Free to learn – Peter Hartkamp – Free to learn in a democratic school?

Free to learn – Peter Hartkamp – Free to learn in a democratic school?


Hello, I will do it in English because I learnt French at school and it still doesn’t work very well I am presenting my book and the school we started or the three schools we started. The title of my book is “Beyond Coercive Education” and that’s a pretty damming title I think but I think there is a reason for it and I will show you. The first question is why am I here or why did I write a book ? The history is that when my daughter was 8 year old in 2000 She said she’d rather be dead than go to school. For me and my wife that was really a reason to start doing something because we thought that’s not possible. So we started a democratic school in 2003 where we put our own education paradigm completely upside down and it worked very well for our children. Unfortunately the government in the Netherlands thought that it was not a school and in the Netherlands home education is almost not allowed So the government started to prosecute parents and all the parents of the school and the staff got scared and they started to change the vision of the school back to traditional So then in 2007 a quite large group of the staff and students left the school and we started a second school That school was called De Kampanie and it was a Sudbury model school and again it worked really well for the children but as parents we were, because of the relationship with the government were also very very bad at that time so we ended up in court straightaway The Court case took up very slowly which was lucky for us because we still had the school and our children could attend the school So we spent 7 years fighting the government in Court and we found out that neither human rights nor education law actually helped us because we thought we knew we were on the right side the Court thought differently So in the end in 2014 all the parents were convicted of bridging the compulsory school laws and we had to close the school then we thought our children were adults already and me and my wife thought well enough is enough we need to stop at a certain stage and then again one mother of the school that worked in traditional education said this is so important we need to continue so we said well she really wanted to start a 3rd school so we did we started renewing the kind of school we wanted but we spent about 4 or 5 month developping a strategy on how to deal with the government we said we are not giving up the model because the model was perfect it is just how do we explain it to the inspectors what we are doing and that was really good now the inspectors inspected the school 2 or 3 times they were very enthusiastic about the school, they fully supported the school and basically what we did we went from the worst position to the best position so now in the Netherlands at least the Sudbury school is totally possible and it is also in the legislation and in the inspection procedures so we’re very much in clear. But in 2014 I was so angry that we lost … school or the government closed the school that I decided to write down my experience and my insights My first idea was to really like destroy the entire education system in the Netherlands So I started to write and then basically found that per se any school system is not good or bad but the coercion of children the government to force the children to school and also the forcing of children inside schools and then I realized that I started to write a book on the thoughts about coercion because all the problems you see in education you can relate back to coercion Hem Just a little example that was in the newspapers a few month ago That was a boy from a like a well-to-do family, a nice boy nice school was interviewed by some journalists and one of the question they asked him “what do you want your life to look like 10 years from now?” and of course there are many many answers possible to a question like that but his answers was: 10 years from now I will have good grades in school and to me that poses the question is the purpose of his life to support the school? or is the purpose of the school to support his life? and I think what I see is that school has completely taken over the lives of children One of the like of pretty well known person in the Netherlands and he was the former president of the Royal Netherlands Academy in Arts and Sciences and he was a professor at Princeton Institute for Advanced Study and he home-educated his own children which is really interesting but this is about a recent interview about the education system and I think he is a pretty smart well respected guy it was a pretty damning critic on what we are doing to our children If you look at a larger picture on what is going on in society overall I think one of the constance almost is change and it is not even constance, change in society is going at an accelerated speed it’s going exponential and the reason of a report in an economic forum they figured out about 65% of the children who go to primary school this year they will all do jobs that are still not invented yet Another thing we figured out was that the knowledge and the half time of knowledge students learn at universities as a half time of four years which basically means the stuff you learn in the first year is already obsolete by the time you end the university if you finish your university in four years. So again what is the value of knowledge in how do we deal with it ? and the other question of course is about the turtle how fast does education adapt itself to the changing environment? Hmm If you look at the education system I think it was said before earlier this morning and yesterday already but in essence if you look at the education system it was first rolled out it was first mass-scaled in the Kingdom of Prussia in about 1806 and the needs of the society in Prussia in 1806 was basically that the King and Queen of Prussia needed obedient soldiers, obedient workers and obedient civil servants and they designed an education system that really work to these purposes and basically if you look at the code of education all children have to go to school they developed year classes, school hours state curriculum state certified teachers