Inside A Tech-Free School Where Tech Executives Send Their Kids


In most public and private
schools across the nation, Chromebooks, iPads or Windows
devices are everywhere. But things look very different
at the private Sacramento Waldorf School in California
where technology isn’t used at all through eighth grade and
is scarce even in high school. Instead of just turning to my
phone to answer a question to ask a teacher for help
or to ask a friend. I just never really knew what
it was like to play video games as opposed to running
around and having fun outside. We don’t have many screens here
but I can still use a screen really well. You don’t have to be on
the screen all the time to know how to use it well. So I would whip
stitch this on. I find that even in my
own experience, in my own life that when I’m using a device
it divides me from those who are around me. So I find that the community
experience of being in a classroom without those devices
that comes only from one-on-one human
interaction. And the screen tends
to divide that. Good morning. Morning. Celebrating its 100th
anniversary this year, the Waldorf teaching philosophy is used
at more than 1,000 institutions in 91 countries,
including 136 schools here in the U.S. The screen policy differs at
each Waldorf School but it’s known for its
holistic instructional style which promotes artistic expression,
experiential learning and yes, limited technology use. For students at the
Sacramento Waldorf School, screen time is highly discouraged
at home too. The lower-school parent handbook
recommends no media at home through fifth grade
and limited access accompanied by clearly defined family
policies and monitoring for older children, stating none
is the optimal condition for young children and less is
better than more in high school. Computer use at
Sacramento Waldorf School is restricted to just six desktops in
one small lab and 20 MacBook Air laptops used in
just a few classes. Mobile devices can be brought
by high schoolers who all sign a pledge to limit
use to outside the classroom only. Tech in schools is
big business, expected to hit $43 billion this year with
46 percent of that growth happening in K through 12. So Apple, Google and Microsoft
may not be thrilled to know the Waldorf approach represents
a growing trend in Silicon Valley where low-tech
education is becoming increasingly popular among parents
who are apprehensive of the devices they
themselves helped to invent. The private Waldorf School of
the Peninsula, which has campuses in Los Altos in
Mountain View, is highly sought after. Three quarters of
the student’s parents there have a strong
high-tech connection. In fact, many big names in
tech like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gained notoriety for
the strict bounds they placed on device usage
in their homes. Gates reportedly didn’t let his
kids get phones until age 14 and Jobs didn’t
let his kids use iPads. The tuition at Waldorf Schools
varies by grade and location. High school tuition at
the Waldorf School of the Peninsula is
more than $35,000. And elementary school starts
just under $26,000. In Sacramento, high school
is over $19,000 and elementary starts just
under $13,000. There is an interesting thing
that’s happening and that it’s become a real sign of
kind of status and privilege to be tech free. Children from low income families
spend about three more hours on average on
screens per day. So we’re seeing that kind
of differentiation where it’s not about the access to the
device but it’s really about making sure that children from
all kinds of households have access to positive
opportunities and experiences in online spaces. For families that can afford
to send their kids to Waldorf Schools, it’s likely that
they do have the resources to craft a
responsible media environment for their kids at home. If you’re lucky enough to be
born into a family with that kind of privilege and resources
you’re gonna have a lot of different
learning opportunities. So I don’t think that we
can condemn one type of teaching practice
over another. It’s really about the mix
of learning experiences that we create for our kids
and we know within privileged families those learning experiences
are deep and vast and constantly coming in. By the time they’re seniors
I don’t think there’s anything different from other
kids necessarily other than they’ve maybe had a
little more of a balance. At the Sacramento Waldorf School
students in the lower grades aren’t taught any
computational skills at all. Instead they learn through
tactile immersion handwork is a subject that is only
in really Waldorf Schools. So all of our children learn
how to sew and knit and crochet and when they come
through my class they know how to fix a button. They know how to fix
a tear in their clothing. Right now, after I leave you
I’ll be taking them out on our hike day and so the
children have been able to watch how the landscape changes
and what animals are there during different seasons and
what plants are there and you can’t get that
