Daniel Greenberg, Educator & Provocateur

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Daniel Greenberg, Educator & Provocateur

Harry Bartlett

Founder of the Sudbury Valley School, a long-standing client and an “educational giant” as proclaimed by Psychology Today - Dan passed away this past December at the age of 87.

Dan was a passionate student advocate. The SVS model, adopted by schools in countries around the world, has no teachers and students are free to study what they wish. 

Dan originally taught Physics at Columbia before co-founding SVS. It was this experience that formed the impetus for the SVS model.

“It really began for me when I was teaching in college. I tried all the pedagogical tricks; I tried to entertain them; I used all kinds of motivational techniques. I would deliver lectures that got standing ovations, but later, in the tests and essays, it was clear to me that the students just didn’t get it. I wasn’t getting through to them, and it was very frustrating, very disappointing. I asked my colleagues about it, and they all said the same things: ‘Don’t feel bad. It’s these kids today. They don’t work hard, they don’t care about studying and learning.’ But I just refused to believe it was the students’ fault! Gradually, I came to understand that learning occurs when it is self-initiated when kids are self-motivated. You can’t make someone learn something—you really can’t teach someone something—they have to want to learn it. And if they want to learn, they will.” (The “Man Who Trusted Children: Daniel Greenberg”, Psychology Today. 

The photo in this post was taken in the fall of 2021, not long before Dan passed away. I first met him several years ago and he became a long-standing client. We created multiple websites for Dan and SVS. Working with him was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my 35 + year career.

He was a truly original American gadfly, insightful, curious, outspoken, playful, and committed to educational democracy. One of the most engaging conversationalist philosophers I will ever know. It was hard to disagree with Dan but that didn’t matter because Dan always took the topic deeper in a positive way and it was more interesting to hear his ideas than convince him otherwise.

I once told Dan I had a hard time writing and he said that’s odd, just write as you talk. Which is insightful though hard to do. Dan wrote and spoke with ease. His writing style was conversational yet academic, with a natural, passionate, and lucid cadence.

This photo was shot after a lengthy meeting about a redesign of the website to highlight the extensive videos they are producing. Dan is pointing out the blue volumes which are a compilation of his and others writings about SVS and many other topics beginning in 1968. I love this photo of Dan - his eyes are like smiling arcs - a blend of mischievousness and joy. 

I feel lucky to have met Dan and grateful for the opportunity to work with him. God bless - Aleha Ha Shalom.

About the author

Harry started BI in 1998 and focuses on integrating best practices in branding, user experience design, Internet marketing, and technology to increase the value of an online presence.
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