standardized tests and state exams and I think if you look at society these days more than 200 years later I think those systems designed features of the educational system that are still totally valid I think any educational system in the world is still based on the same premises and of course things change in education but which are really superflus, we changed from black boards then we started using white boards now we use smart boards but I think those boards are still the same like 200 hundred years ago. If you look at the education system with all the problems in education system the education system is not broken the education system does exactly what it is designed for and the question is does that really serve our children’s needs of today ? If you look at medicine for instance all medicine you buy or at least in Holland there is a little leaflet with it to show the side effects of medicine and it is by law required to show those If you would look at the side effects of education it is a pretty grey story and this is basically what I took from my book like education is compulsory thus children lose their free time when they go to school, there is 100% certainty Privacy in school, I don’t know about here but in Holland parents can be logged in in the students tracking system and see almost minute by minute what the children do Compared to for instance myself I never talked anything to my parents what happened in school because I thought it was totally not their business If you look at the loss of divergent thinking and creativity maybe some of you have seen the TED talk of Ken Robinson “Do schools kill creativity?” and he sates that from the 4 years old like 100% of children are very very creative and by the time they are 18 years old almost 4% of this creativity is left. Motivation, I think a lot of children at schools are not motivated These are some figures from Finland which many see as a very good education system compared to the others Half of the students In Finland are not motivated at school so there is a serious problem, And the professor that showed these results also said that about another half has burn-out or she called it bore-out which is actually burn-out because of boredom I think motivation is the foremost driver to be able to learn so if you lose it how much can you learn then ? Functional literacy In the Netherlands about 12% of the adult population is functionally illiterate I found it really shocking that’s all people that spent 10-12 years to school if you look at other countries I don’t know the data for Luxembourg but in the US it is 14% Germany it is 9%, France it is 11% so how is it possible people who have been going to school for 10 years are not being able to read afterwards except for their names and some headlines in the newspapers but do not understand what’s in them so I think there are a lot of very very bad side effects So then to come to my book, what I did in my book there is a lot of series of things I really did not understand from the Court cases that the judge is even to my perception they have their own view on what’s good in education are stronger than the law the education laws and how is it possible that the judge who is there supposed to support the law has his personal preference on education and most judge are not progressive in their thinking to tell me as a parent what I should do for my children and when I look at it what were the underlined assumptions why people don’t understand those things ? And in my book I counted a number of myths and when you look at how people see them if you look at them closer, you see that almost the opposite is true. One of the myth I identified is basically “The more is better” I think any discussion on education especially when there are problems, discussions in the newspapers when there are discussion in Parliament or at the Ministry or in the press the underlined assumption is always more is better we want more curricula, more subjects, longer school hours, earlier to school longer to schools, shorter holidays it is always the solution for the problem. and there are very few of course examples for when we’ve seen we’ve done less it is better but there are a some really good examples. In the 30’s I think it was a Chicago’s school superintendent who already thought then that children were going too much at school. So he started an experiment and he was called Mr Benezet (?) an experiment to see what would happen if children would do less at school so he did quite a radical experiment for a number of schools in a number of classes, he stopped giving arithmetics lessons from grade 1 to grade 5 so five years long no arithmetics And then year 6th they got arithmetic again and do arithmetics tests and what came out was that the first tests that they do all the tests which required like really exercising doing calculations the class who did not have arithmetics for five years has scored slightly lower than the other class who had arithmetics for 5 years but on questions that required insight and logic and thinking they scored way higher than the other class who did have arithmetic and half year later they still scored way higher on what was required on logic and they scored the same on the questions requiring calculating skills. So basically his conclusions was if you want children to learn arithmetic, don’t teach them arithmetic which is of course completely counter mainstream education what people think and there are more examples there was this big earthquakes in … New-Zealand in 2011 and all the students going for the final exam they could not go to school for 4 or 5 month and so the New Zealand education authority thought oh this is horrible because they can’t prepare for the exams, they can’t pass the exams they don’t get a diploma, they can’t go to universities universities and the school were full of panic so they developed an earth quake correction factor for the exam result so they normally said children would get an 8 and now because of the earthquake a 4 so you multiply it by 2 and it comes to 8 again so everybody did their exams and it took a surprise for the New Zealand qualifications authorities the exam results were the highest ever without the correction factor and something similar happened in Denmark during the teacher’s