|The campus stretches into|
the exquisite distant
Although it's been said many times...Putney is a lifestyle as much as it is a school. More than almost any other school environment, the school creates among the students an ethos of independence, creativity, and hard work. Putney is a living example of how, given trust and confidence, young students are capable of great accomplishment. Carmelita Hinton believed this and in 1935 started a school where this vision became a reality. Her desire was to "make school a more real, less self-centered venture," where students would be "attached to the soil to care for animals, to be an integral part of the cycle of the seasons." I found the current staff committed to these beliefs, working to sustain the founding ethos of the school, while ensuring that Putney is relevant and vital in today's changing world. The campus lends itself to this endeavor.
|Students are fully responsible for|
Students are fully responsible for the work that takes place on the farm and adults assiduously resist the temptation to help out. The key is learning the importance of one's contribution to the ongoing health of the livestock and the gardens. To miss work is to betray the confidence of your workmates; students govern themselves and one can be "fired" for intransigence or not showing up. Here the students learn what a real work environment is like and with few exceptions rise to the occasion. They learn to juggle their academic and personal lives around the work-jobs; they learn to be responsible young adults.
Head of Putney
|The room of looms|
one of Emily's favorites
Emily's definition of progressive education is unique among all I have heard in my travels. The big idea of education has not changed, but the world keeps forgetting. Alive since the time of Montaigne and the Renaissance is the belief that education is the development of intelligence. Progressive education keeps alive the classic education born thousands of years ago. The Putney manifestation begins with students seeing and understanding everything that goes on at the school; nothing is secret. Students participate in governance and have access to all aspects of the school's decision-making structure. Through this transparency, they interact with wise adults who mentor them in the ways of collaborative decision making; new students observe older kids making decisions and grappling with real world issues. They become more intelligent in a practical and authentic way. Leadership arises naturally among the students - there is no need to teach it - important decisions need to be made every day. Social justice lives in the school and is not an abstract concept; create a place where student views are valued and respected, where everyone is expected to pull his/her weight, and the ethos of equity and justice will arise naturally.
|Ann Marie White|
|The Putney gorilla beckons|
|Would most high school students |
know their way around an anvil?
This fairly long entry only scratches the surface. On my one day at Putney, I collected hours of conversation and pages of notes. I could go on and on describing this unique learning environment. At the heart of the enterprise is the faculty - courageous and innovative - working to sustain the dream of Carmelita Hinton. The school is an enigmatic example of progressive education reaching for its greatest heights, and after almost 80 years, they are still at it - planning strategy and examining the school's future in the 21st Century.
On a morning walk through the snowy Putney's woods with Emily, Drama Director and Dean Karla Baldwin, and their exuberant young canines, it struck me that perhaps Putney should be considered a national treasure. Not because of its exquisite natural beauty, but because it offers a rare educational model to which all high schools should aspire. Our society would be better off if all students had the experience of a Putney education.