View Full Version : Manhatter-Other Play-Doh? Calculus? At the Manhattan Free School, Anything Goes

10-06-2010, 03:46 PM
This from the N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/nyregion/05bigcity.html) by Susan Dominus:
The Manhattan Free School in East Harlem is not free, but the principal there practically is. Now in her third year, Pat Werner, a 57-year-old former literacy coach who logged 18 years in New York City public schools, accepted all of $3,000 in salary last year.

Few go into education for the money, but Ms. Werner’s dedication to opening young people’s minds might better be described as utopian than idealistic — which is only appropriate at a private school where students do not receive grades, take tests or have to do anything, really, that they do not feel like doing.

For parents exhausted by New York’s numbers-oriented, lottery-driven public school system or its hierarchical, hypercompetitive private schools, the Manhattan Free School represents another way to go: equally wacky, but at the opposite extreme.

A school like this, where a comic-book-making class is now offered but calculus is not, is not likely to drain applicants from Dalton. Operating on a $100,000 budget, the school, at Good Neighbor Presbyterian Church on East 106th Street, now has 23 students ages 5 to 18.

Of those students, Ms. Werner said, 20 percent pay the full fee, $15,000 a year; 25 percent pay $1,500; and the rest pay about $3,000. Ms. Werner said her salary was so low because “we don’t have enough money”; she and her husband get by on his pension from the parks department.

In the cafeteria of the church one recent day, lunch, like much else at the school, was happening in a fashion that could generously be described as fluid. The art teacher was offering her hummus to a wary 5-year-old who seemed hungry. The boy ate the hummus eagerly; followers of the free-school philosophy might posit that this was partly because no one was forcing him to. (Pizza was also an option.)

At the Manhattan Free School, which opened in 2008 and follows a model that first gained fame at A. S. Neill’s Summerhill School in England, educators believe that students learn best when they direct their own education. Classes are held, but if a student wants to play video games or model with Play-Doh all day, so be it — even if that student is, say, 17.

“It comes down to trust,” Ms. Werner said, “the trust that given time, they’ll find their passions, and when they do, they’ll be eager to learn.”

read more>> (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/nyregion/05bigcity.html)