In North America (and much of western culture in general), the idea of school being a very serious and important means to an end tends to be the dominant mindset. We're taught that all of the traditional curriculum is vital to our success in life, and that devoting too much time to recreation and personal interests is counteractive to achieving our scholastic goals. Many youth who may be more interested in the arts and other creative pursuits are often left at a disadvantage because of the expectation that they should learn something that will guarantee them a job in this tough world.
Bryggeriets Gymnasium in Malmo, Sweden—the self proclaimed skateboard high school, is thinking outside of the box when it comes to education—fostering the creative spirit and determination that is such an integral part of being a skateboarder. Bryggeriets' vice principal and skate teacher, John Dahlquist took some time to answer a few questions about what makes this skate school so unique. Check out what he has to say, and try not to be jealous of this young skateboarder's dream that's tucked away in the most unsuspecting of locales.
Do you feel there may be a cultural difference in Sweden/Scandinavia that fosters a more open minded view on schooling? Or do you face the same attitudes on the importance of traditional/technical education ?
The skepticism towards the school in the beginning probably had more to do with making skateboarding into a school subject. But I always liked that. In my opinion skateboarding does better when it's is going against the grain. Since school in Sweden is free, our school is run as a non-profit NGO. Over the ten years we have been up and running I think we have gained a reputation of being a small scale school that takes good care of the students. I also hope that our drive to give a good education shines through. As with anything, open minded parents are good, but even the skeptical ones are usually pretty stoked once they have visited us.I think we have a pretty open minded attitude towards different kinds of education.
Does the Bryggeriets curriculum lead to an nationally accepted graduation requirement? Will kids leaving Bryggeriets be qualified to apply for more technical post secondary education, or would they need to possibly take additional courses outside of skate school to be prepared for college/university?
Since we follow the national curriculum for all high schools, all students need to get passing grades in all the traditional/regular courses. I hope and think that what sets us apart is the way we do it, and how much we try to involve the student's personal interest in each subject. Skateboarding can be a good motor for that. For example, they tend to learn the camera faster if they get to film skating. Having Chris Mulhern and Phil Evans as a guests also helps!
What does an average day at school consist of?
A regular day consists of usually five different classes including math, english, Swedish, social sciences etc. The schedule runs on a week, not on a day as in the US (from what I remember). Skate class is two afternoons a week. We try to make art classes such as photo, film and painting classes half day classes as you really need the time to go full nerd mode in those to get a lot of stuff done.
Would you consider Bryggeriets students to be youths who have trouble with traditional schooling? Is it possibly an opportunity only available to more fortunate kids who have open minded parents?
That's a yes and a no. We have many students who enjoy school for the first time of their life in high school. In my opinion that is a big failure for the school system in general. And yes, some have had problems with traditional school, being told that their interest holds no value etc. But most students are just regular high school students with a passion for what they do - in my case, skateboarding. The concept is simple - bring it to school instead of leaving it at home and let´s see how we can use it to make the most out of school.