It’s fantastic to see Free Schools spreading around the country.

For all of its promotion of democracy and self-determination, the free-school model still faces one large question: What about the kid who wants to play video games all day?

“It might be video games nonstop for four months, making the parents flip out,” Michelle Loucas said.

After those four months, she explained, the child has learned three things: He can master something, he is confident he can apply this success to any other topic, and the school community has proved to him that it trusts him to make his own decisions.

Not everyone can be home/unschooled; and not every child wants to be. And not every parent is equipped to facilitate them, although most parents that think they don’t have what it takes, actually do.

For these kids, Free schools are a great option. Honestly, I dream of a day when this is the default learning model in this country. It’s crazy that in a free and democratic society, most of our children don’t get to experience democracy or self-determination directly until they are out of high school. Is it any wonder that people lose faith in the system and behave as a sheep-like mob?

This is what I mean when I say we must replace the system, not reform it. Our schools were structured to create a docile workforce that would take orders and behave according to class. It doesn’t matter what subjects are taught, the structural lessons are always the same: stay in your group, obey the bell, let someone else determine your direction – and any input you have is purely advisory. For a free and responsible society, and for the knowledge workers that this country now needs to produce, we need to schools that inspire initiative and show kids that “yes they can” – that they have personal power and can use it for the good of themselves and others.

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One Comment

  1. Joshua Kundert October 13, 2010 at 20:39

    Okay… I’m gonna do something totally different here. I’m not going to defend the current system.. but instead just have some real questions that I want to get your impressions on.1. What makes the “free schools” ideal any different than the basic sort of schooling situation that existed for all of history before schools existed? Wasn’t it the case back then that people just learned what they wanted/what they could when they could? Is it now just a different technological level of society that makes it different?2. There is much to what you say about schools being a kind of class-based babysitting–but there is also much in history that shows that the growth of formalized education systems that included ever greater percentages of the population in them led to ever greater growth in what constitutes a middle class/middle class standard of living. Perhaps this is not necessary anymore with the infrastructure now in place–but I’d like your thoughts on this… To me–the growth of what constitutes a free society is very much tied historically to the growth of such educational infrastructures–and if you look around the globe–the existence of such free societies (as we would define them) correlates very highly with such educational infrastructures–but perhaps we are at a stage where we could move beyond them… that’s why I’d like your thoughts..3. Does this ideal of “free schools” work when you have both parents working full time? Something like 70%+ of mothers work outside the home now.. and assuming the men do also (which is obviously not ALWAYS true–but mostly)–this doesn’t necessarily leave there to be any time for any kind of self-education at home. What are the options here–I’m sure there must be some and that you’d probably know about them–thus I am asking honestly here..In any case–the one big example I have around me of unschooling is Jules & Scott’s kids–and I’d say the results are not necessarily bad–but also not super rosy. By that–the two older kids who had more direct home-schooling before unschooling–have both now started moving along in their education.. R. went off to a kind of work-study camp upstate to go get technical training that will then help get him into a college level training in electronics and he seems to be doing pretty well… It’s hard–but he has the kind of drive you mention above. A. decided to go to high school here and went to the local super-liberal do-what-you-want-design-your-own-curriculum hippie dream high school named Shabbaz ( ) where she is having a grand old time–but where she is a couple years behind the students in terms of getting done because she didn’t start until she was 16. I’m sure she’ll come out of there doing great.The two younger kids really haven’t decided to do much. They are very street-smart–but they also don’t seem to have many plans. Maybe this will change as they get older… Anyway–obviously this is just one anecdote–but it’s what I’ve experienced here.. Again–I’m interested in your thoughts here..

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