Needed: An alternative, alternative learning

row of identifal figures looking at 1 soaring above them
Katrina Schwartz had a piece at MindShift recently that spotlighted an alternative learning center in Massachusetts called North Star.

The thesis of the piece was that some students do poorly in school despite being bright because the traditional academic setting doesn’t let them move out of student—”kid”—roles into adult roles. Students profiled in the piece did well at North Star when allowed to choose their learning and to interact with adults who mentored and befriended them.

Every student mentioned by name in the article went on to be successful in college and career.

I am sympathetic toward square pegs placed in round holes.

I, too, have seen students who bloomed when treated with respect for their interests and feelings.

That said, however, I wonder if focusing on students who, if given their heads, will gallop direct for magna cum laude honors in college  doesn’t ignore the bigger problem: the students who, if given their heads, will struggle to walk as far as a high school diploma.

We have far too many kids in high schools who are smart enough—not brilliant, but smart enough to lead happy, productive lives—but who just are not getting what they need to feel that what they can do and want to do has value in their communities.

It’s those kids, to my mind, who really need alternative learning opportunities.

And, I suspect that group constitutes the bulk of the student body.