strike in 2013 where the students taking exams could not go to schools for 3 month and again they had the highest results. So I think the myth “the more the better” is indeed a myth I think “less is much better” I think if you push children to be more educated to be more taught you actually damage their development and you’re damaging their rights as well. Another one is especially in the Netherlands what you saw yesterday, the Netherlands in the ranking (of freedom of education) was second and it is because many people see the education system as very liberal and very diverse but of course if you look at the criteria of the educational system all schools are the same Because if you look at the Waldorf’s school, Montessori’s schools, traditional schools, they still have the same curriculum, the same tests, the same year classes, the same everything, so at the system’s level there is no diversity whatsoever and a lot of the innovations, people trying to change traditional schools but to me I used to work for an English company and my English colleagues used to say this is like real range in the sinking of the Titanic it might be very important for you but you won’t divert the iceberg. And changes in the system never will change the system itself. And again I think the lack of diversity in education, the lack of choice for children in education damages their development and their rights. Another one is the Testing, you’ve probably seen this picture before Testing, you see more and more testing all over places Some countries are leading like UK or the US but other countries are following because the whole thinking forces to go to more testing but to me testing is much worse than the time lost on testing and also the question is what does testing do ? Does testing leads to better education for children ? Because the only thing you can see from tests is that they are pretty good forecasts on how children make the next test. But again it is so much time lost of children’s time lost because of the testing and preparation of testing. In the Netherlands we have for four or five years old standard national tests to see how they are doing but you can’t start early enough of course. There was one example where like a little boy called Casper and he was shown a picture of an igloo in the North Pole and there was 2 colors linked to it a red color and a blue color and the question was of course, what color do you think should relate to the igloo and Casper looked at it and he said well well inside the igloo is warmer than outside so I think it should be red but of course the people that designed the test thought igloo are in cold places and igloos should be blue so their conclusion was, Casper does not understand what an igloo is and doesn’t understand what temperatures are. But for Casper in his future school career he has to adapt to the thinking of the designers of the tests because otherwise he can’t get through the system. So in this sense, it’s not only the test itself but although the test almost like a fault police which are straightjacket for the thinking of people because otherwise you can’t survive in the system. There is another example of like a physics student who was supposedly pretty smart and he was asked by his professor if you have like a high rise building and you can’t pressure gage for measuring the air pressure how can you calculate the height of the building? And the students thought well it is such an obvious solution to measure the pressure at the bottom and the top and calculate it there must be another solution, so he said I can lower the barometer on the string of the building and measure how long the string is. Of course his professor did not accept the answer. Another answer was well I can measure the shadow of the building and I can measure the shadow of the barometer and calculate how high the building is, of course that was wrong as well. Or he said, another creative solution, I can drop the barometer from the building and measure how long it takes for the barometer to reach the floor and then again I can calculate how high is the building. And then by then the Professor really got upset and he gave him a final chance and he said well I can go to the genitor of the building and give him the barometer for measuring the pressure and return for him to say how high the building is. But again it’s it’s a straight jacket for thinking it’s people satisfying other people’s expectations rather than do any fundamental new thinking. So really I think the testing and the exams are straightjacket for the thinking of people and are there for damaging people. Another example is a question is do children need guidance ? and I think guidance is a nice word for coercion. And I think coercion is the base of the whole school system. And my question would be : are children incompetent and do they need therefore guidance ? or are these days children guided so much, that they can’t show how competent they are and therefore people think they need to be guided even more. There was an American psychologist called Robert Epstein who wrote a book called “The case against adolescence” Adolescence is a feature which only appears in Western societies, if you go to other societies you don’t see it except when they start copying Western societies. And what he did he did a leverage research on competence of people and he plotted on against age so it started with zero to 18 years any competence he could think of he started to plot and what he saw for like memory, logical thinking, anything he could think of. Age zero people have a zero competence and they’ve got a very steep rise until children are between ten and fourteen and thereafter it starts to go down again and somebody aged 80 has the same competence like somebody who is 10 years old Human beings are the most competent between 12 and 14 and it applies to any competence except for muscle power for obvious reasons. And if you look in history because these days children can’t show any competency because they’re all tied up in a school if you go back in history there are some examples where you can see that extremely young people did some amazing things like there is also a Dutch called Mika …. who went to the navy when he was eleven years old in the 17th century and he was 15 years old