So Extreme You Might Fall Off the Spectrum


When I told somebody who has worked in various progressive schools all her life about self-directed education (SDE), she thought that progressive schools were at the edge of the spectrum, the other end being traditional schools.  Then I told her about North Star and Liberated Learners and that there are other SDE models like Agile Learning Centers, Free Schools, Sudbury and even a place called Macomber created by some who left Sudbury.

Progressive is somewhere in between conventional schooling and SDE.  Athough SDE is a term used in both progressive and traditional settings, you’d know the difference once you see something fully and truly SD.  It blows your mind that there are crazy people doing this.  It seems almost unbelievable that it could be done.  No curriculum, no required classes (you only attend if you want to), no grades, no report cards, not even a piece of paper that says you finished something.  What’s that called again?  Oh, certificate.

For those who have been in the teaching profession, maybe seeds of these thought have entered your mind: Why am I doing this?  Is this the only way to do this?  Is there a way that doesn’t involve coercion?  That’s the epiphany that dawned on Ken Danford when he started North Star with Josh Hornick and on Joel Hammon when he sought to connect with Ken and eventually started the Princeton Learning Cooperative plus two others: Raritan and Buck.

Another friend of mine asked, How do you sell this concept to people?  You don’t.  You can’t.  You have to put the idea out there hoping there are people who understand, who believe and who are willing to join.

People are always looking for proof.  “But does this work?” they ask.  Check out the website of the Alliance for Self Directed Education for full reports on those who attended North Star:

What Happens to Self-Directed Learners by Ken Danford

North Star Report Part 1

North Star Report Part 2

The lyrics of this Joey Ayala classic might refer to a pair of love-struck rebels but it captures for me the essence of SDE:

Di ba tayo’y narito
Upang maging malaya
At upang palayain ang iba
Ako’y walang hinihiling
Ika’y tila ganoon din
Sadya’y bigyang-laya ang isa’t-isa

Please excuse this English translation that fails to capture the beauty of the Tagalog verse:

Aren’t we here
To be free
And to free others
I’m not asking anything from you
And you’re not asking anything from me
Except we’re here to free one another


Read more about the spectrum from traditional school to SDE here.



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2 thoughts on “So Extreme You Might Fall Off the Spectrum

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