Schools of a Different Sort: Five Alternative Educations

Some people aren't built to thrive in a lecture hall, and conventional schooling doesn't guarantee a job.

Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about work, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month.

Needless to say, a traditional academic education isn’t for everyone. Some people aren’t built to thrive in a lecture hall, and conventional schooling doesn’t guarantee a job. Luckily, there are those who have taken heed of this and have embarked on projects that give learning a different dimension. Here are five examples of such ventures.

Hyper Island started as a response to the blossoming new-media industry in 1996. Jonathan Briggs, David Erixon, and Lars Lundh joined forces to create an experience-based educational program that transcends traditional textbook learning. Headquartered in Sweden, the organization offers five long-term programs in areas such as mobile applications and motion graphics.

Project M is a design program in Greensboro, Alabama, that aims to create meaningful projects that will make an impact on the community and residents of surrounding Hale County. Two separate, two-week sessions challenge designers to “think wrong,” and to go against linear thought processes that inhibit innovation and creativity.

Y Combinator provides seed funding for new companies to help turn ideas into reality. But a lot of companies do that. Y Combinator then works with up-and-coming entrepreneurs on everything from conceptualization of a business strategy to dealing with potential investors and acquires, in a sort of crash course in starting a company.

W+K12 is an experimental advertising school started by the Portland, Oregon-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy. Even as the academy trains young designers for the advertising industry, it also subverts it. A student once described it as “a school for advertising and a school for people who don’t like advertising.”

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms This organization connects people who want to experience what it’s like to work at a farm and hosts who could use the extra help. Volunteers learn about how organic food is grown while helping their hosts with various tasks for a set amount of hours. In return, farmhands are provided accommodations and food during their stay.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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