when he was a skipper which is the lowest … official rank and later he became a famous admiral and has beaten the British in the England Dutch war Also in computer science a 13 year old boy would develop a comparison site for telephones and he was very successful with it he was so successful he had to hire his mother to drive him around and do his bookkeeping and he had a pretty good business but of course his school infringed the running of the business because he lost so many hours a day in school. And more recently, maybe you’ve heard of it there was a 14 year old girl in the Netherlands who wanted to solo sail around the world And she was born on a sailing boat and sailed a lot until she was fourteen and she probably sailed more that many adults have ever sailed in their lives but of course the child’s protection services thought it was not a good idea because you should go to school because that was better for her development the social services prevented her from going to sail for a year and in the end after two or three Court cases finally there was a judge who said who are we to stop this girl if she really wants it and if her parents want her to do it and if her grand parents want her to do it so by the time she was 15 she started to sail around the world and she finished it so she’s the youngest person ever to sail around the world. And she found fighting youth services much harder than sailing around the world. When she ran at the Cape of Africa she was sailing on a little boat and there were like 30 meters waves but still the youth services were much harder to tackle. The founder of the Sudbury’s valley school near Boston says that unsolicited guidance I think that “unsolicited” is really important when you’re forcing children to do things that is fatal for their developments. If you look at my book, I think there are some more myths and if you read the book you can see why I think they are indeed myths Coming back to human rights if you read the human rights, one of the starting clause is at all state parties is that we shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and education measures to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence if so introduced. So they are pretty clear and one of the right of course is the right to education but all States are trying to get children to school but I have never seen anybody bothered about what happens inside schools as soon as the children cross the school doors the idea is everything is ok. But if you look at the human rights about the right to assembly, the right to privacy, the right to be free of physical and psychological abuse the right to have a say about the big decision around you of course those things in school are never done so the question is are children humans or not? and if children are humans, how do we look at them? and I think there are two options there, do we think children are human and are full-fledged human beings so they are competent, autonomous, they should enjoy the human rights, they should be able to make their own choices, they should be responsible for themselves which basically means that that human rights should also in schools apply unconditionally. To me there should be full respect for children and to me coercion and respect are totally excluding each other. The other option of course is that you see children inferior or developping humans to say it nicer But basically you’re saying children are incompetent and need guidance they should not have any human rights and basically you’re saying you don’t respect children. And of course this is how we can look at the education system, there are some examples where things are going better There are some example around where you can see it. I think one of the examples is Finland In Finland although it is not totally ideal I think but there are some things where they did quite right Because in the 80’s they made for teacher’s choice to change their education system and then they based it on trust not control and they took that seriously so Finland dissolved the school inspections because if you trust the schools and you trust the people then you don’t need to inspect them. The other thing is that they are all teachers university trained and of course is now for years already heading the Pisa’s rankings, the other interesting thing is that Finland has the shortest schools hours In the world children get almost no homework and children are only obliged to go to school from the age of 7. Which is really interesting I think they’ve got the shortest school periods and the best results what happens if you even shorten that period? But on the other hand of course they have serious problems with motivation to me the reason I can only find for that is the Finland still has a state curriculum and however good the system is children are still guided to the same end-points. And if children are not motivated to do it you can’t motivate them to do it. Of course the other option is home education which has been discussed already at length And how many questions there are basically on education at home because it’s a very broad spectrum it can be totally from school at home to totally unschooling and everything inbetween and of course in the (United) States this started to take off in the 60’s and also in the 70’s and there are now like 2 to 3 million students that are home-educated and if you look at all the studies done or have been done on average I think home-educated children they are like two to three years ahead academically and they also are seen to be socially much more adept. which applies for all home-education and also universities really want to take home-educated children because they know much better what they want and are motivated. Another example is self-learning, maybe you’ve heard the story of the wall in the world computer That’s an Indian searcher Sugar Mitra and he wanted to do an experiment and he took in a like in bad neighborhood like in Bengali or another city, he cut a hole in a wall of a research institute and he put a computer behind it with the mouse to manipulate it and he put a camera on top of it to see what would happen and then the computer was linked to an internet connection then the streets children were not literate, they could not speak English they