same experience from watching that on the screen. Students here also learn how to
grow their own food care for animals on the school’s
farm, paint and garden. We have a full working farm
on campus and from second to 10th grade they come out twice
a week and have gardening class with myself. But some of our favorite
friends are Atticus the llama and Paddy the cow and we
have a whole bunch of chickens and a few ducks and
a small flock of sheep. Students are used to working
with their hands inside the classroom as well. Most of their
assignments are handwritten. This type of hands-on practical
education appeals to a lot of parents broadly
concerned about the growing influence of tech
in everyday life. They’re raising some of the first
kids to grow up with access to smartphones tablets
and social media. And many educators and academics
alike have begun to raise the alarm. One of the things that the
research makes clear is that there is a huge impact of
cell phones and social media platforms like Instagram and
Snapchat and other platforms on kids brains and
on their social and emotional development. There’s also links to
addictive compulsive behavior to attention distraction issues and
many other concerns. Teen depression anxiety and suicide
are also on the rise at the generational level studies
show that kids today spend less time hanging out
with their friends than they used to. Some recent studies have
linked these concerning statistics with smartphone use so
it’s no wonder parents and even kids
themselves are worried. Well I have a few friends of
mine who went to law school and then I know they
go to public school. I know they spend their entire
day pretty much on a screen. I hang out with them
and they’ll just be like this all the time. We go to social meetings
whatever and everyone is just beep beep beep. They wouldn’t talk. How are you. Oh good. They wouldn’t have
a complete conversation. Portillo says his classmates
at Waldorf aren’t like that. Even though high schoolers
like him are allowed to use their phones
during breaks. After being raised with Waldorf’s
policies many of his peers are also on board
with the low-tech approach. When you don’t have a phone you
kind of are forced to be social with people you’re forced to
go out and have new conversations with people
and meeting people. And that’s a really valuable skill
to know how to do in an environment where computers are
with you all the time when your phone is
there in every class. You tend to turn to your
phone or your device instead of to a teacher or a friend. And so you don’t build
those skills, those social skills you also don’t learn to ask
for help when you need it. While few would dispute the
benefits of real world interactions and experiential
education, Odgers does take issue with the popular
narrative that an uptick in tech usage is making kids
more anxious and less social. We’re seeing a lot of
panic among parents and teachers and that panic is coming
from a very good place. We all want the best for
our kids but the evidence is very consistent at this point
we’re not seeing these large effects or large
associations between screen time and digital engagement and
decreases in well-being or lower well-being. It’s simply not there in
the way that common perceptions in the media are common
beliefs that we hear just talking amongst ourselves would
lead us to believe. While rates of smartphone
adoption and teen depression have increased in tandem these
studies can only prove correlation, not causation. That correlation often disappears
if you control for other factors in our lives. Digital device used in excess might
be a signal or a marker of something that might
be going awry off line. Basically she says it’s more
likely that unhappiness is leading to unhealthy device usage
rather than the other way around. So when analyzing Waldorf tech
policies, Odgers says the most important thing to consider
is how devices are being used, not
necessarily how often. For me it’s a question of how
can it how can we use these as tools. They’re great tools so that we’re
not tools of our tools but how can we own them
as opposed to their owning us. And school staff say their
students are not deterred from pursuing careers in
technical fields. Out of each graduating class
of about 40 students, 35 percent choose science or
math as a major. The last few years, we’ve
definitely seen an uprising and STEM majors so a lot of
students are going into premed or computer science. So given the choice between
a modern classroom full of screens and education apps
or a nature oriented, back-to-the basics experience there may
not be a right answer. The real magic happens when
we can leverage the good parts of technologies with the
great parts of what good teachers and good parents and
good invested adults can do to really allow children
at all stages of development and learning to reach
their optimal potential. That’s not really whether you
shut tech offer you to keep it on. The question is really how
you scaffold learning using technology when it’s appropriate
with the right supports.

