Updated: Mar 16, 2021
The Freedom Academy is my vision of what school ought to be.
But strictly speaking, it is not a school — certainly not as we traditionally understand schools. Mention the word “school” and what comes to mind are classrooms, lessons, homework, quizzes, exams, recitation, grades, curriculum, teachers, uniforms, requirements and class schedules. Most of these are thrust on kids who have almost no say on the matter and have little choice but to comply.
A kid can’t say, for example, “I don’t feel like doing Math today. Can I skip Math for today? Can I skip Math for a week?” or “I don’t like my teacher. Can I have another teacher? Can I just watch Youtube instead? I understand the guy there more than our teacher” or “I don’t like all these subjects. I want to learn how to fix things around the house like fixing a leaky faucet or a squeaky door. Can I learn those instead?”
In school, students have to do as they’re told, and perform tasks as required of them, and they are judged, graded and labeled based on how they perform. It doesn’t matter if they like it or not, if it is important to them or not, if they’re interested in it or not. What’s worse is they are expected to master these tasks at more or less the same timeframe. Too bad if a kid can’t figure out how to add and subtract polynomials in 3 days, the teacher has to move on to multiplication and division, and the kid will just have to struggle to catch up. Some just give up.
And so kids get tired of school, and because learning is so often associated with school, they get tired of that too.
Now that’s a shame, because people, especially as children, have that inner curiosity, that burning desire to learn things. It’s a shame that school kills that desire. Don’t believe me? Ask kids if they’re excited to go to school, especially those who are just beginning — you’ll get a lot of nods, “yes’s” and smiles. Of course, it’s a new experience for them.
Now, ask any teenager if they’re still excited to go to school. You’ll be lucky to get 1 yes out of 10, or maybe 1 out of 100.
The Freedom Academy is not a school, but I envision it to be a center of vibrant learning.
There will be no classrooms — or rather, anywhere is a classroom. There will be no teachers — or rather, anyone can be a teacher, whether an adult or a fellow student. There are no imposed schedules or subjects, no curriculum except what the student wants for himself or herself. There are no quizzes, exams, homework or grades except if the students ask for them, maybe to measure their own understanding.
The Freedom Academy is so named because we believe the cornerstone of learning is freedom. A child who is forced to learn will only learn enough to to satisfy the teacher or the parent. Learning is a chore, done only for compliance, and whatever they learn may be easily forgotten after the exam. But a child who learns out of their own free will, out of their own interest and volition, will retain that knowledge and will even delve deeper into it on their own without any prodding or coercion.