started to explore and within a number of month the streets children could do like anything with the computer which is possible and they almost managed to change the source code. The same thing I think we can mention is Peter Gray and the research he did and he says that children’s natural way of educating themselves still work if you let children educate themselves they will learn anything even the things people regards as very important the 3 “R’s” so arithmetic, reading and writing and then the last example the democratic schools or the Sudbury’s school we started One of the first still existing democratic school of course is Summerhill And based on the Summerhill’s concept the group who started Sudbury Valley put another layer to it, they said we want the children to be in total control of the school management and school community so in the Sudbury Valley when there are any staff election, the students and the staff decide which staff will be in school next year they decide on budget on the school rules making sure the rules are uphold and also what you see from the Sudbury Valley School is like 80% of the students … touch on their education and they got all sort of universities and if you read, there are some studies done by the schools themselves basically what you can see from there is that all students find jobs ans social relations and anything they want and if you look at the description it pretty close come to people really happy in their lives. Some of the features it’s a school from age 4 to 18 or 19 there is full age mix The school meetings where all the students or staff are part of that is the highest authority in school And basically children are given an environment where they can do their own things decide for themselves what they do and how they do it when they do it And what I would like to do is to show a short 2 minute clip of our school it’s subtitled in English I am afraid but it gives you a quick impression on how the school looks likeThe organization of the school generates as much individual freedom as possible to determine yourself what to do what to aim for and self-develop. but where the responsibility entirely lies with you to get things done It is a school with a democratic system, where you learn what you want and when. It is a school where you can determine yourself what you want to do. Of all the other schools I know this school provide the best opportunity for personal responsibility within students. For me the school is a place where children are not disturbed by adults, where they can determine their own direction, make their own choices and where they are treated with total respect. It is a difficult school, it is not an easy school. People are completely free to determine what they want to do, how to spend their time. Additionally if you are part of a community, of a group of people and to organize that orderly, there are rules. It is a free school, you can determine what you want to do almost all the time. It is a school where all people are equal.
(Sudbury School Harderwijk)
(Sudburysschoolharderwijk.nl) Ok that was it thanks. Public: Where did you find the money to create some school like this? Yeah, that’s really the hard thing Within the state subsidized school system this is not possible, so basically the parents are paying for it. This is one thing and we tried to keep like the school is much cheaper than regular schools because the school manages itself so like 30-40% lower and on the other hand the main sponsors of the school are the staff members because for the first years they get very low pay and we can only provide normal like kind of normal salaries when we have between 60-80 students. So we are slowly growing to a situation where we are financially sustainable. And the other thing which is a separate track working with the Ministry of Education to get them to understand what we are doing to get subsidies as well because in Holland we don’t have a tradition of private schools so you’re competing against schools which get fully subsidized and that’s why you can never make it accessible to large group of children And to say in that respect like 3 weeks ago I made a presentation to a group of 26 people at the Ministry of Education and this was quite a shock for them but they’re starting to get it but it will take some more time. Does that answer your question? yes. Public: “Is there an obligation to attend class in this kind of school if yes how do you explain this obligation and if not how do you explain that there is no need for this obligation?” This is a good question, there are few obligations in the school If children come to the school they surely make the choice to be part of the school community and there are few things for running the community which all will need to do Like one of the things we do not have much money so we do our own cleaning So there is a cleaning roster and everybody has to do cleaning chores. The other thing is there is no obligation to attend lessons in fact we don’t organize lessons we only organize a lesson if a student asks for it. but in practice this hardly happens and we don’t need to justify not having any obligations because the inspectors are so happy with what we’re doing. Public : In fact my question is – I know how democratic schools work in practice – and I know that in some school there is an obligation to attend not in the sense of attending a lesson but in the sense of showing up in the mornings and evenings The attendance time can also be outside of the school but in any case you need to show up at least four mornings a week and this really questions me so I am asking you since you’re here. Yes we have as a school and it partly has to do with the school system in the Netherlands like children have to go to school and as a school we say if you chose to go to the school you chose to be part of the community and that’s why you need to be at school for an amount of hours Within the hours, there is no obligation whatsoever so there is no classes, there is no meeting they need to go to or anything. Does that answer your question? But there are other democratic schools where children have obligations but this is why I said we have a Sudbury school and children have no obligation at all. Also within democratic schools there is a pretty