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100 thoughts on “Inside A Tech-Free School Where Tech Executives Send Their Kids

  1. We aren't allowed phones full stop at schl, and only use computers in ict and music ( and a lot of ppl stop those subjects after 14) so next year I will probably spend about one period a month in a computer room. It's pretty call because u have to interact with ppl at break and lunch. Plus it's free!

  2. Just like old school! I love it, I used to have a callus on my right middle finger from writing so much and nowadays kids don’t even take notes in school they’re just given a piece of paper which is practically the answer key to the test and they have to MEMORIZE it not learn it or know how anything works or understand it just memorize the answers, it’s ridiculous.

  3. I understand their point of view. However, when they do go out and work, they will be surrounded by technology either way. They shouldn’t be thought that technology is a bad thing, they should be thought moderation is the key. Technology has its pros and cons, yes kids will overuse it but it’s up to the adults to limit their use. Technology has its benefits, technology is more develop than ever and by limiting the interaction with it, students will be limited in opportunities as a lot of job required tech usage such as microsoft office, microsoft word….

  4. I hate tech in school. Im a highschool student and I hate it. The teachers domt even teach anymore. They give up a website to go to. I cant learn like that and never have been able too. I want it to be like it was when I first started school and they didn't have that yet where i went.
    Its stupid. Most the teachers will even sit playing games on there phones all day and ignore they have students they just have the internet teach us

  5. I'm 41 yrs old, we had some sort of computer we played on in 5th grade. It was slower than molasses! Other than that we weren't techy until 9th and that still wasn't anything to write home about. So basically, these kids are being taught the way I was taught, the "old fashioned" way. Back the, you used an encyclopedia to search a topic for a report. I don't think kids today know how to do that. Most can't survive without the internet to get their homework done and it's not their fault. So why take it away?

  6. These people are paying $30,000 so their child never knows the joy and genuine solidarity of playing Cool Math Games on the school computers

  7. This was normal school for me. I didn't use a calculator until I was 16 years old in 11th grade equivalent. Only students taking computer lessons used them in 9th grade

  8. Love the fact they have regular blackboards. I miss those so much. They have now all been replaced these stupid interactive digiboards

  9. They always show good schools for rich people, thx can’t afford it. Too poor so had to send my kid to public school.

  10. A lot of the comments are missing the point. Kids will interact with tech every single day. Almost everything is touch screen + connected to AI at this point, whether you realize it or not. The point is to reduce or eliminate technological devices used for entertainment or pleasure IN THEIR HOME (ex: smartphones that have social media apps). It limits productivity and they are created to be addictive. It’s just not a good idea to have around kids or teens.

    Classrooms have tried to add tech without addressing the fundamental issues with our education system, thinking that will fill in the gaps. It won’t. Which is why most of these kids will outperform ours in every way, despite not having up to date knowledge of the latest kid friendly software.

  11. This isn't a good thing. It's all about maintaining a balance, not about completely shutting something out of their lives. When you do that, especially with children and teens, they're eventually going to rebel and go to the exact extreme opposite of things. Technology can be extremely beneficial in our lives. Teach them responsible use of technology and how to maintain a healthy balance with the use of phones, social media etc. Once these kids leave this environment and return to the "real world" you've alienated them from a society that actively uses technology 24/7 and they're either going to rebel or lose control because they haven't been taught control, they've been taught absence.

  12. Good stuff – I'm glad I'm just old enough to have been educated prior to the technology boom yet also within its core now – benefits of both worlds and this concept of introducing a no tech education is purposeful in balancing that same thing now during a full technological revolution – good work

  13. In South Africa my school is still kinda tech free save for projectors and movies watched for exams…and then there’s IT and CAT students. So we’re still pretty chill 😂

  14. Average Kids are depressed in tandem with device usage because the average social interaction for a tween or teen is spent looking at overfiltered social profiles of other teens. Those lives, of course, look perfect. Pictures look perfect, friends in abundance. Makes a kid feel like they could never live up to that standard.

  15. This is a good concept but once they get to college they’re going to be using laptops for everything. Homework assignments, essays, quizzes, exams. Almost everything in college is online now so it’s nearly impossible to be tech free.

  16. Hey guess what My 9 year old has A tablet Sense she was 6 years old. Recently has upgraded to a laptop. I don't see the problem if it's balanced that's the problem parents don't balance. My kids go outside every day. There is nothing wrong with video games as long it's the proper video games for age. In fact it has been proven that video games Increase alertness attention to detail hand eye coordination this is very true. I do agree with the no social media Until probably 17 years of age. My wife and I set the example no phones while driving no texting and driving unless your passenger. No technology at the dinner table. And no technology 3 hours before bed. I don't think there's a problem unless you just let your kids run Wild. Balance is the key To everything.

  17. That's why I'm always for smartphones for +20 years old. They're addictive as it's difficult for young kids to control themselves.

  18. Sounds like romanticism.

    Just teach them proper memory mnemonics. And Academic summarizing.

    Also virtue signaling and elitism.

  19. Oof. Send em to a free public school that lacks budget. Way cheaper and its the same experience. Hell my school didn't even have bathroom stalls.

