Alia College - Student Contributions
We have only just started this page so it only has one contribution so far.
This appeared in the recent student-run newspaper.
By Charlotte Martin
Alia is an alternative school that gives students more basic freedom. We have only one "rule", not to disturb any other student's learning, which many take to mean they can get away with almost anything. The reality is that although we may have only one 'rule', we have many expectations, perhaps even more expectations than a regular school because of the absence of rules.
Rather than setting out rules, Alia's teachers and students form informal values, beliefs and boundaries, adapting them to the values of the current members of the school. We adapt them to each new situation or incident in the school. Sometimes an event will challenge our beliefs, so, as a school, we modify the beliefs to fit future similar events.
We don't stop people stepping over the boundaries before they do so (by setting out rules like other schools), nor do we have pre-determined punishments for certain actions. Some people take that to mean there are no punishments at all. The reality is that if a boundary is overstepped there will be natural consequences. Generally the consequence is a loss of social standing; a loss of trust. Depending on the situation, people may no longer want to lend you stuff or work with you in class or believe you when you say something. Without trust a student is respected less by students and teachers alike. That's not to say they're mistreated or anything, but there are consequences.
Students always have a chance to prove themselves again, but they need to convince the other students and teachers they've improved rather than just writing 20 lines or cleaning the bins before being forgiven.
We don't make the judgments on behalf of students, instead we allow them to judge situations themselves, make mistakes and learn the consequences.
Alian students get freedom, but it's tied up with responsibility.
In Philosophy class, we have looked at two concepts of freedom. The first is negative freedom. Negative freedom is not, as it sounds at first, the 'bad' type of freedom. It is the idea of a freedom that comes from a lack of restrictions. No laws or rules or person of authority is stopping you from doing something, so you are free to do it. The second type is positive freedom and it is the ability to do all that is available and possible. It's sort of a difficult concept to stretch your head around, but the way it was explained to me was with an example. I was asked what would happen if I wanted to fly to the moon. Am I free to fly to the moon? Well in the first sense of freedom I am. I'm not being stopped by any law or other rule saying I cannot fly to the moon. So I have negative freedom. On the other hand, is it possible for me, at my 16 years of age and lacking in space training, to fly to the moon? The answer is no. So I don't have the second sort of freedom (positive freedom).
These concepts of freedom can be applied in Alia:
In terms of negative freedom, we have plenty more than the average school. That is there are few definite rules stopping people from doing what they want to do, only they are then responsible for the choices they make with that freedom. Take for example a student consistently skipping class. There is no rule against them not attending, but they have to be prepared for the social and academic consequences that follow.
An example of positive freedom in Alia, that is unlikely to be found in other schools, is the ability to be heard by other students and teachers. You have the freedom to say what you think and get a fair hearing, a freedom that is less likely to be given in other schools.
Alia gives students a lot of freedom, both negative and positive, but in return for that students are asked to take responsibility and are trusted to do so without rules and regulations. To function properly our school requires an appreciation, by every student, of the freedom and trust we are being given and to respect that freedom and use it wisely.
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