Nutritious food and active tasks that impacted the immediate lives of students were important parts of the educational approach at Buck Brook Farm. But they were not the entire picture.
There was also the library.
Are you thinking of a solemn space with green desk lamps and studious scholars? Fahgettaboutit!
Other than the dining room, the library was the only common area on the campus. About half of the library was dedicated to couches and comfortable chairs and plenty of open space. Reading was done amid energetic youths wrestling all over the floor and furniture, arguments, necking, board games, cards, making plans and general whooping it up. Just like an old fashioned family room!
The other half of the library was dedicated to reading material. There were four or five tall racks of shelves. All the bottom shelves were stuffed with DC comic books — and only DC comic books — because they were riddled with four- and five- syllable words of dialog. The next shelf up was dedicated to pulp fiction, teen novels, magazines and similar light reading. Then the shelf with kid’s science books and illustrated how-tos, geography, technology and similar material. Next shelf up would be more complex and so on, until the classics of literature and reference works were available to any hand that wanted to reach the top shelf.
And that was as organized as the library got. No decimal system. No check-out or check-in. No rules about books having to stay in the library.
And no assignments. No “you should be reading this.” No Reading Hour or any other incentive. Just things to read.
To graduate the students did have to present a plan to study, examine, and write a thesis on a topic that interested them. The library often got used in their research, but not even that use of the library was required.
The only rules were, 1) an early morning walk, 2) a half day doing chores, 3) unprocessed food, and 4) no televisions on the campus. This last rule kept the library full of readers.
The vast majority of our students, many of them having come from backgrounds of mental hospitals, jails, and behavioral problems, graduated above the 85 percentile on collage entrance tests.