by Lexie Haft, Open School student
November 14, 2023
I have been enrolled at The Open School for almost two years. Throughout my time here I’ve been in deep reflection about the incomparable differences between a self-directed school and a traditional one.
I often think about the privilege I have to be in an environment where there is mutual respect and my basic needs are met. You would think that most students are respected and are in control of their basic needs in school. However, when you spend enough time in a self-directed space you are given so much freedom in numerous ways that all the “rules” public school enforces become insane to you.
A child is given back the basic control and power they deserve over their mind and body. This new environment gives kids a chance to put an end to the stream of negative belief systems that they may have over themselves and the world.
Something as small as having the freedom to use the restroom when you please and eating lunch when you want to, starts to get rid of the belief that we need permission from an “authority figure” to do simple human things.
“The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.”
— John Taylor Gatto
I find this quote to be true in different ways. If you think about it, a child goes to school to be told how and what to think, how to behave and present themselves and what to do and when to do it. Now of course I believe not all structure is bad structure and every child deserves proper and healthy guidance to learn and/or achieve personal or academic goals. However, in a traditional space a student is stripped from almost everything that makes them unique and different from the next student on.
Expressing ideas and thoughts different from what is being taught is usually looked down upon from the teacher. Instead in a self-directed space, an environment of inspiration is created for a child’s natural curiosity to come up and out. No idea is a bad idea, and even if something doesn’t necessarily work out, that still exposes the student to practicing and experiencing what it’s like to speak up and work with others to figure something out.
So when you think about it in the long run, school plays a major role in the upbringing of a child. While yes lots of learning can be done in a classroom, it’s not necessarily fair to limit it to just that.
Earth is our school and we can learn from almost anything and anyone. As we know adults have many lessons to teach us, but self-directed education honors and supports the idea that children can be teachers as well. To themselves and to the world.