Free Schools

The FreeSchools Movement in the 1960's in the UnitedStatesOfAmerica.

Part of the AlternativeSchools? movement, which in turn grew out of the AnarchistSchools movement of the previous century. FreeSchools range from FreeLoveSchools? to DemocraticSchools.

[DeleteMe: I misunderstood the term AnarchistSchools to mean FreeLoveSchools?. As I now understand it, AnarchistSchools are schools growing out of the Anarchist political movement. FreeLoveSchools? are the (mostly or all failed?) FreeSchools of the 1960's which chose not to have democracy or rule-of-law.]

The Free School movement of the sixties was part of an Open School movement of that time. The fundamental difference was that Free Schools had a political action orientation as a thread that ran through the optional classes and available curriculum. Open schools existed without this orientation. Being further from the center than Open schools, Free Schools were the first to move from public schools to the private school sector and eventually the charter school world.

I've always commented that the Free School I worked for in Minneapolis was closed and torn down so that the ground could be sown with salt

Without ascribing such thoughts to people writing above [refactored to DemocraticSchools, AnarchistSchools, SudburyValleySchool], historically it seems to me that there have been many educational fads, which have often been turned into universal models, and which have then promptly failed, usually causing considerable collateral damage. Free schools and military academies both meet the needs of some students, but usually not the same ones. Children are not standardized; they may all have some desire to learn something (or maybe not, I don't know) but they clearly don't all have an equal desire to learn, nor are they all sophisticated enough to figure out what it is they should learn or would like to learn.

Of course, neither do they all require continuous supervision and rigid structure to learn, and no doubt a lot of what students learn in school is not academic, but has to do with social skills and societal expectations for their behavior. Children have vastly different personalities, and so again they should be expected to differ in their needs in the social area as well.

Since we can't presume that a single formula is going to work for all children, what is desired is a system of education that offers a variety of approaches, and maximizes the chances of students and teachers getting placed into environments that suit them. There seems to be some progress in the US in this direction currently, with various kinds of charter and special-interest schools being created, but that is not enough to meet this goal - presumably the choices have to be very widely available, they have to be well-understood by parents and children, and parents and children need to have a clear understanding of their own needs. This is a very difficult goal, but it seems to me the right one to strive for. -- MatthewWilbert

AnarchistSchools offer the widest possible variety of approaches to students.

The claim is that the FreeSchools are able to provide either an equivalent or superior educational experience to traditional schools. That's fine, and I have no reason to doubt it. My only concern here was that when I read over the Sudbury Valley school's web site, I couldn't find any statement of how students were objectively tested to ensure that the children's journey of educational and personal exploration wasn't just a semester of hedonistic goofing off. Because once the kids leave the FreeSchool?, they are going be put into the real world, and they are going to have to - yes, I'll say it - conform to the way society works.

Children who come to the SudburyValleySchool from a standard school environment can take a while -- sometimes two years -- to decompress. But when these kids go on to college, they are already prepared for the freedom they find there. I suspect they find themselves much better prepared for the unreal world of college than students who have been told what to do every minute of the day for twelve years.

I'm not a parent, but if I was one the first question I would ask is how do I know my child will emerge from the FreeSchool? equally or better prepared for reality. If there are additional benefits, fine. But unless that primary need is met and can be objectively demonstrated, I would have a hard time with it.

My children (8 and 5 years old) are at the SudburyValleySchool. There is one and only one evaluation at the school, for those children who wish to receive the (optional) diploma. This evaluation consists of requiring that the student defend the thesis that they have prepared themselves to be an effective adult in the community at large. The older children I have met are the most grounded, prepared-for-reality, people I know. They have taken responsibility for their own life, from a very early age.

I think the following is by Piaget - I quote from memory, "Teach a child something and he will never have the opportunity to discover it by himself.".

To which we might reply, "Well, that's the point". Natural curiosity is fine, up to a point; there are things I ask my own children (aged 4 and 2) to take on authority, such as not to experiment with AC outlets, not to cross a busy street on their own, etc.

Some attitudes and patterns (see PositiveCommands, AnswerAllQuestions) are helpful in ensuring your child is given every opportunity to become her own individual. For her own good as well as that of her parents', though, a child needs to have some strictures imposed. A child's home is the environment where her personality both forms and meets its first limits; it is a microcosm of society.

School should ideally be a children's laboratory for exploring broader social dynamics. There, she should learn her own way to cope with environments where individual desires and urges meet conventional limits, learn the value of conventions - and learn that conventions are social constructs.

FreeSchools sound like a cool idea in that respect.

My own rejoinder to Pieget is: "Teach a child nothing, and he will feel there is nothing worth discovering." It's as incumbent on us to pass on our knowledge as it is on the next generation to choose to build on or challenge it. Furthermore, I find it sickening, the condescending attitude toward children as these magical innocent perfect things that represent all purity and goodness, that would only be corrupted (adulterated I suppose) by the interference of adults. If we hate ourselves that much, we're only going to raise children that hate themselves (and thus everyone else) as equally.

If you want some idea of what it's possible to teach 10 year olds then pick up the "Il it une fois ... " series. It taught me more about history and biology as a wee tyke than all of high school ever tried to do, and it did it in a way that children understood and liked. I have never seen anything that even remotely compares in English North America. I am so fortunate to have grown up in Quebec. -- rk

Q: Is there an English translation? Would you translate the title for me?

PROCIDIS, which made the series, has a catalog [1] with multiple translations as well as the original French version.

Il était une fois ... translates to "There was once ..." (actually "Once upon a time" but that doesn't work grammatically) and is actually 6 series of 26 episodes (each 26 minutes).

Il était une fois... the last series (space) was pure social engineering meant to generate interest in the exploration of space.

There are clips from the show at though both the clips and the instructions are in French.

See DeschoolingSociety

___ Much inflamatory rhetoric moved to SocializingChildren.


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