Living and Learning in the Free School

Living and Learning in the Free School

Mark W. Novak
Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 145
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zt0c6
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  • Book Info
    Living and Learning in the Free School
    Book Description:

    This volume is a pioneering study of a free school in an eastern Canadian city. The author describes the attempts of a small group of people to set up a school, bound in some ways to the conventional system, yet reaching beyond it with different ideals. One great value of the study is its careful description of the day-to-day activities as order and organization emerge from amorphous beginnings and develop in spite of threats from within and without. Further, the history of this specific free school is related to broader currents of North American life and to broader issues in social action and education.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6057-4
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Preface
    (pp. 1-4)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 5-10)

    At the dawn of sociological history, Emile Durkheim recognized the intimate relationship between the “moral order” of society and the educational system organized to reproduce that society.¹ Durkheim recognized the group’s collective concern for educating new members (usually children), thereby preparing them for adult life in the community. An educational system, or philosophy, then, represents more than a method for imparting information to the young; in addition, an educational system reflects the concerns, interests and needs of the community in which it is located. The process of education or “socialization” prepares the child for a particular, socially mediated experiance...

  5. Chapter I Search for a Method
    (pp. 11-25)

    We began, in the Introduction, by invoking Durkheim’s view of education, and we noted that sociological studies of the school had largely followed Durkheim’s methodological and theoretical injunctions. Our own project, however, takes issue with Durkheim’s assertion that the school simply serves as society’s handmaiden, and we propose that a closer look at the school-society relation is needed. For this reason we recognize the school itself as a social milieu (a society), wherein children and adults actively engage in the construction of a social reality. We should now like to examine Durkheim’s view of the school more closely, and clearly...

  6. Chapter II The Quest for Community
    (pp. 26-40)

    As Karl Mannheim was so well aware, philosophies (free school or otherwise) in the abstract are not sufficient grounds for understanding the growth of a particular form of social organization;¹ instead we need to ground our understanding of philosophy in the social world, as “the expression of group life and group action.”²

    The need to locate the free school thought form in an historical-material context becomes apparent if, for example, we recognize the existence of an apparently contemporary free school philosophy prior to World War II. As the Hall-Dennis Report points out,

    The startling truth (about theProgram of studies...

  7. Chapter III The ASPE Schools (I)
    (pp. 41-48)

    In May of 1970, a group of nearly a dozen articulate and persuasive parents approached the Hillsborough school board requesting that the board establish a school based upon the recommendations of the Hall-Dennis Report,Living and Learning.²This school, the parents’ brief states, shall be run in accordance with the following principles:

    1. The school will be governed by a council consisting of 50 percent parents and 50 percent staff and administration. (Prior to establishment, 50 percent parents and 50 percent administration.)

    2. The total operational budget, including salaries, shall be allocated to the school council as one unit to...

  8. Chapter IV The Genesis of Social Order
    (pp. 49-63)

    As we have seen, from the first day, ASPE’s status as an educational institution was uncertain. And although the parents played a key role in setting up the ASPE program, even they were often unsure of the school’s success or failure with respect to their original goals. Originally the school represented an active response to the educational reforms expounded in the Hall-Dennis Report.¹ The parents stated in their brief to the board of education,

    ASPE is more than a school, it is an effort to give substance to the educational philosophy embodied in the Hall-Dennis Report and the Free School...

  9. Chapter V The ASPE School (II)
    (pp. 64-73)

    In Chapters III and IV we described the early struggle by the ASPE membership—parents, teachers and children—to create some visible, accountable social order. We furthermore schematically described the result of this struggle through an examination of the curriculum. As an embodiment of social order, as a reportable document standing for normal social life, the curriculum represented the first consolidation of the teachers’ claim that ASPE was a responsible and responsive setting, commensurate with parents’ initial goals. All o f this took place during ASPE’s first year of operation.

    At the beginning of ASPE’s second year. however, some subtle,...

  10. Chapter VI Plain Talk and Social Order
    (pp. 74-86)

    In Chapter iv, we saw that the cirriculum served to collect the free school members through the visible re-presentation of the program and through a particular vocabulary of motives. As a “membershipping” device, a method for producing a collectivity, the curriculum also responded to the question of members’ commitment to the school and to the maintenance of a sizable parent body. Thus, by explicating and objectifying school life, by supplying members with a vocabulary through which they could “see” the school social order, the program drew members together around a positive, tangible community center. Above all, this “center” proved predictable,...

  11. Chapter VII Community and Conventional Education
    (pp. 87-98)

    In the preceding chapters we witnessed the development and objectification of a sociable ASPE culture, what one parent called “the ASPE Way.” In those chapters we primarily concerned ourselves with the growth of a common-sense, member’s view of the complex ASPE environment: and this, as we saw, entailed a study of the intersubjective sense-making practices that produced a “normal” conception of ASPE life. With the collection of the ASPE membership around the curriculum and through the teachers’ organizational techniques, we noted the calcification of ASPE life: we especially noted the resistance to alternate of a Commonly Accepted free school perspective....

  12. Chapter VIII A Preliminary Concluding Statement on Life in the Free School
    (pp. 99-111)

    Conclusions or summaries impose at least two tasks upon the writer: they should effect a closure by finally recollecting the paper’s contents and, in addition, they should open upon the future by recommending new directions for exploration. Thus, a conclusion provides a release, a catharsis, an attempt to regain a starting point for new struggles and future action. It releases the writer from his author’s commitments to his people and his public, and at the same time replenishes his exhausted mental reserves by retuning his sensibilities to the sociological tradition once again.

    For the field researcher, however, the conclusion holds...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 112-128)

    In the Spring of 1974, with my study slowly aging on the shelf, I decided to return to ASPE once again. How had these people fared during my absence, I wondered? What changes had taken place in the lives of these friends and acquaintances? Finally, and perhaps most important of all, how would these people receive me—as visitor, friend, former acquaintance, confidant, stranger? All of these questions came to mind as I considered returning to study this school. Two years had elapsed since I Just entered ASPE, and as I recalled Thomas Wolfe’s admonition, “You can’t go home again,”...

  14. Bibliography of Sources Consulted
    (pp. 129-137)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 138-138)