Quick follow-up to my post from a year and a half ago: today a state court ruled against Columbia’s attempted use of Eminent Domain to seize control of property from minority business owners in Harlem as well as their insidious claim that the neighborhood was “blighted.”
Hey all, I’ve started a new project called Adventures in Free Schooling. Check it out.
Don’t worry, I’ll still post here all the time! In fact, I’ve got two posts planned for this week.
This was originally written as a proposal for a free school in our surrounding area, but we thought it could also serve as a helpful outline or guide to how free schools function. Obviously, this is not a strict rule book – and not all free schools operate like this. Think of this as more of a guide for free schools as we see them.
Trying to define how a certain free s-chool would operate before it starts is a little difficult, because by its nature a free s-chool is based off of the needs and wants of the community and individuals that comprise it. However, below is a rough sketch of how a free s-chool operates differently than a S-chool,* and then some of the basic principles that have encompassed free s-chools in our experience.
*John Holt defined a “S-chool” (big S) as a place where learning is done onto a student and a “s-chool” (little s) where individuals do learning for themselves.
Some Main Differences Between Free s-chools and S-chools
1) Your typical American S-chool is not a place of democratic learning. Almost all decisions, from finances to who teaches what, are made from the top down – an elite (mostly unelected) few decide the vast majority of things for everyone “under them.” Free s-chools are generally, at the very least, democratic. How this is accomplished varies. On occasions, free s-chool participants will elect members to accomplish or head up different tasks (organizing, outreach, financing, etc.). Other times, most things are decided in a “general assembly” format. Some free s-chools operate as collectives or cooperatives. Of course, these different methods are sometimes mixed and matched.
2) S-chools are compulsory (at least until the age of 16), and almost all S-chools give out rewards and punishments. This is a method of control over the learners. Free s-chools do not attempt to coerce, bribe, or force their participants to attend or learn. They are places of voluntary association and effort, where learning is not driven by force or rewards – but by the learners’ desires and wants.
So, the idea of Wikipedia is pretty amazing. Frankly, I think it’s one of the best unschooling tools there is. I’m fairly sure Ivan Illich (who wrote the infamous Deschooling Society) would have approved. Illich, long before the time of the internet, called for “networks” to be made up of unschoolers, deschoolers, homeschoolers, and etc. These networks would be large contact books, file cabinets, written essays, learning tools, and so on composed by and for radical learners, teachers, and anyone else who wanted access to them. So basically, this was the internet – just without the internet part. John Holt (way before the internet as well) also called for free, accessible, learning tools that would help individuals explore, satisfy, and expand upon their curiosity. Wikipedia does all of these things, and additionally, it’s a tool that is mostly controlled by the learners. There is very little hierarchy in the world of Wikipedia when it comes to authoring and sharing information, and all knowledge is equally accessible to all peoples. At any moment when the learner has access to a computer, the internet, and a question – they can easily seek out an answer. On top of that, if they want, they can contribute to, change, or challenge the information. Most of the time, they are directly linked with the information they are learning. Wikipedia’s free, vast, and learner-controlled encyclopedia is only continuing to expand.
Unfortunately, that is all contrasted by one major problem: Wikipedia’s staunch dedication to “neutrality.” Continue reading
The essence of this comment is that those of us concerned with anything else rather than the suffering of non-human animals are divisive, are weakening the vegan cause, are traitors. And we should just stop complaining & hew to the vegan party line… Instead of critiquing white male privilege within vegan circles, let’s go do some “real good,” right? Because heaven knows opposing racism & sexism, especially if we — gasp — critique other vegans, is a time-waster, a distraction from the REAL issues… We’re being asked to identify as vegans over any other aspect of our identities & our lives. Again, the parallels with the feminist movement are just astounding. Women of color get punished for speaking up about racism in feminism. Vegans of color questioning whitecentric vegans also are penalized for such heretic thoughts…
Enjoy. – Brian
“In [the student] comes, this curious, patient, determined, energetic, skillful learner. We sit [the child] down at a desk, and what do we teach [the student]? Many things. First, that learning is separate from living. ‘You come to school to learn,’ we say, as if the child hadn’t been learning before, as if learning were out there and learning in here and there were no connection between the two. Secondly, that [the child] cannot be trusted to learn and is no good at it… In short, [the student] comes to feel that learning is a passive process, something that someone else does to you, instead of something you do for yourself.”
-John Holt, The Underachieving School
Posted in Rants
Tagged critical pedagogy, democratic education, education, freedom education, howard zinn, james loewen, john holt, liberation education, paulo freire, radical teaching, teaching history, U.S. History