8/24/09 Merrick Life
This September Progressive School will begin its 25th year pursuing its mission, helping young people to find their mission. Met with some skepticism in 1985, the school was a small start-up with less than a dozen children in a town known for good public schools, and several other notable private kindergartens already operating. But the school’s unique voice found an audience, and grew from a Kindergarten to an elementary and a middle school serving grades K-8 with about 150 students from local school districts.
The school has made a name for itself by winning a number of academic competitions and having a disproportionate number of its graduates go on to become high school valedictorians and salutatorians, including here in Merrick. Yet the Director and original founder, Eric Jacobson, doesn’t see this as the main purpose of the school, but rather a side-effect of a “purposeful learner.”
“A purposeful learner,” states Jacobson, “is someone who believes that their life is a gift that needs to be shared to help others, including the animals and plants. Such a learner will continue to increase their knowledge and grow in unpredictable ways when no one is watching. They will always seek to do their best, and keep their priorities in a healthy order.”
Twenty-five years ago, this theory, known as “Neo-Humanism,” had little foundation in practice. But now, after hundreds of children have passed through its doors, Progressive School has proven that even in an era of test preparation and skill development, there is another way to educate.
Asked what he is most proud of over the past twenty-five years, Jacobson won’t boast about the Ivy-Leagers and valedictorians. “When I read about a decorated high school graduate who talks about taking a year off to do service before college, it is very gratifying. When students take on independent elective projects in school that propel them to unimagined heights, I feel that it is the proof of our philosophy in action.”