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Why These Goals?

 

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Zak at a museum.Because our current society is changing so rapidly from the industrial age to the information age, it is hard to determine what specific knowledge anyone will need in even twenty years. We must focus instead on goals of self-awareness and personal responsibility.

Because our work and social patterns are changing so rapidly, those who are self-reliant, thoughtful, and inventive will adapt best.

Because our adult community is more global than ever, we need people who can create and function in community. Children need to know how to function in a true community of people with various skills and interests who are responsible for themselves and responsive to others on more than a superficial level.

Because wanting to know, the disposition to inquire, is lost without practice, the school must guard against determining what questions should be asked and instead provide opportunities for children to ask questions themselves.

Because our work and social patterns are changing so rapidly, those who are self-reliant, thoughtful, and inventive will adapt best.

To this end there are no required courses, no grades, and no segregation by age. Children work with each other and adults on whatever interests them. Group study does actually take place with all the attendant necessities of scheduled meeting times, skill practice, and reading assignments which rigorous study or investigation require. But unlike classes in a more traditional setting, group studies at The New School, their organization, subject matter, topic coverage, duration, and materials are determined by the interested parties, children and staff alike. The fluidity means that a project's inception, the means to accomplish it and the effort to achieve the desired result rest in the children's hands. And although adults are available and willing to participate, they are more like fellow (and more experienced) explorers than founts of knowledge in each endeavor. What must be realized is that these studies may be initiated by anyone, adult or child, participation is completely voluntary, and the authority in the class is held by the most knowledgeable participant, which is not necessarily the adult. From this, children develop a profound sense that their success lies in their own hands, and that learning, although difficult and often frustrating, is a natural, fulfilling, and lifelong process.
At the creek.Because of this natural inquiry, discourse at The New School is a conversation, not a lecture or teacher-directed "discussion." Conversations entail the mutual respect of the participants, an interest in the topic, and a willingness to exchange ideas. At The New School, because the participants are interested in the conversation, more is learned than if they were forced to cover a topic of the teacher's choosing in an artificially initiated and artificially sustained "discussion." In depth studies built on true conversation inevitably occur without force or coercion, simply because human beings by nature desire to know (Aristotle).
But will children actually learn anything? By this question, most people assume that there is a body of knowledge which every person should possess to be considered educated. There is so much information available today, no one could hope to be cognizant of all of the topics available for study, let alone determine which are most important. Children accept as important those ideas, attitudes, and activities which they see practiced by their parents and others around them. In the New School they will know what is possible through access to the world via the INTERNET and by spending their time with people who have varied interests which are actively pursued. In this environment, education is more than the accretion of knowledge, it is the development of an individual, his personality, talents, and interests. Children, shown learning as the continuous development of the self and given the opportunity and responsibility for their own learning, do learn.
Because children have a responsibility to become members of the community beyond the school, they must show some evidence of having sufficiently prepared themselves to do so. To this end, the students of the New School, in order to receive their diploma, must determine what it is for them to be responsible members of the community and demonstrate this ability through a written thesis, an oral presentation, and a cogently argued defense. They must be attentive to their own development, articulate in their presentation, and persuasive in their arguments. The School Assembly after reading, listening, and questioning determines whether the student has truly taken advantage of their* opportunities. Only when the school community, including other students mentors, and parents, are satisfied, will a diploma be granted.

 

*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.".

1996 - November, 2016 The New School.
Last revised 29 Nov 2016 .

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1996 - November, 2016 The New School.
Last revised 29 November 2016.