Alexander the Great had his
Aristotle, Teddy Roosevelt his mornings on
horseback, and Eleanor of Aquitaine her books,
hawks, and hounds. Whether a thousand years ago,
a hundred years ago, or today, all children
deserve their own education, the one best suited
to each of them.
The New School is dedicated to
helping each child develop, in the ways that are best
for him, the skills of rigorous thought, articulate
expression, and a joyful engagement in life. Using the
time honored methods of dialectic, developed through
student inquiry, and grounded in personal
responsibility, we seek to help each child develop
integrally as they work towards competent adulthood and
meaningful engagement in life.
The New School works toward these
goals by allowing children freedom and power within the
schoolís structures and community that make the meaning
and effects of actions directly comprehensible and felt.
Needed "lessons" are learned by direct and conscious
experience of their value. In this way, each child can
come to choose education rather than suffer it. When
this happens, learning becomes joyful, energetic, and
This idea of guidance without constrictive control is
supported by the work of Lev Vygotsky, a Russian
educational philosopher, psychologist, and semiotician.
He developed the idea of the Zone of Proximal
Development or ZPD. It was Vygotsky's belief that
children learn by trying things just slightly outside
their range of ability, the upper end of their ZPD, and
then seeking the aid of someone more knowledgeable. The
more knowledgeable other helps the child by letting the
child do everything they can for themselves, only
interjecting with possibilities or corrections when the
child can no longer make progress with the task.
Children, by observing the more knowledgeable other, by
working with the expert, just as an apprentice works
beside the master, learn something beyond their own
ability and so progress by expanding their ZPD.
process is dependent on children recognizing that they
are stymied, their desire to advance, and their asking a
question. In many children's educational experience,
only the first step, recognition that they are lost, is
prevalent. Deanna Kuhn (The Skills of Argument, 1991)
found that most educational programs teach about good
thinking rather than engaging children in the activity
of thinking well. Because much current educational
practice focuses on subject matter determined to be
important by the teacher or school and progresses by
children answering rather than asking questions, what
learning occurs is often superficial and
more time consuming than
it needs to be.
The New School follows a different
course. The New School,
Provides a secure place and enough
time for children to practice being responsible for
Helps children analyze reality,
determine its nature, their relationship to it, and
its ramifications for their thoughts and actions.
Allows children to observe and
interact with others who are both more and less
knowledgeable than themselves in order to see and
engage in learning as a process practiced in a
variety of ways with a variety of goals.
Encourages children to come up with
their own questions, to devise ways to find the
answers, and to get them.
In practice, children at The New School
are fully engaged in their own learning. For instance,
should a student decide they* want to study Biology and
that, rather than working on their own, they would like
a staff member to be involved in their inquiry, the
first two questions the student must address are, why do
they want to study Biology, and what do they mean by
Biology? In the ensuing conversation between the student
and staff member, the student is required to examine and
articulate the studentís assumptions and objectives with
someone who, being the more knowledgeable other, is
intent on assisting only when truly needed in the
childís work of developing their understanding of
Biology and their ability to think well. This
dialectical exchange which will continue through the
course of the studentís inquiry is the essence of The
*The third-person plural form is here used as a the
third-person singular generic pronoun, since the word "student" in the
School's usage denotes a group of persons as well as the condition of an
individual; see, The American Heritage Book of English Usage (1996) Sec.
18 "they with singular antecedent.".