Lumiar: an innovative school

Before it became a school, with buildings, rooms, furniture, computers, yard, trees, a tree house, Lumiar was a concept: a vision of a school that was different, innovative, and democratic.

The people that conceived Lumiar were convinced, from the very start, that a school does not need to look like a factory, or, worse, like a prison: a serious, even sad, place, in which uniformed and regimented children practice, against their will, the difficult, even painful, duty to learn.

They knew that children, when they are not in school, are active, restless, curious creatures that like to ask questions, handle things, pry, investigate – because they literally love to learn. Children want to understand how things are made or how they function, and they do not hesitate, sometimes, to disassemble toys (or, on occasion, things that are far from being toys…) simply in order to understand how they were built or how they operate.

They knew that, even though children are rather ignorant at birth, they are born already knowing how to learn… In reality, children are beings that seem to have been programmed to learn. Very early, and without being taught, they learn to recognize the face and the voice of their mother, father, siblings, close acquaintances. They greet relatives and friends with a smile – and, as to strangers, well, they find them strange… They soon learn, once again without being taught, to recognize sounds and to perceive that some sounds have meanings, and thus they begin to enter the marvelous and fascinating world of language. They then learn to sit up, to stand on their legs, to balance upon them. More or less at the same time they learn to talk and to walk – in a rudimentary way at first, but they improve quite fast. In a short time they are running, walking, climbing on furniture and ladders – and speaking as if they were grownups. Then they learn how to dance, often in a natural and gracious way. At the same time they learn to sing the words of children songs, to follow their melody, to keep the rhythm. And they learn all of this without difficulty and with great pleasure – not because they are forced to do so, or because they are taught these things, and never in a grievous and painful way. Those that say that children, before they can learn, must learn how to learn, and that imagine they learn how to learn by being taught, must have never paid close attention to the physical, mental and social development of a child.

The questions that the people that conceived Lumiar asked were: Why not build a school that can leverage this enormous capacity to learn that is natural to children? Why not build a school that respects and promotes children’s innate curiosity, their interests and natural talents, their preferred forms of learning and their favorite learning styles? Why not build a school in which learning can be as pleasurable as it is outside the school, even when what is being learned is difficult and demands a lot of effort and great concentration?

Critics of the traditional school abound – and many of them are quite famous. And their criticisms have been made well over a century. See the article “Criticisms of the Traditional School”, presented in the sequence. Many of them have proposed differing alternative schools: anarchist, libertarian, progressive, constructivist schools… However, most of these proposals end up falling either into the Scylla of a “negative education”, totally “laissez faire”, “à la Rousseau”, in which the role of the school as a learning environment almost disappears, or into the Charybdis of a totally structured learning environment, not very different from the traditional school, an environment that does not respect the interests, natural talents and freedom to learn of the children.

The people who conceived Lumiar intended, in a bold move, that it should successfully navigate between these two undesirable dangers. And the school has, so far, been able to stay clear of them. Lumiar is a truly innovative, democratic school that respects their students’ individuality and freedom to learn. But it does so without abdicating its share of responsibility in their learning. Lumiar is not, therefore, an anarchic, libertarian, “laissez faire” school: it has a clear pedagogical vision and proposition that covers curriculum, methodology, assessment and, naturally, the democratic management of the school.

In this blog/site I will try to explain Lumiar – especially for those that are not satisfied with what other schools are offering. Lumiar knows that it is not a school for everyone: it is a school for those who are dissatisfied with the traditional school and with alternative schools that lack a coherent and effective pedagogical vision. For it to reach its objectives, it is necessary that the parents who bring their children to the school accept its pedagogical proposition – and be convinced that this proposition is not utopian, but, to the contrary, it is feasible and capable of effectively contributing to their children’s development as conscious, critical and responsible individuals, active and involved citizens, competent and successful professionals. The school never forgets, and it does not want parents to forget, that learning is the continuous and permanent destiny of human beings – beings who are born ignorant, incompetent and dependent, but with an enormous capacity to learn, and that, through learning, become adults that know the reality around them, are free and autonomous to define their life project and have the competences that are needed to transform this project into reality, that is, into fully lived lives.

Lumiar does not demand blind faith from those that bring their children to the school: it expects them to become acquainted with the “idearium” of the school – its conceptual and theoretical framework — and with its daily pedagogical practice.

The “idearium” will be presented here, little by little, in small pieces… The pedagogical practice is in the school, for whomever wants to see it: both in its original site, in the Bela Cintra neighborhood in São Paulo, and in Lageado, in the Habitat of the Mellos, in Campos do Jordão. Please, visit also the official site of the school: http://www.lumiar.org.br. This blog/site is not the official site of the school. It is my personal contribution to the understanding of Lumiar.

And what about me? Who am I?

I am Eduardo Chaves, retired professor of Philosophy of Education and Political Philosophy at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), in Campinas, SP, Brazil. A convinced classical liberal, à la Locke, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, I was involved with Lumiar at the beginning, when its vision was being elaborated, and I am involved again now, as a member of the Lumiar Institute, which is the institutional arm of the SEMCO Foundation (that maintains the school) that is responsible for detailing the conceptual and theoretical framework of the school and for ensuring that this “idearium” and the pedagogical practice proceed in step, hand-in-hand (as if it were). Whoever wishes to contact me can e-mail me at eduardo@lumiar.net or eduardo@chaves.com.br).

[In time: In January 2007 Lumiar’s innovative nature was recognized and acknowledged by Microsoft: the school was chosen as one of twelve innovative schools worldwide by the Innovative Schools program, part of Microsoft’s global Partners in Learning initiative].

Salto (Brazil), on the 20th of September, 2007

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s