Schhols On TrialAre America’s schools little more than cinder-block gulags that spawn vicious cliques and bullying, negate creativity, and true learning and squelch curiosity in their inmates, um, students? Nikhil Goyal, a journalist and activist all of twenty years old whom the Washington Post has dubbed a “future education secretary” and Forbes has named to its 30 Under 30 list, passionately thinks so, and in this book he offers both a scathing indictment of our teach-to-the-test-while-killing-the-spirit educational assembly line and maps out a path for all of our schools to harness children’s natural aptitude for learning by creating an atmosphere conducive to freedom and creativity. He prescribes an inspiring educational future that is thoroughly democratic and experiential, and one that utilizes the entire community as a classroom.

SCHOOLS ON TRIAL: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice will arrive this spring (Doubleday; February 16, 2016) — an all-in attack on the American way of education and a hopeful blueprint for change by one of the most passionate – and certainly youngest – writers on the subject.

Until recently, Nikhil Goyal was a typical student at a large public high school – a model pupil plucked from the No Child Left Behind generation and Race to the Top era. Since graduating with the class of 2013, however, Nikhil has pursued a less-traditional path, traveling the country – from Chicago and the Mission District, to Brooklyn and beyond – to visit other kinds of learning communities, whose methods opened his eyes to the astonishing potential of what a sea change in education might look like. In Schools on Trial, he introduces readers to some of these less familiar environments that operate beyond the narrow spectrum of current education reform strategies to reveal the ways that seemingly radical methods of education that emphasize creative play and self-learning are in fact more closely aligned with the way human beings have learned for thousands of years, before compulsory education was ever invented.

Conventional debates on school reform frame the discussion in polarizing terms. Advocates are either for or against issues ranging from charter schools and testing to Common Core standards and teachers unions – pitting one side against the other, while ignoring the vastly more important issue that Schools on Trial tackles head-on: the anti-democratic and inherently cruel nature of contemporary schooling itself.

In Schools on Trial, Nikhil Goyal shines a light on the most extraordinary models of learning around the country today, offering stories of people who have bypassed formal institutions in favor of self-education. Goyal presents an eloquent, detailed, and persuasive case that schools are exhausting the gifts of creativity, curiosity, and zeal that all children bring to the classroom and explains why there should be less difference between living and learning inside the classroom and out. His research helps tackle the core questions facing parents and students today and provides a persuasive path forward toward schools that nurture children’s creativity and love of learning, rather than squelch them.

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