schoolyard subversion

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by aaron, for change, with help
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Welcome Fellow Subversives!

School harms kids! It sounds counterintuitive at first, but there is truth to it. The American school system, which many people participate in with the best of intentions, has some nasty consequences. Many others have written on the subject, find out what they have to say about it. I finally realized this and decided to do something about it. Welcome to schoolyard subversion, the true story of my fight to change my school. Realize the truth, and do something to begin the change. How many more kids have to go through with this?

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Today's Entry: December 23, 2001 [< * >]

Checking In

Hi all. Many have asked what's happened to Schoolyard Subversion recently as it's been quiet for a long time. I thought I at least owed you all an explanation why.

It's not that I've had nothing to write: I spent a day at a Sudbury School, went back to see my friends for a bit, and read more John Holt. No, the real answer is that Schoolyard Subversion was fueled by my anger of having been cooped up in school for far too long. Now that I am free from that, it seems most of that anger has drained away, and the impassioned pieces that I poured my heart into don't come so easily.

I've also been busy. I'm working on a new project that I don't want to hype too much, but that could have the potential of being the next round of the World Wide Web. The core idea of the system is that we no longer need to trust a single authority. Instead, information can flow from those you trust most (and those who they trust most, etc.) so that we don't need to continue along the lowest-common-denominator path that our culture has been taking.

I'm still passionate about things: I want to stop the war in Afghanistan, I want to see copyright law updated to give the public the rights that they deserve, I want our elections to be run fairly, I want children to get the rights they deserve (including the right to vote, and many others). You will likely hear more about the last from me.

Sudbury School

I am now convinced more than ever that the way to fix our educational system is to start with something like Sudbury School, and slowly add choices to it. You need to provide lots of interesting choices and options and make them appealing enough that the kids will want to choose them.

At the Sudbury school I went to, I was disappointed at the large number of rules and the justice system they had. The kids seemed to hate it too, but no one seemed to be thinking about how to improve it. Perhaps they should play a game or two of Nomic to get used to the idea that they were in control.

The kids and adults there were very nice and could discuss life and politics in a way I didn't imagine kids at my old school being able to. But they still seemed to lack drive: I saw the same resignation to the routine in them that I saw at any normal school. We played pool, tag, basketball, messed with the computers, danced to songs like the tune-lessRock and Roll McDonalds ("McDonalds will make you fat / [...] They serve Quarter-Pounders / They will put pounds on you").

My Dream

Last night I had a dream of the way I want to live. I'm not sure it would appeal to other people, but I would certainly like it.

I walked in, not quite knowing what to expect. It was a modernly-designed loft with sleeping quarters, a meeting room, ping-pong tables and computers spread around. Windows were everywhere and light streamed making the place feel airy and bright. Many of my friends from the Internet were there, as well as a number of people I didn't know, but who seemed very friendly. We were all about the same age.

We were working together on a project that we thought would change the world. We were committed to it, and worked well as a team: we helped each other out with what needed to be done, and kept each other's enthusiasm up. We worked hard, but we also took time off to play ping-pong or go water-sliding. There was a bulletin board to coordinate events as we tended to keep irregular hours.

The team was rather large, but I got to know everyone on it well and we became good friends. We all worked to support each other, and everything was run democratically. New folks who wanted to help were invited in, but the group had to agree on them before they could join.

We learned all the time, both finding out the skills we needed to know ourselves, and teaching each other how to improve. While we knew there was a lot to be done, we focused on our one project with a single-minded determination, finishing it and solving all the problems that it raised.

If anyone wants to send me the money to make this dream a reality, let me know. :-) I already know the people and the project. The problem is we're flung across several continents, and this is the kind of relationship that just doesn't happen over the Internet.


Unschooling has been great for me. I've never felt so relaxed or at peace with myself before. While making it work and finding things to do have been difficult, I've been forced to sort out my priorities and figure out how I work best. I doubt this would have happened in school, where you are told what's important and when it is due.

And you?

How has your year been? I'm going off on vacation to the UK next week, but I'm eager to hear your thoughts and comments. Tell me how things are going. For those of you I know, let's keep in touch. For those I don't, perhaps we should become friends. Who knows what the next year will bring?

Send me an email:

Best wishes and a happy new year,



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