  20. I teach 1st grade in a title 1 school. All of my kids have a chrome book and get to do an online math lesson to follow up and check their understanding after I teach them the lesson. This is the only “tech” my students use. I think it’s pretty amazing to give these kids use of technology is a technology based world. 🤷🏼‍♀️

  21. Tech Free School? Our school neither support technology! Every morning we need to clean the entire classroom, comfort room, outside room and gardening for an hour. Each students has their own designated work and it is rotating assignments for chores. Tuitions for the entire year is only less than $1 for test papers. We have Computer Subject but that is only limited for 3-5 students each PC. We knit, We crochet, We made recycling projects and a lot of DIY's, make some brooms out of palm trees, make some dustpan out of tin containers, and more! Our bags are made of fish nets and some are made of pandan leaf! When rain pours, we grab some banana leaf to made some umbrellas where Our meal is also wrapped and the aroma is perfect during lunch.

    I know we are so outdated in terms of technology but these students became doctors, engineers, teachers, IT's, lawyers, Chief Officers, General Military, Ship Captain, Pilots and Businessmen.

  22. So what are they going to do when those kids can't get a job because tech is the backbone of any business these days? And they don't know how to use computers or software applications? I definitely think that this approach is important, but you are taking away valuable resources these children need to be able to get jobs in the future. I was too poor for tech growing up and I had a HUGE disadvantage when I entered the workforce. There needs to be a balance as with EVERYTHING in life…

  23. I love this idea my child’s behavior changes once he’s on screens our public schools is all screens basically so I chose to homeschool

  24. Ok but this is the norm in most third world countries. Surprise surprise, the Americans have found a way to make money out of it.

  25. Lmao do schools like i had growing up and im only 25. Haha. Just dont allow your kids to use electronics in public schools. Simple

  26. Man I remember not having phone when all my friends started getting one and I also remember having a dumb phone when everybody uses smartphone .I don't remember being slightly tempted at having a better phone. But now I sometimes found myself justifying my careless phone usage . Even though I know I'm much better without it

  27. A Sacramento Waldorf School classroom is how classrooms look in the rest of the world.

    (Well, maybe except in China)

  28. it's really not right that it's more expensive than a year at college
    no fair imho, all families have access?? yeah okayyy

  29. this is really hurting my feelings that you have to pay extra for this. no you absolutely cannot get that experience everywhere who are you people thinking this is accessible to anyone. really hurts.

  30. I graduated last year, and my school was a tech free school. Well actually just a poor school with a computer lab that hardly worked…

  31. Strongly disagree. Kids need to have a balance. They need to learn how to use all kinds of technology very fluently, and even learn how they work if possible. Parents may not be teaching these things at home. These devices can also be very good teaching tools. But kids should also learn how to play outside, climb trees, widdle sticks, and play, imagine, and create in the natural elements. As well as learning basic survival skills and refreshing those skills here and there.

  32. The US is so fk capitalistic. It’s annoying. Tuition is in the Netherlands for elementary and middle school around 20 dollars each child and for high school it’s around 150 dollar. Low income people get it free. Even your tuition in the US is capitalistic like wow I know understand why the difference between rich and poor is so big. Your rich class better pay more taxes. Be a little socialistic.

  33. One of the first thing I learned while doing engineering research in college is to find the answer yourself online. If you can't find it there then ask for help.

  34. So, essentially a modern Montessori program that passes Maria's middle school ceiling over 100 years ago. . .okay.

    And this "tech-free" educational method is 'new News? Funny.

  35. Not to mention, "Home Etc." classes faded over 10+ years back from public schooling and now it's for the elite. Losing music programs every year. The quality gap to divide social classes widens.

  36. Stop usurping such basic terms for limited meanings of your choosing! Technology – "tech" – is all around that school. What you clearly mean but do not qualify is "digital technology." It's astounding that, as prestigious of a channel as CNBC is, in a story specifically about educating children, a very broad term "taught" to us is completely misused. I sure hope that you don't teach your children with that mouth, it's bringing us all down!

  37. With technology work becomes easier as work becomes easier teachers will make in harder but of course to a limit. Along with it being completed faster the workload increases.

  38. The tech that grade 8+ gets to use is just normal school. We don’t have laptops or any computer in a non-computer room (excluding the teacher’s computer and interactive white board). Computer rooms are only used for ICT or language lessons. Every other lesson is just book and pen.

    Does the US allow their students to use laptops or phones in all lessons? In the U.K., it is considered a distraction and you will get your device taken away from you.

  39. All this tech makes people antisocial!

    Growing up we used to have gatherings every week. Now it's once in a while and even then, everyone is on their phones.

