Education Provider Voice 6

Peter Berg – Organiser at the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO)

Peter Berg has a number of roles including school administrator/counsellor, mental health coach, holistic health coach, blogger, speaker and author of The Tao of Teenagers, A Guide to Teen Health, Happiness & Empowerment.

He is also an Adjunct Professor in Doctor of Educational Leadership Program and is an expert in alternative and integrated education. 

As an advocate for progressive, alternative education, Peter also works for New York based AERO (the Alternative Education Resource Organization), where his role includes everything from organising events such as the online AERO Conference, logistics, networking, and marketing.

Founded in the US by Jerry Mintz, a leading voice in the alternative school movement, AERO’s goal is to advance student-driven, learner-centered approaches to education. One of AERO’s areas of expertise is democratic process and democratic education, but equally important is the networking of all forms of educational alternatives. 

Why are you interested in progressive education?

Growing up in New York, I went to large public schools. I loved learning and was interested in what happened in school, though not necessarily in the typical ‘subject’ areas. I was fascinated by the daily interactions people would have with each other and their surroundings and wondered what made people tick. This gave rise to one of my passions: Holistic health.

It was interesting to me that many adults forgot what it was like to be a teenager or didn’t consider their specific needs. I spent the next years of my life exploring Western Medicine, Psychology and Eastern philosophies of health where mind, body and spirit were naturally connected. I noticed how youth, especially teenagers were disempowered when it came to their health.

I was driven by a desire to help young people learn about their health, how to nourish themselves and be empowered to be masters of their own lives. So I pursued a Masters Degree in Environmental Education, a Doctorate in Education with an emphasis on leadership and progressive education, and gained certification as a Holistic Mental Health.

I worked in an alternative school that focused on helping students with emotional needs that could not be met in a traditional setting, and subsequently took a position in a large public school. As time went on, I noticed that the surroundings students were subjected to was completely unhealthy. They were viewed as empty vessels to be filled, not as people with knowledge, ideas, opinions and perspectives of their own. Any hint of intuition was subject to a systematic attempt to suppress it. I realised that this was not the way students learn.

When we partner with learners, they can follow their interests and be empowered to know themselves well and be who they are. It’s the natural way we learn. With this type of approach there is synergy and flow rather than angst.  

In your opinion what are the main challenges of our current school system?

The compulsory nature of it, the numbers, grading, high stakes standardized tests, youth do not have a say, the lack of learner driven approach.  

The mass forced schooling system does not work for most students. It’s an old model trying to be innovative. It’s like an old factory trying to build an advanced technological system with old machinery that cannot be modified to fit the new system. 

What are state schools doing well?

Some provide a safe place, and a place where students can get fed.  There are some schools in the world that do follow a learner centered approach.  

If you could make changes to the state education system, what would be your top priorities?

I would do away with the compulsory nature, turn schools into learning centers and community centers, and follow a democratic approach. Students would design their own learning. 

To see how this might look in practice, have a look at Agile Learning Centers, the Liberated Learners Network, and Summerhill School.

Follow Peter Berg and AREO

Peter has consulted on various start-up schools throughout the country and continues to offer consultations to national and international organisations, schools and individuals. You can contact Peter at or by visiting his Youth Transformations Facebook Page:

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