A tale of two schools, 3,000 miles apart

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Kids line up when they walk through the hallways. They wear uniforms, including socks and appropriate footwear. It all looks a bit Disneyesque to me — surreally pristine and immaculate and orderly, considering little kids are on the premises. It’s all about proper demeanor and staying safe and working together.

Their cafeteria offers a variety of hot and cold dishes, a full salad bar and a lady who just makes PB&Js for those who opt out of the buffet. I’d take lunch there anytime.

On the other coast, the grandkids go to a super-progressive school. When our daughter showed us the grounds a few years ago, we thought she was kidding. Mind you, this is also a pricy private institution that maintains a selective admissions policy. The main building is an aging white mansion on the edge of several acres of woods. The outbuildings house the nursery and elementary grades, although there aren’t actually “grades.” Kids go to “Mary’s” class or “Bob’s” class.

Most of the buildings need a coat of paint. There are hoses and ropes and equipment and broken stuff all around the property. The paths into and around the buildings are broken, rocky and potholed.

Kids are not required to wear shoes or even all of their clothes. They often come home in someone else’s shirt. They can and do play in the mud when it rains, climb trees whenever they want to, and attend “meetings” where they are offered lessons. Students can run around and play in the woods most of the day. They go to school in shorts and shirts and flip-flops.

It is said that graduates of this school go on to the best universities in the country — just like the East Coast school.

The West Coast kids bring their own lunches. Parents are assigned to bring snacks, and they’re also asked to come to school before the first day of class in September to help clean up the place. They go with buckets and brooms. The idea is to create a community among parents, teachers and children.
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