Lives of Passion, Schools of Hope


How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning

by Rick Posner, PhD


This book offers stories and reflections from the alumni of a school where the students hired the teachers, ran their own government, evaluated their own progress, and designed their own curriculum. It’s the story of an extended family of students, staff, and parents who have formed their own community of learners over the course of thirty-eight years.

We all have an important stake in our public schools. In these days of teaching for testing, standardization, school violence, and alienation, readers will want to know about a public school that has not only weathered the political and social storms of nearly four decades, but has done so with integrity and success. The alumni and the author offer their perspectives on how a school without grades, credits, or a set curriculum has affected them as adults. Some say it saved their lives!

Lives of Passion, Schools of Hope answers questions frequently asked about a school so different from the mainstream: did students succeed in college, what do they do for a living, are they living according to the ideals of the school, are they happy and productive as adults in a democratic society? The answers to these questions are in turn surprising, riveting, and insightful.

Lives of Passion, School of Hope points toward a future that may depend on the injection of heart, hope, and passion into our public schools. It is the story of the place of personal growth in public education and how we can be inspired to create a better world.

Rick Posner taught in Jefferson County public schools for thirty years, and served as the Assistant Principal at the Open School from 1999-2001. He received his doctorate from the University of Denver in 1989. He lives in Denver, Colorado, and is a consultant for schools around the country. His website is

[quote]This book reaffirms one's faith in the power of public education and illustrates how the creative spirit of educators and the intelligence, passion, and engagement of students can lead to learning on the highest level. —Herbert Kohl, author of 36 Children[/quote]

[quote]Lives of Passion, School of Hope is a refreshing antidote to the arid and pinched view of education and school reform suffocating and strangling any clear thinking in the public square today. In this essential and urgent book Posner illuminates the vital work of a single school, and maps a way out of the mess we’re in. —William Ayers, author of To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher[/quote]

[quote]Such alternative schools haven't disappeared, but their stories too often have. They must become the pilots for the future—schools to argue about and learn from. A refreshingly clear account of what schools can mean to young people's real life futures. —Deborah Meier, author of The Power of Their Ideas[/quote]

[quote]This wonderful book shows us what all schools could and should be doing. —Ron Miller, Ph.D., author of Free Schools, Free People: Education and Democracy After the 1960s[/quote]

[quote]This is a lovely piece of work and a great story. Rick has a sweet way of threading a ton of student voices together into a readable and compelling narrative. The hope and love in this book are impossible to miss. —Matt Hern, author of Deschooling Our Lives[/quote]


  1. Arun

    Our case may be a little rfefedint, as my son also has severe chronic medical issues in addition to Aspergers. We have always homeschooled our children, so it is not something we chose to do just because of his health issues, but as a family lifestyle. Because he is the youngest of 3 boys (he is almost 15, oldest is 28) we have been able to have a variety of experiences prior to learning how to work with this one. Because of frequent hospitalizations, surgeries, travel for medical care, schooling for our family is never typical , but is very experiential. We school year round, field tripping when we travel which fits well with our Aspies interests in history and animals (zoo’s and aquariums in many states are have too’s!). He was not diagnosed until earlier this year, but now that we know, his behaviors make sense. We were told by the neuro-psych that homeschooling probably was kept him more on target educationally than had we placed him in public school, though he might have been identified sooner, our ability to taylor his education to his needs was much easier to do at home than in a classroom. We also are able to keep him healthier, as he is not exposed to all the colds, flu’s etc, which would then mean even more hospitalizations and potentially loss of quality and quantity of life. He wasn’t supposed to live this long, so we treasure every moment. He is very social with adults, not so much with kids his own age. That is improving having found a local play group for Aspies that meets twice monthly. We have done various church groups, cub scouts, etc, which were great when he was younger, not so much now that he is a teenager. It is hard for him when his best friends grow up and move on emotionally, and he has no interest in doing the same (dating, driving, etc). We are trying to find other outlets for him, ways to be with people that share his interests rather than playing into the age based groups, like possibly volunteering at a local (new) aquarium, that kind of thing. We shall see small steps, and the future has yet to be seen.

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