Have you heard about democratic schools?


No, it’s not about mixing politics with education. It’s about implementing the democracy (you know that thing that the greeks invented?) in schools. Everyone is free and everyone gets one vote. I spoke last week to Simone Haenen, who studied her last years of school in that way and today dedicates her time to making education a better system than the broken thing it is now.

It all started when her brother was having difficulties in school. Her parents transferred him to another school, a democratic school where he could do what he actually wanted to do. Simone, as a good traditional school student, stayed in her old class. But something happened when she saw the change her brother went through, from hating school to loving it and not wanting to go out of it when the days off during the fall came. She was curious and wanted to give it a try, her parents let her.

When I spoke to her she explained me how the democratic school works. There are teachers, but you can pretty much chose the activities you want to do. If a student wants a change, he/she will propose it, people will vote (including the staff) and the changes will be made or not. It is interesting to notice that in democratic education the students are looked as equals to the teachers.

Simone told me that in that way she learned something that is quite a virtue for the millenials. We are often thrown a million possibilities, often we want to take them all at once. At the democratic school, at first, it is the same. You see all those awesome classes, events, groups, activities. You want to do it all. In time you learn that you can’t, and there comes the rarest of abilities to our generation: focus.

When Simone was 16 the municipality went against the school for not having the necessary classes to get a diploma. According to the dutch law every kid has to be in school until they are 18 and get their diploma. For that her dad, and other parents of the kids in that school, got prosecuted. A case that after 3 years, he won. The school made adjustments to be inside the law, but that’s now what the kids wanted. During her teen ages Simone started her first democratic school with other kids, that like her, didn’t wanted to fit in the program that the government imposes. That is where she graduated and the school still goes on.

Now you might wonder, what is Simone doing today? Well, she is not taking care of the school she created 10 years ago, but she still dedicates her time to making education applicable to all the kids, not only a few. She is a speaker about the matter, traveling the world talking about her own experience and ideas. In November she will be one of the speaker at the World Forum for Democracy, making her one of the 2 Dutch people who will speak at the event. Oh, did I mentioned she is also a city counsel? She also sings and take amazing photographies.

To reach further Simone started a Patreon page, for those who don’t know the concept it is all about supporting people with great initiatives with an amount of money per month. In that way they can have a an income while doing awesome stuff and improving the world we live in without having to worry about having something to eat the next day. You can help her here.

P.S.: The painting I chose to put as the image of this blog is called The School of Athens, which was painted by Raphael during the Renaissance. The painting shows the school of Athens and big philosophers, scientists and thinkers as Leonardo da Vinci, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Plato, Aristotle and Democritus himself.