Free School Teaching
A Journey into Radical Progressive Education
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: State University of New York Press
FREE SCHOOL TEACHING
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“But, traditional school worked for you! You turned out okay!” I often get this response from people when I propose the idea that perhaps school in America is doing more harm than good for children and for our society. This declaration has given me pause a number of times, but I’ve finally come up with a question in rejoinder—“Am I, or other ‘successful students,’ really okay? Or would I be a different, better, person had it not been for how school shaped me?”...
1. SUCCESSFUL STUDENT, STRUGGLING TEACHER
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For twenty-four of my thirty-six years, I was a student, and I was good at it. I generally did what I was asked, showed interest, put in a good amount of effort, and was rewarded by excellent grades and mostly positive regard from my teachers, peers, and family for my success. I felt good when I was in school—praised, validated, made much of, and so on. My success in school defined me...
2. A LANGUAGE FOR SELF-UNDERSTANDING
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Prior to beginning my course work for my doctoral program, I believed that the way schools were set up in the United States was pretty much the only way they could be run. I had been exposed to plenty of critiques of certain individual aspects of schools, but never to any systemic critique. What I mean by a systemic critique is an interpretation of current American schools...
3. A NEW VISION
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The nontraditional educators and educational critics I read not only offer a critique of how traditional schools are set up, but they also provide an alternative vision of how things should, or could, be if done differently and more in accordance with our society’s highest ideals. Not every nontraditional educator argues for the exact same ideas, and this fact poses a difficulty in naming this movement or alternative vision of education...
4. I FIND A SCHOOL
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In my research on this progressive vision, I came across an edited collection of articles by a variety of alternative educators, entitled Deschooling Our Lives. This collection dealt with homeschooling alternatives, unschooling, democratic schools, and free schools. Tucked into this book was a short article by Chris Mercogliano about a place in inner-city Albany, New York, called the Free School...
5. A VERY DIFFERENT SETUP
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The Albany Free School, in its daily operations, physical settings, grouping of students, coordination of time flow, and internal governance, does not much resemble a school in the traditional sense. Rather, it is an active embodiment of the progressive educators’ confluences of ideas on how a school should be run...
6. A VERY DIFFERENT CURRICULUM
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As I mentioned in chapter 3, the assumptions by traditional schools that knowledge exists outside of and distant from human consciousness and that learning is the transmission of this knowledge to students have far-reaching repercussions for what is studied in traditional schools, what roles the teachers and students play, and what resources are used...
7. VERY DIFFERENT STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
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In the previous two chapters, I explored how the Albany Free School seems to embody the progressive educators’ alternative vision of education in terms of learning settings and timings, curriculum, and materials used, and, by association, the role students and teachers play in this very different school. I now turn my focus to an explicit examination of the role of students and teachers in this school...
8. A TEACHER TRANSFORMED
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As explored in chapter 1, I experienced significant discomforts as a traditional school teacher, discomforts that I initially blamed on personal shortcomings and that later, after my exposure to critical educational theorists during my doctoral course work, I came to see as being caused by the traditional system of education in our society. I reexamined, in chapter two, my time as both a student and teacher...
9. REFORM OR REVOLUTION—IS THERE HOPE FOR CHANGE IN TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS?
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What was I to do now that I had seen and come to highly value an alternative educational vision in practice? Should I and other people interested in achieving the ends of progressive education try to slowly and gradually alter the present school system (thereby working within the system of public education) or should I and other people set up counter-institutions...
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Page Count: 195
Publication Year: 2007