No Grades, No Exams At Tilda Swinton’s Cool New High School

By the time you read this, I will be gone. I am packing my bags, moving to Scotland, and assuming a new, fraudulent identity as a teen girl.

My plan is to enroll in Drumduan Upper School, co-founded by high priestess Tilda Swinton. (I realize I may also have to play-act as my own mother in order to enroll myself. I’ll also need a hefty sum of money. Oh, well! I’ll figure it out once I get there.)

According to the Guardian’s Observer, government inspectors recently determined that Drumduan students are “confident, articulate, highly motivated and respectful.” Hey! I want to be most of those things, too! Now, where did I put my toothbrush.

Drumduan students are not subjected to tests or grading, instead learning “experientially” and through “connections.” It’s a type of Steiner school (better known to us Americans as a “Waldorf education”). Drumduan, still relatively new, has been around for about three years. Okay, has anyone seen my Keds? I’ll probably need those, too.

The Observer’s Aaron Hicklin accompanied the Drumduan students — plus Tilda Swinton — on their annual summer learning-vacation to the tiny island of Colonsay. As Hicklin tells it, “the week was left relatively unstructured. Tilda felt it was important for children to have the freedom to be bored.” (Charmingly, all throughout the article Hicklin refers to Ms. Swinton by her first name. Do you think I will need these sunglasses?)

The summer vacation is very outdoorsy; as such, the students aren’t permitted to bring along any technology, including smartphones. Okay, so I won’t pack my iPhone after all.

And! The teens learn to build boats! What could be better!

Through the windows Krzysztof [Zajaczkowski, “Principal Teacher”] points to a pair of handsome canoes sitting outside, and fetches a paddle for my inspection. “They were made out of slabs of local Douglas fir, with no machines and no vices, just clamps on desks,” he says. To Krzysztof the boat is a paragon of interdisciplinary education. As he puts it: “You’ve got mathematics, geometry, physics of buoyancy, the chemistry of epoxy resins, the art and aesthetic of colour and shape, the process of collaboration and the physical, outdoor experience of it all.” Of course, you’ve also got a boat.

Ms. Swinton is at her most quotable here:

“We’re just doing a little chillaxing,” Tilda says one evening as everyone sits around eating wild garlic and nettle soup, the ingredients foraged earlier that day.

The entire article is radiant and complimentary. And why wouldn’t it be? Drumduan sounds awesome. I, for one, am sold.

Okay, all packed! See you in four years!

[NYMag’s The Cut]
[The Guardian]