From the Department of Bad Ideas

Liam Julian

Let kids run their own schools. This is the reduced-to-essence message of author Susan Engel's?contribution to?today's New York Times. She writes about the Independent Project, in which eight high-school students in western Massachusetts designed and operated, from September to?January, their own school. There were no grades, of course, only "evaluations," and?the kids created their own curriculum and taught it to?each other?basically?the blind leading the blind, which, as Jesus once told somebody, isn't good. At the end of the term, the pupils ?embarked on a collective endeavor? that, they all agreed, ?had to have social significance.? Of course it did. So they made a film about how they started their teenager-run school and how other teens could start one, too.

Look, high school stinks, its current one-size-fits-all tack idiotic. But it's foolish?worse, really?to think that because a few kids in Massachusetts who got to?read?Faulkner to each other for eight weeks had some sort of kumbaya experience schools across the nation should institute student-led classes teaching student-formed curricula. ?Schools everywhere could initiate an Independent Project,? Engel writes, because 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.? Evidence for these claims (besides ?more engaged?): lacking.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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