If you are reading this, it means you have probably seen the newspaper article, heard the radio spot, or seen the TV story done about the Philadelphia Free School over the past 2 weeks. (Find links on the In the News page.)
As we succeed in getting the word out about our school, a question every reporter and many viewers ask is, “Can children, especially young ones, really learn things on their own, without an adult to “structure” or “direct” their learning? Won’t they, left to their own devises, waste their time playing, sleeping, talking, etc?”
I think this question says more about us adults, and perhaps some of the effects of our own traditional schooling, than it does about children. So, I found myself simply responding, “I don’t think we give kids enough credit.” Of course, the best answer is, “See for yourself.” When Claudia Gomez, the reporter from Fox 29, asked that question, I told her to put it to the students at the New School, a free school in Delaware, where she was heading after interviewing us. I believe she did just that, and I think that what she saw and heard impressed her so favorably that she created a very positive story about democratic free schools.
If you can’t travel 50 or so miles to the nearest free school to see this in action, I invite you to take a look at this video, which is not of a free school, or even in reference to free schools, directly. It is a Ted Talk given by a physicist and professor of education named Sugata Mitra. Even if you can only watch the first 2 minutes, do it. I think the connections to the Philadelphia Free School will be apparent. See for yourself what kids can do!