Let the Kids Rule High School

Susan Engel writes in an Op-Ed in the New York Times, 3/15/11:

The students in the Independent Project are remarkable but not because they are exceptionally motivated or unusually talented. They are remarkable because they demonstrate the kinds of learning and personal growth that are possible when teenagers feel ownership of their high school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together. In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship.

Schools everywhere could initiate an Independent Project. All it takes are serious, committed students and a supportive faculty. These projects might not be exactly alike: students might apportion their time differently, or add another discipline to the mix. But if the Independent Project students are any indication, participants will end up more accomplished, more engaged and more knowledgeable than they would have been taking regular courses.

We have tried making the school day longer and blanketing students with standardized tests. But perhaps children don’t need another reform imposed on them. Instead, they need to be the authors of their own education.


Interesting how the Independent Project is presented as a new develpment for teenage learners. However, I must note, there is a long history of independent people, alternative schools, homeschoolers and unschoolers who have been promoting making children the authors of their own education, and who have succeeded in doing so for teenagers and children of all ages.