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Free School Teaching

A Journey into Radical Progressive Education

Kristan Accles Morrison

Publication Year: 2007

Free School Teaching is the personal and professional journey of one teacher within the American educational system. Faced with mounting frustrations in her own traditional, middle school classroom and having little success in resolving them, Kristan Accles Morrison decided to seek out answers, first by immersing herself in the academic literature of critical education theory and then by turning to the field. While the literature on progressive education gave her hope that things could be different and better for students locked into America’s traditional education system, she wanted to find a firsthand example of how these ideas played out in practice. Morrison found a radical “free school” in Albany, New York, that embodied the ideas found in the literature, and over a period of three months she observed and documented differences between alternative and traditional schools. In trying to reconcile the gap between those systems, Morrison details the lessons she learned about teachers, students, curriculum, and the entire conception of why we educate our children.

Published by: State University of New York Press

FREE SCHOOL TEACHING

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CONTENTS

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pp. v-

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PREFACE

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pp. vii-viii

“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?”...

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1. SUCCESSFUL STUDENT, STRUGGLING TEACHER

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pp. 1-16

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...

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2. A LANGUAGE FOR SELF-UNDERSTANDING

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pp. 17-40

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...

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3. A NEW VISION

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pp. 41-52

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...

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4. I FIND A SCHOOL

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pp. 53-58

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...

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5. A VERY DIFFERENT SETUP

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pp. 59-72

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...

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6. A VERY DIFFERENT CURRICULUM

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pp. 73-110

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...

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7. VERY DIFFERENT STUDENTS AND TEACHERS

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pp. 111-142

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...

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8. A TEACHER TRANSFORMED

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pp. 143-160

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...

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9. REFORM OR REVOLUTION—IS THERE HOPE FOR CHANGE IN TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS?

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pp. 161-170

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...

NOTES

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pp. 171-178

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 179-182

INDEX

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pp. 183-187


E-ISBN-13: 9780791479872
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791471470
Print-ISBN-10: 0791471470

Page Count: 195
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Free School (Albany, N.Y.).
  • Education -- Aims and objectives -- United States.
  • School management and organization -- United States.
  • Free schools -- United States.
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