I wouldn’t bring my 19 month-old son, Eli, to a pediatrician who, for some reason, only used medical methods from the late 19th century. So why would I want to enroll him in a school whose methods have pretty much not changed since the late 19th century?
And this, it turns out, is exactly what most American families do when it comes to their children and the schools they put them in, whether public or private. (The internet is already rich with explanations of why and how this this is true, so I won’t add to the growing pile here. But I encourage you to dig into this fact for yourself.)
Yet of course parents want the best for their children: they want the best health, they want the greatest happiness, they want them to have every opportunity the world has to offer. When it comes to education, this desire for the “best” has veered way off course, as the “best” has come to signify neither career-readiness nor even the goal of wellbeing or happiness, but rather a massive consumption of more and more content (or what a school’s brochure might call “knowledge”). Sadly, AP courses, advanced course loads, and standardized tests still rule the day in American schools, and the rising statistics of teenage depression and suicides are unfortunate reminders that we have raised these so-called “standards” to a boiling point.
As baffling as this has been to see, it was an abstract bafflement. That is, until I had a child of my own. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that it took this life event to feel the motivation to take something I recognized as broken and believe that I could try to fix it. But once I started seeing the parental choices I would soon have to make – the biggie, of course, being what kind of education would I choose for him – I could no longer look the other way and hope that other people might figure it out for me. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and see if I could build the type of school I feel is best for my child, and therefore others. A school that prepares children – academically, socially, and emotionally – for the world they live in today as well as the future. One that instills the ability to navigate uncertainty and change, the ability to solve problems creatively, the ability to remain curious and never stop learning.
In 3 years, when the time comes to choose an elementary school for Eli, I’ll be happy on many levels that there’s a Portfolio School for him to attend. And just as happy for all the children and families, which we are able to serve.