Next on deck for films that won’t be a total waste of time to watch?

The documentary on “free schools” called “Approaching The Elephant”.

Back in high school, I remember seeing this one Justin Long movie where he creates a college based around, well, basically whatever the kids who come there feel like doing. It sounds like a fun idea in theory (and, technically, not terribly different from how actual college is – let’s be honest), but in the plot of the Hollywood comedy, his reasoning was more selfish. I forget what that selfish reason was specifically, but I know it had to do with tricking his parents into thinking he wasn’t rejected from all the schools he applied to. (So, he made up his own – and lured other losers to it, too.) Also, I think he was trying to impress Blake Lively (reason enough for me). It was a stupid movie, but worth making out to with my boyfriend at the time in between the trips my parents would make to the room we were watching it in – to make sure we weren’t making out.

But could a school like Long’s ever function in reality?

How about a formative school?

In “Approaching the Elephant”, the filmmaker Amanda Rose Wilder looks at an elementary school that’s making exactly that attempt. Called Teddy McArdle Free School, it literally has more letters in its name than actual students right now – which number just about a dozen. But, to be fair, it’s still kinda getting off the ground – thanks to its early 30’s (that’s his age – not, ya know, when he was born) founder Alex Khost who just wants to help make a difference in the lives of adults-to-be. The descriptions of the system sound pretty intriguing too – and I don’t mean the lack of mandatory classes or excessive recess, but the way in which equality and democracy is introduced early on.

“To be here, you have to care about all of us.”

A tough concept to swallow when society’s current diet’s a head full’a get-ahead’a the pack. But it sounds like there’s a lot beyond the trailer. As described in the article I just read on this, one scene centers on a 7 year old vetoing her teacher on something he won’t allow. Specifically, she “calls a meeting” with him for “harassment” because he won’t let her jump off a crate of some sort. The thing I love about this is that when we’re young, we’re laughed at for these kinds of things. Patronized for acting like adults. Really, this condescending attitude parents have is like an allergic reaction to the reality that their prized mini-me who needed them so desperately to stay alive not so long ago… is growing up. Why not help facilitate that instead of mocking it? Isn’t that where we’re headed? Or did you just have a kid so that you could treat it like a dog who’ll follow you around? That’s why I love this concept of early democracy, hands-on problem solving, the open-minded exchanging of ideas – and especially the fact that the teacher – an adult, the figures kids look up to – makes himself part of it. Because how else do we learn to keep an open mind if we’re not learning it from the people charged with teaching us? Clearly, I’ll have to see the documentary in its entirety before I rave any further about how much I like this school. But I’m pretty sure I’ll like it more than the J-Long flick I saw high school.

Who knows.

Maybe if I’d had an elementary school like Khost’s…

I’d have been studying to be a doctor instead’a playing doctor in my parent’s basement.