Reading the story on the Fairhaven School (“No More Pencils, No More Books,” 6/13) kindled a lot of memories for me. I attended a public alternative school from the first to the 12th grade. My school had an open curriculum that did not require attendance in classes, and grades were not given. As at Fairhaven, one of the strengths of my school was the participation of students in the school’s governance.
I view my early educational experiences as both extremely positive and, at the same time, debilitating. The theory that students who are empowered to choose their own path are ultimately more successful, or at least more satisfied, is somewhat flawed. The skills that are needed to achieve one’s ambitions are generally obtained in a university setting, where there is strong competition for the best opportunities. Students who are not trained to take tests have a distinct disadvantage.
I know there are some alternative colleges, and not every profession requires a proficiency in test-taking, but why limit your possibilities? Very few high-school students are in a position to predict what career choices they will make. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that having the freedom to do as I wished in high school did not prevent me from having “that sense of floundering in my 20s.”
Falls Church, Va.