a progressive primary and middle school in Bennington, Vermont

Our Philosophy

The Hiland Hall School strives to develop the full capacities of our students. We believe that both individual and society are best served when individuals reach their full potential.  It is this school’s task to serve both the individual and the society.  Thus, we do not concentrate on only one aspect of human potential (for instance, intellectual development or even more narrowly academic development) as this would be of disservice to both individual and society.

Each of us is unique and has something special to contribute to the community. It is the nature of human beings to think, to strive to make sense, and to make knowledge.  We all deserve respect.  Specifically, the thinking, feeling, valuing and interests of children deserve maximum respect in the classroom and should be the starting point in the development of program and curriculum though not the only factor.  Individuals need not only a safe and open atmosphere in general but also the specific respect that comes from knowledge and validation of each person’s style, pace and rhythm.

Learning takes place best in an atmosphere of respect and trust. People need to feel safe to take risks, to speculate, to make visible their thoughts, interests, and concerns.  Broadly, this is a statement about how the community of learners must function to support each person in his or her individuality.  Group membership and respect must be given, not earned.  Students must know that their efforts will be met with support as well as judicious criticism, that effort is valued as much as or more than literal achievement.  Questions, doubts, confusion, and misunderstanding must be as valued a part of the educational setting as answers, certainties, and clarity.

We think that knowledge begins in activity and purpose and develops into deliberate study only over time as the purposes of the individual develop. Thus, students need time to develop their own purposes and activities as they absorb the purposes and standards of the group around them.

We want our school to be a setting respectful of the wide diversity of human talent and resources; respectful of group process and needs; supportive of individual initiative and endeavor; respectful of our responsibility to the larger community.