While I was visiting the Sudbury Valley School (the school ours is modeled after), I learned an amazing fact: in a 30-year longitudinal study, graduates of Sudbury Valley were asked whether they were happy with their lives. Ninety-nine percent said yes. That is the ultimate reason we should be sending our children to school. If we can prepare children for the world in such a way that their medicine is honored, they will lead happy lives. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want for our children?
It doesn’t end with the children. I have witnessed our school liberating parents as well. When their children come home from school, the parents are not taskmasters, constantly fighting to ensure that their child has finished their homework and is not falling behind. The true role of the parent has been restored, which is simply to love their child unconditionally. They can do that because that is what we do here. We do not judge the child, evaluate the child, or track the child’s progress against standards.
It doesn’t end with the parents. The work we do here impacts the future of our society. Not only does the entire world benefit when each of us is engaged in what we love, but the quality of all our relationships is improved as a result of our own happiness. Imagine a world in which ninety-nine percent of people love their lives because they are empowered to make their own choices. Imagine if we sought our dreams in accordance with our own desires rather than the conditioning of authority figures. What kind of a world would that be?
The vision of this project begins here in Orange County, but it does not end here. It radiates out into the world in an effort to liberate this country and even our global society from the false idea that children must be shaped into people that we can love and respect. This work has the potential to change the world.
When we started this school, we had a meetup group called Education Revolution. We called it that because revolutionizing our society begins with how we raise and educate our children. Each child is on their own journey towards self-realization and the happiness it provides, and this happiness is critical to the health and well-being of our society, today and in the future.
This school is just the beginning. In my dreams, we go on to found many more schools just like this one, and ultimately the medicine within our hearts will bring healing to the world.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” ~ John Lennon