Our Take: Gordonstoun Nova Scotia
Gordonstoun, Scotland, was founded in 1934 by Kurt Hahn, and though times have changed, the strength of the school reflects the ideals that he hoped to express. While he’s not as well-known as some others who developed ground-breaking programs in the early part of the last century—Maria Montessori, Rudolph Steiner—you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has had a greater effect on how we think about education. Hahn's list of accomplishments is a hint: he founded the Salem school in Germany and Gordonstoun in the UK, both renowned for all the right reasons. (In addition, Gordonstoun is famously the alma mater of three generations of the British royal family, including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.) In addition, Hahn created three co-curricular programs that are now delivered around the world: Round Square, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, and Outward Bound. That one person was involved in all is astonishing. At any rate, they all express what Hahn wanted education to do, namely to give students a sense of purpose and prepare them in mind, body, and intellect to go out and change the world for the better. Which, actually, is something he knew something about. As an educator in Germany, he encouraged his students to speak out against the rise of national socialism. For that, he was arrested, put briefly in jail, and then emigrated to England as a political refugee. This was a man who knew what the world could do, and what in turn we could do to affect change within it.
Gordonstoun Nova Scotia is the first satellite school of the one Hahn founded in the UK—in time there may well be others—and is created to extend its work. Academics are rigorous, following the liberal arts model. There is also an attention to challenge by choice, encouraging students to reach further in terms of their academic, physical, and social development. In addition to mastering the core curriculum, students are asked to consider how they can serve their communities and are then encouraged to do just that. Outdoor education, understandably, is a focus, and the location, to say nothing of the campus itself, are resources in that regard. While some of the ideas that Hahn helped usher into international consciousness—it’s not so unusual these days, for example, to think of educating the whole child—Gordonstoun Nova Scotia is uniquely positioned to take the tradition of the school and extend them it creative, cutting-edge ways. Certainly, it has a lot to offer to students locally as well as those arriving from across the country and around the world.