  40. "ask a teacher" 😂😂😂 you must live in a small town because in L.A. that's practically impossible

  41. I rather have a combinat with these but I know how to do everything they said that there kids know from my phone. I spent 170$ for some of the things they have spent thousands on. I believe its a wast of money when people in Thailand are making there kids fight eachother for 60$ witch is around half of there months earnings

  42. I've always said that if I have kids I will not have tv and no tech unless they can buy and maintain it themselves. Obviously reality could be different, but non tv time gives me good memories of discovering and rooting through my parents music, recording things on casette with my siblings, which is still tech but less passive. Having a phone only at 16 is based on when I was born and my families resources, but I think being this way leads me to want to not be engrossed in technology, because it doesn't feel good. Balance is best. It's sad that its a way to tap out of life or be comfortable not being always stimulated. I notice how addictive it is, and how im just in autopilot watching videos. If there's someway of self regulating early on, it's better. And if the tech creators dont let their kids thats a sign

  43. That's pretty terrible that Steve Jobs wouldn't let his kids use iPads. So he decides the product he creates isn't good for his family but then decides to inflict that upon the world? We need people who create products that are good for everyone – if you don't let your kids use your products, then don't build or sell the product. Granted – if you put limited restrictions on your kids or family for products, then you put a caution and warning sign on every product you sell with the same limitations and recommendations.

    The problem we have with the world is people who just want to make money and don't care about the good of society, they only care about the good of their own family. That's not good, that's destructive to the world and themselves.

  44. How can we help children reach their full potential when in reality their potentiality is undermined by the overuse of tech devices

  45. I've been saying this for such a long time. Technology is overrated in public schools and Finland plus private schools are protecting their kids brains

  46. Take the money from the administration costs. Overpaid & too many administrators in schools now. Buy books, if kids mess them up, they pay for replacement. Don't keep buying updated books, push publishers to put out major updates or corrections as addendum booklets.
    Putting areas for gardening & animals doesn't have to add alot of space. Hallway gardens/greenhouses. Lots of mini garden techniques these days. Half acre to 1 acre is enough for students to learn about animals.
    Home Ec & woodshop & reality classes should be part of education. Teach students to take care of themselves in the real world.

  47. Why is this old concept that was considered normal now a new thing?? Tech-Free school is just school to us

  48. That's how most of the school in India works and most parents give there children mobile after completion of high school or at the earliest after completion of 10th grade.

  49. The philosophy underpinning Waldorf schools is derived from the occultic beliefs of its founder. There are some unusual practices like not teaching kids reading until 2nd grade and promoting the literal belief in gnomes and nature spirits in the younger grades. Beware if you are thinking of sending your kids. Do your research.

  50. So the filthy rich tech owners create this school for their kids but sell tech schools to the rest of the country so they can win on both ends. Got it 👍🏾

  51. All these people saying “balance”. That’s not a mature good compromise to just arbitrarily choose halfway between yes and no when faced with a problem. Do y’all really think these Uber wealthy tech executives are just dummies whose kids are getting an inferior education for 35k? That they’d be better off if they used screens more?

    If so, make an argument for why instead of just acting like it’s “extreme”. Truth is, there isn’t much argument to make. It’s unnecessary. You don’t need to use tech as a kid to have skills w it later. There are a variety of downsides and likely downsides. People just don’t want to admit that they or their kids have unhealthy relationships w tech. This period will be looked back upon like when kids smoked cigarettes or worked in factories.

  52. Back in Bangladesh, parents are so happy and proud when their 4/5/6 years kids using tab & smart devices, outrageous! And Government planning to bring tablets in kids classes!

  53. Technology helps with information literacy. I had a student who could not use Blackboard, let alone other technologies. The technology divide must be addressed.

  54. i think people are discrediting their holistic approach…not that it should cost that much money to enjoy nature and learn how to sew

  55. The farming and gardening teacher has a real passion for what he does and you can tell how when he says “we” and “our”

  56. So the tech people are screwing up our kids with their technology and saving theirs. SMH…this should tell you people!!

  57. This should he in all schools let's face it I never had technology when i went to school so it can be done

  58. Lol I didnt knew there is a thing called a tech free school in states.In my country,all public & private schools are tech free.

  59. So no correlation found between high income stable families and happier healthier children??? Hmmm, okaaay.

  60. So in essence how to indoctrinate your children and control their whole live because they HAVE to come to you for the answer. I hate all this BS about kids being on Tech too much and not connecting. It is all about moderation and most people are moderate in their use, neither extremes are good.

    See I understand not having tech as much in school when they are teaching lessons but also monitoring kids and stopping them from using tech outside of school as well is just ludicrous.

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