The Academy:  rationale and theory






The Axe Handle Academy is a proposal for a kind of education that we think would make sense in this world, not the world of the 50's and 60's, a kind of education that we could bring about in Alaska over a period of a few years because it builds on ideas and practices that some teachers and schools are already using now, a kind of education that would genuinely give our children a sense of confidence and ability in facing the unknown world they will meet upon graduation.


It is safe to say that no one can predict what kind of world our children will graduate into from high school.  In three generations the world has experienced greater and more widespread shocks of change than at any time in the past.  The cultural and technological gulf between our parents and our children is greater than the gulf of thousands of years between Socrates or Confucius and our parents.

As we see this gulf widening each day we parents and teachers ask ourselves:  

What is an appropriate education for our children?  

How can we prepare them for a world that is unknown to all of us?





In the four decades since World War II we have tried to compensate for the pace of change by making many incremental adjustments in our curriculum.  We have continued to add items to the curriculum in order to keep up with the times.  But, of course, with each item added something had to be dropped because our days and hours are limited.  Education in America has become a collage of confetti.  It is a confusing aggregate of so many separate pieces that it does not add up to a coherent picture.

When one of our parents entered kindergarten a good education was thought to be knowing the classics, the ability to read and write at least one classical language, the ability to write clear prose, the ability to give a good, clear and persuasive public speech, and conscientious citizenship.  The technology in the home and the school was very little different from the technology in the homes and schools of Socrates, Pythagoras and Confucius.

By the time the older one of us entered kindergarten the world had gone through one world war and was entering the second.  His home and school had hot and cold water, electricity, central heating, radios, and movies.  While he was in elementary school he saw his first jet plane overhead.  In junior high school he first saw television.  The year he graduated from high school Sputnik I first orbited the earth.



In school he had read parts of some classics, he had dropped Latin and gotten away with it, he was still expected to write clear prose, but there was no public speaking taught, and good citizenship had been transformed by World War II into patriotism first and then by the Korean War into a deep fear of others.




By the time our children began kindergarten micro-computers were part of daily life, the majority of children in our country were spending more time watching television than attending school, the classics and classical languages were no longer a part of schooling, children were expected to be able to fill in blanks in worksheets and multiple choice tests, and multinational corporations had become more significant political and economic entities than all but a few nations of the earth.



We wrote the section above seventeen years ago.  The internet was not yet a factor in public, commercial, or educational life.  The word 'globalization' was used only in very narrow circles.  Now we feel a major factor in educational and family practice is what we have called 'The Second Sphere'.  The internet, cell phones, and other new media technologies throughout the world have opened up  a sphere of social and intellectual development for children and youth which lies almost entirely outside of the monitoring or even understanding of most parents and educational institutions.

We feel that current family and educational practice has all but capitulated its traditional role of socializing and educating children and that in a perhaps dangerous way, that role has been taken over by international corporate marketing and entertaining interests.



the academy

the curriculum


life of the land

comparative culture studies

responsive communication