The average kid in America will spend as much, if not more of their waking life at school than in the home. If this is the case then it seems important that the environment they are in is not just inspiring from a faculty and culture perspective, but also from a visual perspective. A National survey by the American Association of school Administrators found that 74% of school facilities should be replaced or repaired immediately.
It doesn’t take any sort of study to tell that most public schools look a little bit like prisons- and not just public schools, my private high school looked somewhat prisonlike. All of the walls were the same plain white brick, the lighting was mostly fluorescent prisonlike lighting, and the desk seats which were all slightly different were hard and uncomfortable. It wasn’t necessarily ugly, but nothing about it was inspiring either. I have been in a few different public schools in the Arizona area, and they are the same way.
Cleanliness and Beauty around us can make a huge difference in how we think, because what we see tends to be what we think about. Kids are no different in this regard. Many colleges and universities are gorgeous, but what would happen if the more formative early years were spent in a similar setting? Many studies have confirmed that a sense of security, along with openness, art, and a variety of other factors contribute to student test scores and overall performance. One study by Dr. Michael Berry at the Carpet and Rug Institute found many important environmental considerations, including that natural lighting is used, which increases productivity, plenty of room is provided, and that “the school is designed to reduce stress”.
A couple of case studies have also been performed, in case the logic wasn’t enough that more safe and well kept places increase academic performance. One first grader involved in an experiment where a class room was improved with comfortable reading spaces, fish, plants, and student artwork over 4 months- said that “I feel Relaxed. When I am relaxed I’m more ready to learn.” He was not the only one who commented with that sentiment. Another great example, is Charles Young School in Washington D.C. which was repaired from an abysmal state in 1997. Before the renovation, scores on both math and reading were sub-par, but improved much afterwards.
There are many beautiful schools in the world, but there are probably more plain and dark places. Making more schools architectural marvels of enjoyment, rather than mass incarceration centers would certainly improve the health of communities. Not every school will be set in a lush hillside, but we should focus on making more schools look like the university of Chicago Center, Hong Kong, or this beautiful wooden kindergarten near Barcelona.
(I should clarify here that I still believe the State should have no place in education.)