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FREE AT LAST
by Daniel Greenberg
Reviewed by Andrew Smallman
To understand this book properly, one must first have an understanding of Sudbury Valley School. In Free At Last, co-founder Daniel Greenberg explains exactly how the school works. He wrote, "The school starts from a premise stated by Aristotle over 2000 years ago in his famous opening to the Metaphysics: 'Human beings are naturally curious'. This implies that people learn constantly, as an innate part of living. It means also that children will learn through following their natural inclinations, doing what they want with their time, all day, every day." The book contains thirty-six short chapters, each detailing an aspect of the school. In a chapter entitled "And 'Rithmetic" he tells the story of a group of a dozen boys and girls, aged 9-12, who had come to him to ask if he would teach them math. As part of the bargain, the students agreed to meet with Greenberg twice a week for half an hour. He wrote, "They came at 11:00 sharp, stayed half an hour, and left with homework. They came back next time with all the homework done. All of them. In twenty weeks, after twenty contact hours, they had covered it all. Every one of them knew the material cold."
In a chapter entitled "Learning", Greenberg wrote that the role of adults at Sudbury Valley "is to stand by while the children, each and every one, choose their own varied paths. We help when asked. We stand aside when not asked. . . . The kids are all learning, all the time. Life is their greatest teacher. . . . Their chief tool is their curiosity, which drives them to find, to master, to understand."
I cannot understate the importance this book has had on the development of my educational philosophy. When I first read it it was like finding words for feelings I had been unable to express. Knowing others shared similar views about education strengthened my resolve to create a classroom that put the interests of my students first and, ultimately, to the creation of PSCS. Highly recommended.