wide range of different school types and how people organize it. Yes? Public: So I said I know this explanation but I do not understand the explanation of the attendance obligation well I think where the obligation of teaching hinders learning the attendance obligation hinders involvement or my feeling is the in the philosophy of the school as you describe it involvement is really key that’s why it does not make sense to me to be obliged to attend which seems contradictory to me and since I heard Bernard (Collot) speaking of his 3rd kind school where this obligation did not exist which were an open living space and so this is a thing I really still stumble over. Well I in principle agree with the point I think if we would do that I think the only thing where we would have to accept a concession to the laws and what the government does If the children didn’t go to school by laws they are required to go to school and follow the school hours so there is nothing we can do although the thing we did as soon as the children are at school they are allowed to go off the campus and go anywhere they want so they still can go do virtually what they want to do or organize to go somewhere else as long as they organize it properly. That’s the best we can do in the system. Public: I will tell it in French it will be easier I am trying to create a Sudbury school in Lille (France) so I also thought somehow about that question but The first thing is that at the Sudbury valley school it is one of the rare obligation of the State they have it to have 5 hours attendance per day so that’s why they have over there (in the US) this 5 hours compulsory attendance because this is the law over there Also what I heard and read from their site and from other schools so if we try to consider on the one hand schools like the Sudbury school type where children are fully “owner” of the school that is to say they have a right to vote and on the other hand we look at learning ressources center for instance for homeschoolers In a learning ressource center there are a few people who manage the running of the establishment whereas in a Sudbury school everybody can take part to the management and to me this compulsory attendance is due to this difference that the children are part of the school council and part of the school governance. Otherwise you need to appoint someone to make it work. So then to me I conclude that there is no real explanation, it is just due to the law but in the philosophy of all we have been talking about there is no real explanation for this. And I am not convinced of this concept because I think there are plenty of self-managed places with adults, families or anyone young or less young and older where there is self-management without compulsory attendance So then I think that if there was no compulsory attendance in such schools maybe if the young and less young are really feeling well there they would just be as much together there and self-managing themselves and so compulsory attendance is just the result of the law and is a trade-off we make to the law but the problem is that in certain Sudbury schools it is explained through the idea that it is necessary for the community but my belief remains that obligation prevents commitment. BS: You want to answer? PH: No this was not a question. Public: You had examples a while ago regarding “less is more” and you cited the example with the earthquake and in Danemark that there was this strike and it was the highest ever that the students had hum my question is that if I try to homeschool my child how can I truly measure how much, because you said “less is more” where can I draw the line that it is enough the amount of knowledge that a child learns is enough or if it is too less or if it is too much? for me it is kind of, it is too difficult to quantify like how does it work really it is so confusing to me. Well my question would be why would you want to quantify it? If I look at my own learning and in periods I am learning enormous amounts but mostly you don’t realize you’re learning it So why would you want to have an external measure put on people how much they learn? You can’t see learning, you can’t measure learning the best you can measure are mostly meaningless so why would you like to do it in the first place? The question is that it’s an individual responsibility of any human being to make most of your life but what do you want to do with your life? So why would other people have need to judge that or do something with this? So in the sense I said yesterday, to me learning, if we talk about it what are we talking about in the first place in our school we see an enormous amount of learning happens out of the activities people do So we had for instance we had a group of 10 to 12 years old boys and they were totally into Minecraft and they would come like early nine o’clock before the doors were open and stay till five o’clock at school and they did this for half a year and when and when they started playing Minecraft because it’s an English program it is in English language and the boys did not speak any English so what they started doing is to read out and to type into google translate lots of laps of English texts to understand what they were doing and how they could play the program not because they wanted to learn English but because they wanted to play Minecraft and then over this half year they built this incredible complex world and at a certain moment they wanted to explain it to me because they were so proud and I think after 2 or 2,5 hours I gave up because I think it was too complex it was just amazing what they did and they were like learning anything you can imagine but of course you can’t measure it, you can’t see it apart if you look from additions you see four or five boys behind their computers. but the learning it was like stellar it was amazing so why would you even judge it, just have fun with the boys and if they want to do and if they want to do things or involve you go along and if they don’t want that’s fine as well. Public: So the point is just really for the children to be free? Exactly yeah It’s treating them like humans Treat them like you want to be treated yourself. Public: In your school do you have any problems of aggressivity of children? PH: Problem with?
