Everything at once

Now that we've laid out the three major goals of our school — the three central criteria of love, mastery, and wisdom on which all our decisions will be based — we're going to start playing around with specific curricular elements. 

That means looking at scholastic subjects. What might our reading curriculum look like? Our writing curriculum? What role can cooking play in our school? Drawing and painting? How about math — how might that shake out? How might we do physical education, and music, and history, and philosophy? How about world religions? How about the environment?

It also means taking a broader angle on school life, and philosophy of education. How can we address community cohesion, and individuality? How can we give kids hope for success, and help develop creativity and resilience? How can we bring the outside world into the classroom? How can we synthesize helping kids fit into society, and helping them transform society?

Most educational reform movements, quite sensibly, limit themselves to addressing one of these.

We're going address all of them at once.

There's a fantastic moment in an Orson Scott Card novel (I forget which one, exactly) in which the team of brilliant adventurers (all his novels feature a team of brilliant adventurers) are trying to take on a multitude of pressing issues: making contact with a sentient species of virus, hustling a corrupt intergalactic senate, and figuring out extra-dimensional, faster-than-light spaceflight (thus necessitating unraveling the fundamental patterns of physical reality).

One character says that any one of these problems would be enough for them. She points out that in the previous millennia of human thinking, nobody has solved a single one. The team should limit themselves, she argues, to just one goal.

On the contrary! declares our hero. The fact that no one has solved any of these problems should tell us that they're not solvable by themselves. To get to the bottom any of the mysteries, he says, we need to get our insights from all the others.

We need to solve all of them together.

Well, I don't know if that's good advice for figuring out warp drive, but I've definitely found this advice to be useful when thinking about schooling.

Math pedagogy gives insight into reading pedagogy, which in turn gives insight into how to cook. And so on, and so on.

We can understand teaching any subject better if we think about how to teach any subject.

I suspect this "broad" approach will be useful with executing this new form of schooling, as well. That is, students who nurture a love for various subjects will be more open to mastering them. Students who experience the profound excitement of cultural history will be more open to learning to cook (and eat!) the signature dishes of each culture.

What students learn in each of their subjects will give them new perspective in every other subject.

So in our school, we're going to try all of these big ideas out at once. This sounds a little nuts. Frankly, this seems like the definition of quixotic.

But it also seems like the only truly sensible way to move forward: to try out a basically new approach to K-12 education.

So: expect a welter of ideas that only vaguely seem to connect together. In the end, they all will.


Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA