FREE THE CHILDREN: Radical Reform and the Free-School Movement by Allen Graubard

FREE THE CHILDREN: Radical Reform and the Free-School Movement

Email this review


A finely-tuned exploration of the phenomenon of ""free"" or ""liberated"" private schools. Graubard has a good deal of first- and second-hand experience with such schools, elaborated in lengthy case histories. Adherents of free schools may respond with relief that a sympathizer has aired their excesses; opponents may be heartened that a participant has identified their basic weaknesses. Both will be justified. Among Graubard's indictments: the romantic premise of ""the natural child"" and ""whatever is happening must be learning,"" leave children ""structureless and unguided, thus ensuring their retention of their old consciousness""; at worst free schools are throttled by ""the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the counter-culture,"" ""the spirit of counter-cultural apoliticality,"" and ""a kind of arrogance and contempt toward 'straights' and 'squares' -- many of the young people in the public high schools, for example."" Graubard then asks, ""What functions should our education serve? To say simply that we want to prepare young people to make their own decisions later. . . expresses our sense of being at a loss to conceive the continuity of social existence and values dearly enough to provide content to the idea of transmitting a world to the young."" He advocates a study of ""what is to be learned and how"" but his urgent sense of the need for broad social engagement remains too vaguely defined: the book ends with a general summons to people of goodwill, and free-schoolers in particular, to enter the arena of public school conflict. Nonetheless, its evaluation of radical educational writings makes this a cogent book; and its broad and fair-minded appraisal of free-school experiences and well-timed questions make it an important one.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1972
Publisher: Pantheon