Public: Aggressivity? So with bad behavior or aggressive behavior of children towards other children or with conflicts and how do you deal with that? PH: There is like if you look at bullying for me my definition of bullying is like long-term structural, physical or psychological violence that doesn’t happen at our school at all there are happening of course incidents I am thinking of when two boys came in a chore and bitted each other but if there are conflicts like that within the school there are school rules and officially you’re not allowed to hit each other or disturb each other, if people still do that we have got a judicial committee So people can write up the incident what happened and then there is like sort of little court in school whereas 3 students and staff members investigate what happened make a report of the facts that happened and they can also give a sanction to the person who did something whereby a rule was breached and they take care of keeping the school safe and a good place to be for everybody. Public: I would be interested how the decisions are collectively taken in the school what process do you use in your governance? PH: The highest authority in the school is the school meeting and if you look in a democracy how you make decisions it is like a majority rule or two thirds or consent or whatever that’s a decision model, I think what is really important in a democracy or in a democratic decision making is also the process because the person controlling the process also controls the outcome of the process so like in our school all the rules and all the process and all the steps are written down to make sure we don’t have any grey areas which people can use to manipulate and then in school meeting when there would be a proposal or motion put forward there would be discussions where the arguments we would bring about is is it in the interest of the community or the school to make this decision or not and then we get all the arguments passed and then in the end a decision is taken. Public: I would be interested to know if you use like majoritarian stuff or if you’re more into like finding decisions like you would do in sociocracy based models like seeing if there is any objection or that policy can be made by everybody PH: We use majority votes but I can also say it is because during the discussions because a lot of people have with a majority vote the picture or the vision how things go in Parliaments or in total distinct organs which doesn’t work basically if it is a really participatory democracy where the participants of the meetings run the meeting and decide how long will be discussed for certain matters Also once it was like for a political party where the chairman of the meeting would actually manipulate the meeting by deciding who could speak or who couldn’t speak In the school meeting anybody who wants to speak was just listed on a speakers list and everybody can say what he wants to say what he wants to say to make sure that all arguments are heard and all arguments are vented and to show how it works, they once had a decision where for instance during the discussion there first were four proposals and there was against and there was four against and there was against again because like all the arguments were there and what we found out is that if all the arguments are properly vented in the ending decision this is really clear to everybody and what we see is that most decisions are taken unanimously I think the decision we had for instance in the second school we had enormous debates around there was a rule you were not allowed to have your feet on the table. Because some people really like to have their feet on the table and other people did not want to put their foot on the table and then like the stinking sock next to the foot then this rule came up and up again and every time it was left in place with like with a majority of 1/4 or something that’s sort of what you see then but I think all the major important decisions the diagnosis are so clear that the decision is always clear. Public: I have a small similar question in fact which place is made to minorities because after all we are maybe not in a democracy but we can consider that we are a minority that is not heard by a majority although everything is voted So how in a minority the minority itself is taken into account? So if you have 1 or 2 people out of 10 who disagree and you vote at two thirds I know the voted rule can always be questioned again, I heard that well that’s a tough question I have. PH: Like a bit what I said on the how we dealt with the feet on the table I think one of the things if you live in a community there is not all decisions you have to agree with so in that sense there can be a minority but what we found out is that if the process, the decision making process is pure and just then everybody in the meeting accepts the outcome of the process whether it is a decision you wanted or didn’t want but you can say these are all the arguments this is what the community wants I can live with that. Mrs Hartkamp: Maybe I can add a little bit to that because with the decision making process we have the whole meeting is in charge of the meeting everybody is in charge of the meeting and it means that at a certain point when you have heard all kind of arguments one person can raise the hand and say I want to propose an end-discussion