Lives of Passion, School of Hope

Lives of Passion, School of Hope

How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning

Fredric 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.


360 in stock

Lives of Passion, School of Hope tells how a progressive public school in Colorado has transformed the lives of its alumni. It is about what happens to children and adults when they are encouraged to follow their bliss. It is also about personal empowerment and the development of confidence, curiosity, and compassion in our public schools.

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, School 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 personal growth in public education, and discusses how we can be inspired to create a better world.

Here's a video about Jefferson County Open School, the subject of the book:


Praise for Lives of Passion, School of Hope


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

For everyone suffocating in the shroud of institutional schooling this wonderful book is a breath of fresh air. It will inspire you with courage. Read it for all our sakes.

—John Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down

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. Rick Posner offers us an expansive vision of human possibilities, and reminds us that the deepest purposes of schooling in (and for) a vibrant democracy must always point toward the development of initiative, imagination, passion and compassion, creativity and courage. 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

The Open School demonstrates that a genuine education—one that values the lives of young people above arbitrary standards—is possible in public schools. Rick Posner has gathered the inspiring stories of dozens of alumni whose meaningful and successful adult lives testify to the transformational potential of authentic learning. This wonderful book shows us what all schools could and should be doing.

—Ron Miller, Ph.D., Editor, Education Revolution magazine

These are the stories that need to reach the public’s ear, and help us remember where it is we are trying to go—and why! 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

Lives of Passion, School of Hope proves that a public alternative school can provide self-directed, experiential learning for its students instead of teaching to the test. It also shows there are many different paths to becoming a successful adult other than simply being an A student in a conventional school.

—Patrick Farenga, co-author of Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

The importance and impact of progressive education has been advanced greatly with the publication of this book. Rick Posner’s institutional history-group biography shows that a school based upon curiosity and thoughtfulness leads to wonderful results. As the students and faculty of Jefferson County Open School know and as readers will learn, progressive education is alive and well.

—Craig Kridel, E. S. Gambrell Professor of Education, University of South Carolina, and author of Teachers and Mentors

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

What could be more critical in today's world educationally than ‘igniting a lifelong love of learning’? In this inspiring volume, Rick Posner—and, more importantly, the Open School and its graduates—light the way to this goal.

—Dr. Tom Griggs, Associate Professor, School of Teacher Education, University of Northern Colorado

What an amazing and important achievement this marvelous book by Rick Posner is, documenting the successes and solid lives of graduates from Jefferson County Open School, a lighthouse in the dark of current public education. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if groups of teachers all over the continent were so inspired by the testimony of these students that they set up their own schools to trust, challenge and inspire?

—Maurice Gibbons, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, and author of Walkabout: Searching for the Right Passage from Childhood and School

In 1981, a school evaluator labeled the Jefferson County Open School ‘a school of the future.’ The lamentable reality is that a third of a century later, a span representing more than a generation of American youth, the pace of educational change remains so slow or worse, wrong-headed, that the Open School is still of the future. Hopefully, Rick Posner’s inspiring book about this remarkable school will help speed things up a bit.

—Tom Gregory, Professor Emeritus, Indiana University and author of Making High School Work: Lessons from the Open School

Jefferson County Open School has pioneered democratic and alternative education in the public school system for almost 40 years. A remarkable new book has been released, focusing on the graduates from the school. This book, which is a beautiful read, is a must have for anyone interested in alternative education—especially those wondering how these ideas can and do work in the right public setting. I give this book my highest recommendation.

—Isaac Graves, Outreach Coordinator for Alternative Education Research Organization

I've never read about a more child-friendly school in my life! This book needs to be read by all those educators who know in their hearts that there must be a better way as well as by every parent considering educational alternatives for their youngsters. Even though Rick's writing is so reader-friendly as he sets out to document How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning, I find that I must reread it to fully appreciate its beauty!

—Richard Lakin, author of Teaching as an Act of Love



Additional information

Product Format


Page Count

249 pages


6 x 9 in.