I just came across a passage in Michael Ende’s famous book, “The Neverending Story”, a passage which eerily reminded me of one of the reasons we wish to found a better kind of school:
… to a schoolboy arriving very very late, the world around the schoolhouse always seems to have gone dead. At every step he felt the fear rising within him. Under the best of circumstances he was afraid of school, the place of his daily defeats, afraid of his teachers, who gently appealed to his conscience or made him the butt of their rages, afraid of the other children, who made fun of him and never missed a chance to show him how clumsy and defenseless he was. He had always thought of his school years as a prison term with no end in sight, a misery that would continue until he grew up, something he would just have to live through.
But when he now passed through the echoing corridors with their smell of floor wax and wet overcoats. when the lurking stillness suddenly stopped his ears like cotton, and when at last he reached the door of his classroom, which was painted the same old-spinach color as the walls around it, he realized that this, too, was no place for him. He would have to go away. So he might as well go at once.
Clearly, school should not be a place of constant fear and humiliation, nor even (for the various bullies there) a place where they hone their basest antisocial instincts. It should never be a prison. It takes a radical shift to reform a prison-like institution into a place of fulfillment, growth, and learning for a life in liberty.
DB, writing for Jefferson Sudbury School, an enlightened alternative school for the 21st century in the area of Fredericksburg, Virginia