Thinking Citizen Blog — The Almost Perfect School — The Curriculum, the Campus, the Budget

John Muresianu
4 min readJan 21


Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day

Today’s Topic — The Almost Perfect School — The Curriculum, the Campus, the Budget

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what is the most beautiful school of them all? Beautiful in the sense that it gets everything right — the curriculum, the architecture, the budget. What school you have ever seen comes closest even on just one of the three metrics? At the elementary school level? the middle school level? the high school level? the college level? the graduate school level? If you could create your ideal school, what would the curriculum look like, the campus, the budget? Today, a few notes on the most magical school visit I ever had. We decided not to send our daughter there because of the commute from Concord. But while visiting, I felt like I was in school heaven. The post that follows consists of quotes from the school website. Shady Hill runs from pre-K to 8th grade. You might call it the incarnation of privilege. What if every child born had the benefit of a school like this? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “A teaching approach called Central Subject is the fundamental organizing force behind Shady Hill’s curriculum. It is a year-long study around which each grade, III — VIII, focuses its work in history, literature, geography, and writing.”

2. “It is the study of a people, a period of history, an idea or movement. It is a way of organizing subject matter that is flexible, inclusive, frequently changing in its application, yet constant in its commitment to certain approaches to study.”

3. “Other academic activities — art, music, science, dramatics, math, and athletics — frequently become parts of the Central Subject curriculum. This integrated and highly rigorous approach to learning turns even young students into scholars and researchers. Younger grades pursue a variety of Thematic Studies that reflect the Central Subject methodology by integrating areas of learning, but in shorter, age-appropriate units.

THE SHADY HILL CAMPUS — something out of a ridiculous Disney movie

1. “Shady Hill is situated on an eleven-acre campus in a quiet Cambridge neighborhood. Our tree-lined paths, wetland areas, gardens, and ample grassy spaces encourage exploration and play.”

2.”We have eighteen buildings, including an art, woodshop, and music center; library; gymnasium; science laboratories; an assembly hall; and number of child-scaled classroom buildings.”

3. The look of the campus is that of a little village, with buildings surrounding a green where the community comes together for a number of important school events each spring. Our gray-shingled classroom buildings have porches that invite outdoor reading and gathering during recess and throughout the day.”

NB: In fact, our entire campus functions as a classroom. From our youngest to our oldest grades, students explore the flora and fauna of the campus, use the space for representations of thematic and central subject studies, and much more.”

THE HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL — founded by Progressive Harvard parents in 1915

1. “In 1915, The Cooperative Open Air School opened at 16 Quincy Street in Cambridge, on the back porch of a home owned by Ernest and Agnes Hocking.

2. “It was the first independent, coeducational elementary school in the Boston area.”

3.“The school’s progressive roots came from the founding families’ enthusiasm for the writings of John Dewey (above) and other leading educators of the time.”

NB: “The founders were committed to the use of original source materials, a “spirit of simplicity and devotion to learning,” and the idea of freedom coupled with responsibility. The school’s progressive teaching philosophy has attracted a succession of master-teachers to its faculty and generations of devoted parents to its constituency.”

FOOTNOTE — Thinking Citizenship, Seven Joys, Gratitude

1. My ideal school at the elementary, middle, and high school level would as you know be founded on three principles: gratitude, the seven joys, and thinking citizenship.

2. Maybe one day that school will exist.

3. Not yet.

NB: The most basic trinity of education: high standards, high expectations, lots of love.


Campus at Shady Hill School, a Private School in Cambridge, MA


“Whenever you are wrong, admit it. Whenever you are right, shut up.” - Ogden Nash


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.