and that has to be put on the table and it has to pass by two-third majority so it means that most of the people in the room must say ok we agree we’ve heard enough we can make a decision now and then those who vote against it are maybe the minority people who still want to say their saying or still want to express what they wanted to say they think that they are not heard yet enough so they can raise hands against the proposal and if the proposal passes they still get one or a few minutes to express what they really wanted to say which means that you sometimes hear an argument where you think wow we didn’t really consider that we didn’t really think about this we hear something new although we have agreed that we would stop the discussion you could hear still a new argument from the minority perhaps that raised their hand against it so so in fact in principle it is not so different from finding a consensus Everybody has a room and a floor to speak out if you really wanna say something whether you are still having a small thing to add and you can open up the discussion again when you hear something like that and you say oh this we did not really think about we still have to continue the discussion it wasn’t finished yet. So that is the possibility we have Maybe two adds to that there is another thing the school meeting discussions only can only make decisions on things concerning the community. The school meeting can not decide on things which infringe on individual liberty so the school meetings cannot say we need to start to do compulsory tests or other things which affect people personally. The school meeting is about how the kitchen is laid out or how the school money is spent etc. So it is also the task of the school meeting also to protect individual liberty it makes sure that every people can always do what they want. As an example we have a smoking area outside of the school grounds and some students thought that was sort like a bad habit which it probably is and said we need to close down the smoking area because it is not good so there was a whole debate in the school meeting and the whole debate went around personal liberties and can the people make decisions for themselves or can the community force it upon people and if you talk about smoking what about drinking excessive amounts of Coca Cola with lots of sugar in it and and the outcome of the whole discussion was there was like an enormous majority to leave the smoking area intact because you can’t do that you can’t touch it. Public: I would like to know how you deal with security if the child is allowed to get outside the school when he wants and something happens to him how do you deal with that? For children they have to show they can get a certificate for that to show that they can act responsibly outside the school premises that they know the trafic rules and that they can behave within a safe manner and also if they do basically the trust is given to them if they show that they can not handle that because they are still doing crazy things things that are totally inappropriate then the school meeting can decide to retract the certificate and then they have to get it again but they can’t go out of the school premises like for like a week or day or month or whatever But in general if you look at safety of course it’s much more for instance if there is a kitchen with an oven and you can boil water etc and of course in a school we don’t want all to get around with boiling water so to keep the safety in the school but also the cleaning up after what you’re doing or using the sewing machine there is a system of certificate which basically works like a driving license that you show you’re capable of handling it and then you have full trust to use it and do it till the moment that you show that you’re not capable of handling it and then it is rejected again for a number of areas. I have a question about the Dutch version of the book I see you use the word “onderwijs” “onderwijs” and I thought it means “teaching” I think it is not the same word as education So why did you use “onderwijs” ? in Dutch ? and not education ? PH: That’s a difficulty between in that sense Dutch is a pretty limited language And if you look at the human rights treaty it always speak about education and for instance if you look at the base language of the human rights are like English and French and Spanish and a few more Dutch is not one of the base languages If you look at the translations, education is always translated as “onderwijs” which is basically “teaching”. So basically the right to education is never done to the right to be taught which is maybe less than 20% of the original right so in translation we lose already like in a big way and in Holland everybody calls it “onderwijs” so “teaching” so we have a Ministry of Teaching everything is called “teaching, teaching, teaching…” That’s it. Public: I just wanted to ask I just wanted to ask how old are the youngest ? and how old are the oldest ? and in what proportions more or less? PH: I am not sure the translation is right because they said at which age are you teaching we do not do any teaching but the school is basically open for all children from the age of 4 to 18- 19 So we have one group of all these ages so we are now pretty small but the youngest is 5 at the moment and the oldest is 19. So we’ve got the whole spectrum. ok Thank you