Experiment House

Teachers are encouraged to be creative and experiment in their classrooms although not too much.

Senior leaders and managers don’t mind if their teachers have a bash at some new strategies but they aren’t keen on full-time mavericks letting off fireworks because they upset the apple-cart and it makes the parents and Governors twitchy.

But what if you could just experiment and let your educational fantasies fly?

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (The Chronicles of Narnia) C. S. Lewis describes ‘Experiment House’, the coeducational boarding school that Eustace Clarence Scrubb and Jill Pole attended.

This was a poorly managed school, whose Head believed that children should be allowed to do what they liked which resulted in very little classroom learning. It’s the place where ‘the Gang’, an unregulated group of bullies, reside. In fact, they are not seen as bullies but “interesting psychological cases” and not “bad”.

C.S. Lewis says, “Owing to the curious methods of teaching at Experiment House, one did not learn much French or Maths or Latin or things of that sort; but one did learn about getting away quickly when they were looking for one.”

Of course, it doesn’t take much working out that this is a dig at schools that exist outside of ‘the system’ such as Summerhill School and was inspired by C.S Lewis’s bad schooling experiences.

He describes the adults as having mixed-up minds who….

had the idea that boys and girls should be allowed to do what they liked. And unfortunately what ten or fifteen of the biggest boys and girls liked best was bullying the others. All sorts of things, horrid things, went on which at an ordinary school would have been found out and stopped in half a term; but at this school they weren’t. Or even if they were, the people who did them were not expelled or punished.

So the question is, should teachers and children be given the freedom to decide what to do, when, and how to do it?

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