"Full Permission Living" is the name I gave to my approach to therapy when I was teaching prospective therapists a few years ago in my own 3-year training program. "Full Permission Living," as I wrote on this blog's home page, "is based on the understanding that human beings are, by first nature, sane, loving, cooperative, creative, humorous, intelligent, productive and naturally self-regulating."
I have had the wonderful experience this week of observing how a school for children can convey the message of Full Permission Living, and I have witnessed the expected, but still extraordinary results. My stepson, "B," spent this week at the BROOKLYN FREE SCHOOL, as part of an orientation process, having just been accepted for admission to BFS for next September. He had been on the waiting list for the school for over a year. It has been a long year.
Having been in traditional private and public schools for the last five years, B has had to endure the spirit-crushing demands and attitudes of supposed educators who believe that the way to teach a child is to get him to sit still all day, absorb facts, take tests, hand in laborious homework assignments, and perform tasks that don't even make sense to the child, let alone inspire creativity. And all that with the self-esteem bashing pressure to measure-up to arbitrary standards to prove one's worthiness to be considered successful in the world. Oh, yeah, and if you can't measure up, we'll urge your parents to give you drugs. [No joke - a couple of years ago, a so-called "learning specialist," recommended as a tutor for B by the Berkeley Carroll school, suggested we consider drugs for our son, who was in SECOND GRADE at the time, and had a tendency to daydream a bit. (Horror! Horror!) Seeing our consternation, said learning specialist told us an encouraging anecdote about another child B's age who was put on drugs: "She lost a little bit of her spark (from the medication), but she got a lot done!" We fired him.]
Anyway, sad to say, we had gotten used to the way B would come home from traditional school every day, all hunched over and downtrodden, needy and tired, with the seeming weight of the world on his shoulders. Getting him out of bed in the morning on school days was an arduous challenge, to say the least, and any chance at missing school was a celebration. Homework time was torture. As someone once said, asking a kid to do homework every night is like asking adults to do their taxes every night.
BUT... after just one day at the Free School - ONE DAY! - B was like a different kid. Not only was he relaxed, smiling and bright-eyed after his day (at SCHOOL!!), he was standing taller! That was the truly remarkable thing. His father said he looked "pumped!" And I got it - he felt respected. He'd spent a day with adults who respected him as who he was, adults who cared about what HE was interested in learning about, instead of adults who tried to force information down his throat and conveyed his inadequacy if he didn't spit it back properly in a timely fashion.
Now, after a week at the Free School, miracle of all miracles, given a chance to take today off from school or go in, B chose to go. He wanted to go to school!
Following are some excerpts from the Brooklyn Free School website:
"BFS believes that all children are natural learners and they are fully supported to pursue any interest they have, in the manner they choose, at their own pace, and for as long as they want to, as long as they do not restrict any other person's right to do the same... There are no compulsory grades, assessments or homework. The students are in charge of their own learning and progress and are able to adequately assess themselves and perform any additional work or learning outside of the school that they want to in line with their interests."
Wow! Full Permission Learning!