Creating our community, choosing our tools
When Ellen Geer Sangster started Buxton almost a hundred years ago, it was to provide something missing from the mainstream culture around her. Something more humane, more conducive to the growth and wellbeing of the young adults she served. At Buxton we love imagining and then creating the best possible environment we can for learning, growing, and building community. That’s why starting next school year, we will no longer allow smartphones on campus.
We didn’t come to this decision quickly or lightly, but we embrace it wholeheartedly. We are excited by it. The list of reasons is long and familiar to all of us at this point. Constant access to everyone and everything—pinged directly into our pockets, into our ears, onto our wrists—is not helping us to know and love ourselves, know and love each other. It doesn’t give anyone any space, time, or quiet—all essential aspects of the wellbeing that we are trying to cultivate here. Mental and emotional wellbeing, absolutely. But also: intellectual wellbeing, creative wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and social wellbeing. The fundamental structure of Buxton is that we are a community of fewer than a hundred people, living together face-to-face in our corner of the Berkshire mountains. Deeply, purposefully, here, now, in person. Can you imagine a technology less conducive to that project?
Of course, Buxton is not an island. It is firmly in this world, not apart from it, and should never pretend otherwise. But that doesn’t mean it should be exactly the same as what’s outside these hundred acres. Indeed, if it were exactly the same, there’d be no reason for it to exist. We have always tried to do something different here, build something different. We have tried to make a purposeful space, an intentional community, where people can truly see themselves and each other.
We’re not worried that thirty-two weeks a year without a smartphone will leave anyone less prepared for anything. Indeed, we believe the opposite is true. The best preparation for anything—any college, any career, any life—is to know yourself well, and to know how to be in community. When you know your own values, ethics, aesthetics, mind, and heart, then you are ready for any kind of world.
Consciously setting aside a technology that’s not helping us is a step forward, not a step backward. We’re not idealizing or trying to recreate the past at Buxton. We’re helping shape its future, and the futures of the communities around us. Just like we have for the last hundred years, just like we hope to for a hundred more.
Peter Beck, Head of School
Franny Shuker-Haines, Director Emeritus
The Buxton Faculty
The Buxton Board of Trustees
P.S. Three important questions and answers—and we are sure there will be many more as we help craft this policy and environment together!
Q: Teachers, too?
A: Yes! This is something we feel will benefit the entire community, teachers very much included. We won’t be bringing smartphones to Buxton, either (or taking them out of our homes if we live on campus). Trust us, we need the change as much as anyone!
Q: Will non-smart phones be allowed?
A: Yes! Flip phones, light phones, and other non-internet-enabled phones are definitely still allowed. And if by next year you’re looking to get a non-smart phone and monetary considerations are an obstacle, we can help with financial aid.
Q: Will computers and the internet be allowed?
A: Yes! We’ll still have internet on campus, and students can and should still have computers. Especially when living together in a small community in the woods, access to all our online communities, hobbies, and networks remains important—just not all the time and everywhere. (Not to mention we’ll still want computers and the internet for research and academic work!)
"Buxton has given me the freedom to be the person I want to be, make the art I want to make, and learn the things I want to learn. At Buxton we learn not only in the classroom, but in the community. We learn how to be good to each other and how to support each other. Buxton has so much to offer students, both inside the classroom and outside of it."
“At Buxton you get to focus on what you want to be learning; whether it is social skills or in-depth studying- you learn to take responsibility of your education.”
“Living your education means to not only learn things, but to use what you learn in your everyday life.”
“To me, living your education means to be independent, to take charge, to not be afraid of asking for help, to learn from your peers, to love to learn, to take what you have learned from a loving environment and take it into the world.”
“Your education is more than just your time in class, it’s your life as a whole. Learning is not limited to a teacher teaching you something in a classroom.”
“To me, at Buxton, it’s not boundaries that you make, but the ones you break through.”
“At Buxton, I can choose what I want to do with my education. I can design my own path and invest my time studying topics that I’m really interested in.”
“At Buxton you can experience your intellectual development in a community that accepts your perspective of the world.”
“I felt instantly at home when I stepped on the campus. At Buxton, we are in school 24/7. We learn things in the classroom, but we really learn valuable things outside of the classroom. We learn how to work with others and respect each other’s spaces. Our education surrounds us and we learn new things everyday.”
“I chose Buxton over public school because I think I function better in a smaller environment. You’re able to get to know students and faculty on a deeper level, which is rare.”