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
“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
Hey all (if there are any readers left!),
Sorry about the serious lack of posting as of late. Jay and I (Brian) have been extremely busy with other things and have had to neglect certain aspects of our lives. This blog was one of those things that had to take a back seat for a bit. However, our lives are going to calm down quite a load in about a week – and we’ll be back on top of our game them. I’ll also have a very long and very liberating post (ha!) for you all shortly.
Thanks, and say tuned to the Liberation Frequency,
To listen to this report (with cool music and everything!) go here
Most people who like Barack Obama say that he’s inspirational, he will bring about a change to this country, and that he’s a unifier. In fact, Obama seems to be pulling together groups of people from all over the place: including people far-off to the left who would normally despise (or at least begrudgingly support) a Democratic canidate. In fact, many have likened Obama to a political-rock star or a Messiah-esque figure. Sometimes it seems unbelievable the kind of status Obama is given by his supporters. I would know: I’m from Illinois. This was true before he was running for president, and it is certainly true now, but anytime anyone says anything negative about Obama – his supporters seem to cover their ears and kick and scream like toddlers who aren’t getting their way. They have a true and seemingly dangerously undemocratic commitment to the senator. He and his legions promise us a vague sense of change to this nation, that the election of Barack Obama will bring upon us a great awakening.
Unfortunately, I believe the man is a mere mortal. Worse, in fact, I believe he is a politician-mortal. This belief gave me the ability to look beyond the Messiah-status and see the truth of what Obama stands for.
So what’s behind all of this hype, rhetoric of change, and unifying that’s been sweeping people up? Who is Obama bringing together, what does he support, and what sort of “change” are we going to see around here if Obama’s elected?
I mean, what does Obama really stand for?:
1) The expansion of the U.S. Military and the continuing occupation of Iraq
2) The possible bombings of Iran and Pakistan
3) The unilateral support of Israel
4) Ties to Nuclear-Power groups
5) The support of the Re-Authorization of the U.S. Patriot Act
6) The support of a Republican-funded bill to build a 700-mile long fence across the U.S. – Mexico border.
7) Semi-Support for No Child Left Behind
I don’t know about you, but that’s not really the kind of “change” I’m hoping for. But let’s explore each one of these points more thoroughly: