Transforming Education Society
A fundamental idea of the society is the belief in a democratic, personalized and self-determined education model. This kind of learning is based on the very simple premise that all human beings are born with an inherent drive to learn, and that we all learn best what we are most interested in. Given this assumption, what seems to follow is that institutions of learning should be dedicated to facilitating rather than directing the learning process. This is a “bottom-up” as opposed to a “top-down” approach, in which it is the learner rather than the teacher who is given the primary responsibility for determining both the form and content, as well as the overall goals, of his or her education.
Applied to adult learning environments, these ideas are generally accepted, but in the context of young children or adolescents they are contradicted by very widely and deeply held assumptions about what schools are, what education is, and what they could or should be. Through 40 years of practice, the Windsor House Community has discovered several interlocking principles that reinforce one another to support an environment in which children can be given the freedom and responsibility to direct their own education with positive results. It should be noted that these principles apply not only to the students, but to the whole community including parents, staff, and alumni.
Profound Respect is the cornerstone of a democratic, personalized self-determined education, in that it is both the motive for wanting children to have real freedom and self-determination, and the means by which this goal is approached. Every human being of whatever age is a whole person and should be deserving of the same level of respect, which means that their ideas, feelings, needs, and desires must be taken seriously. Any level of bullying, intimidation, or humiliation is unacceptable for any reason. A genuine consideration for the viewpoints of others can only be developed in an environment in which one’s own viewpoint is genuinely considered by others.
Building Relationships is what happens in an atmosphere of profound respect; each individual is situated in a dynamic and ever-shifting web of relationships. In the absence of a central authority to define and enforce a specific set of relationships based on extrinsic motivations and policies, relationships within the community are free to develop based on intrinsic affinities and connections. New relationships typically form around specific projects and interests, and at the same time, existing relationships form the core of new endeavours.
Real Collaboration is the result of building relationships based on profound respect. When no one is forced to become involved in any particular activity, their level of engagement in the activities they choose tends to be very high. Real collaboration involves more than just co-operation and consultation; it is a method in which the whole group brainstorms around a topic and builds on each others’ ideas until a workable plan is formulated, in which everyone feels pride and ownership. The whole group keeps working towards a solution, it doesn’t go ‘upstairs’ to be finalized by the ‘experts’. With consultation, one can be asked for one’s opinions, but then be completely ignored. Most people find it infuriating to do the work of contributing to a consulting group, only to find that the solution was decided before the process was even started.