For the last 45 years Sudbury Valley schools (and before that Summerhill) have provided students with a K-12 educational environment where the students can do what ever they want, when ever they want all day long.
There are no classes (unless requested), no tests, no homework. There are no requirements at all.
The students spend their entire childhood, from age 5 through age 18, doing what ever they want to.
This description may raise questions in your mind, but I feel like either you have to predict that these students graduate from school completely unprepared for college/work or this should completely blow your mind.
Really, either these students should be terribly unprepared or we should be asking a lot of questions about whether all of the requirements, the stress, the curriculum, etc. are at all necessary.
The fact is that roughly 82% of Sudbury students go on to college compared to 63% of public school students nationwide. There are a lot of reasons why this is an apples to oranges comparison, but it does provide a ballpark comparison that shows that Sudbury students, despite having more-or-less complete autonomy for their entire childhood, with absolutely no curriculum, are prepared for college/jobs.
If that does not blow your mind then I don’t know what to say. As a culture we’ve completely accepted the idea that curriculums and requirements and homework are absolutely necessary to provide students with the necessary preparation to be successful in the real world. Sudbury Valley has proven those ideas to be false. You can debate the specifics, but the fundamental fact that these students go on to have success in college and jobs is hugely significant.
It’s led me to question everything I know about education.
— UPDATE —
A number of people have noted the fact that there is just one statistic in this post. The statistic was not meant to prove anything definitively other than Sudbury Valley seems to be doing just as well any many other schools in the country at preparing students for college despite having absolutely no requirements or curriculum. That I think is mind-blowing.
You can find a few other stats here but again I think it’s missing the point to focus on these stats beyond a basic gut check that these students are not graduating from high school completely unprepared for college or the work force.