At a high school in California, parents pay $55,300 a year for their kids to spend 6 weeks without cell phones, live in log cabins, and farm for their food

By , Business Insider

Tucked in a grassy canyon along the Central Coast is a high school where students chop wood and tend livestock between their history and calculus classes.

Doubling as a working farm, the campus differs from the typical American high schooling another crucial respect: No one among the faculty or the roughly 90 students ever looks at a cell phone.

Midland School, a co-ed boarding school in Los Olivos, was established in 1932. The idea, as founder Paul Squibb put it, was that a student who appreciates his material blessings, “will live a more vivid and interesting life and will be a better citizen.”

The credo is reflected in the instructions given to incoming freshmen, who are encouraged to bring three important objects: an axe, a knife, and a lighter. Cell phones, meanwhile, are confiscated until the end of the six-week term.

“We know we’re different and we know we’re a little crazy,” said Christopher Barnes, the head of school. “The question for each student and for each family is if we’re your kind of crazy.”

The students more or less run Midland, which has no janitorial or maintenance staff. They plant and pick about half of the food they eat on a 10-acre farm. They clean the windows, maintain the landscape, and sweep the old chapel.

Fall out of line and it’s a problem, said Barnes. He cited the wood-fired showers. “When it’s your job in the afternoon to go up and light a fire and make hot water, if you fail at that task  —  either you don’t tend to the fire or whatever else  —  then you suffer the wrath of your peers,” he said. “And you earned that wrath.”

For the pleasure of all that work and study, Midland charges an eye-popping tuition of $55,300, though only about 40 percent of families pay it. More than half the student body gets scholarships of around $32,000.

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