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The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States

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Based on extensive interviews with former pupils and teachers, this Pulitzer Prize-nominated work is a seminal and important investigation into the potential of educational alternatives. Between 1910 and 1960 anarchists across the United States established more than 20 schools wherein children studied in an atmosphere of freedom and self-reliance. The Modern Schools stood Based on extensive interviews with former pupils and teachers, this Pulitzer Prize-nominated work is a seminal and important investigation into the potential of educational alternatives. Between 1910 and 1960 anarchists across the United States established more than 20 schools wherein children studied in an atmosphere of freedom and self-reliance. The Modern Schools stood in sharp contrast to the formality and discipline of the traditional classroom and sought to abolish all forms of authority. Their object was to create not only a new type of school, but also a new society based on the voluntary cooperation of free individuals. Among the participants were Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Alexander Berkman and Man Ray.


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Based on extensive interviews with former pupils and teachers, this Pulitzer Prize-nominated work is a seminal and important investigation into the potential of educational alternatives. Between 1910 and 1960 anarchists across the United States established more than 20 schools wherein children studied in an atmosphere of freedom and self-reliance. The Modern Schools stood Based on extensive interviews with former pupils and teachers, this Pulitzer Prize-nominated work is a seminal and important investigation into the potential of educational alternatives. Between 1910 and 1960 anarchists across the United States established more than 20 schools wherein children studied in an atmosphere of freedom and self-reliance. The Modern Schools stood in sharp contrast to the formality and discipline of the traditional classroom and sought to abolish all forms of authority. Their object was to create not only a new type of school, but also a new society based on the voluntary cooperation of free individuals. Among the participants were Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Alexander Berkman and Man Ray.

30 review for The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sebastián

    Paul Avrich. Enough said.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    "'We make no claim to saving the world,' wrote Harry Kelly in 1921. 'We are but trying to save our own 'souls.' ... If we have not reached the promised land, we have at least stumbled into one of its by-paths, and that is something'" (p.386). "'Many of the ideas first advocated and practiced by us are now urged and practiced by educators everywhere'. ... To say this, however, is not to ignore the deficiencies of libertarian education, at least as it was practiced in the Modern Schools. According "'We make no claim to saving the world,' wrote Harry Kelly in 1921. 'We are but trying to save our own 'souls.' ... If we have not reached the promised land, we have at least stumbled into one of its by-paths, and that is something'" (p.386). "'Many of the ideas first advocated and practiced by us are now urged and practiced by educators everywhere'. ... To say this, however, is not to ignore the deficiencies of libertarian education, at least as it was practiced in the Modern Schools. According to its own theorists, from Godwin to Ferrer, children vary widely in their capacities and needs. It follows no single method of education will be ideal for all pupils. For some, self-direction, freedom of choice, a minimum of supervision and guidance constitute the best approach. Others, however, will thrive best with greater direction and structure. ... Yet the hostility exhibited toward academic learning, above all by the Ferms, did violence to this principle... Surely more attention to the basics would have benefited at least some of the Modern School children, if not all" (p.383-4).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brimate

    I gave up a little over halfway through because I got busy with school and everything. The book was inspiring for me to read because I want to be an anarchist teacher and someday open an anarchist school. Reading about not only ideas, philosophies, and theories, but actual history and personal stories was useful for me. I feel like the book is longer than it needs to be. It seems somewhat repetitive and it includes some information I'm not as interested in. I mean it is interesting to read about I gave up a little over halfway through because I got busy with school and everything. The book was inspiring for me to read because I want to be an anarchist teacher and someday open an anarchist school. Reading about not only ideas, philosophies, and theories, but actual history and personal stories was useful for me. I feel like the book is longer than it needs to be. It seems somewhat repetitive and it includes some information I'm not as interested in. I mean it is interesting to read about the artists, writers, playwrights, and other famous people who were involved with the Modern Schools, but give that it's a long book and I'm a slow reader with not much leisure reading time, I would have enjoyed a book that's more compact and deals more directly with the educational aspects of the schools. In hindsight, I could have skipped some of these parts and probably had time to finish the more relevant parts. But maybe I'll finish it sometime. In any case, The Modern School Movement is an inspiring, exciting read for any current or potential radical learner/student/teacher/educator!

  4. 4 out of 5

    River

    This was the last of the books by Paul Avrich that I hadn't read and in my opinion it was probably the least interesting. That's not to be read as a statement about this book necessarily, but mainly that his other books--The Haymarket Tragedy, Sacco and Vanzetti, The Russian Anarchists--are just so good that this one doesn't quite live up to the standard set by the others. Still, this is largely untold (anywhere else) history of anarchist education efforts in the United States in the 1910s. A so This was the last of the books by Paul Avrich that I hadn't read and in my opinion it was probably the least interesting. That's not to be read as a statement about this book necessarily, but mainly that his other books--The Haymarket Tragedy, Sacco and Vanzetti, The Russian Anarchists--are just so good that this one doesn't quite live up to the standard set by the others. Still, this is largely untold (anywhere else) history of anarchist education efforts in the United States in the 1910s. A solid book although a little tedious at times (it tends to just cycle from one person to another without a real strong narrative).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trey

    This book is a really engrossing history of anarchist education in the U.S. It focuses mostly on the half century from 1910-1960, which is basically the time period that Francisco Ferrer's Modern School reached its apex of influence on educational institutions. I've only just begun the book, but it starts out with a brief biography of Ferrer. I'd known of him before thanks to other anarchist histories and anthologies, but didn't really know much about his life, so reading the biographical chapte This book is a really engrossing history of anarchist education in the U.S. It focuses mostly on the half century from 1910-1960, which is basically the time period that Francisco Ferrer's Modern School reached its apex of influence on educational institutions. I've only just begun the book, but it starts out with a brief biography of Ferrer. I'd known of him before thanks to other anarchist histories and anthologies, but didn't really know much about his life, so reading the biographical chapter is really interesting. If the beginning is any indication, the rest of the book will be equally eye-opening and I'll have a hard time putting it out of my mind.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I am so glad Avrich did the work to document this history. I went to Open Door preschool which was founded by Sue Spayth Riley, who lived at the Ferrer Colony at Stelton and attended the modern school there. (Sadly there is a misprint in the AK Press edition of Avrich's book, which states that Open Door was in Charlottesville, it was in fact and still is in Charlotte, NC. I am so glad Avrich did the work to document this history. I went to Open Door preschool which was founded by Sue Spayth Riley, who lived at the Ferrer Colony at Stelton and attended the modern school there. (Sadly there is a misprint in the AK Press edition of Avrich's book, which states that Open Door was in Charlottesville, it was in fact and still is in Charlotte, NC.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark Feltskog

    A comprehensive treatment of a fascinating subject: my fellow City School and Hampshire College alumni, I expect, will recognize much in the pedagogical and social methods of followers of Francisco Ferrer and others in the Modern School Movement.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    wowzer. another hair-blown-back type of hidden history. his prose is a bit tedious at times, but the depth of this account is impressive and also quite inspiring.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephie Jane Rexroth

    "[Harry] Kelly died on May 27, 1953… He was buried in Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery near Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre. His epitaph reads: 'He shared his life with humanity.'" "[Harry] Kelly died on May 27, 1953… He was buried in Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery near Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre. His epitaph reads: 'He shared his life with humanity.'"

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

  11. 5 out of 5

    Arioti

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

  13. 4 out of 5

    Owen

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mehdi

    More an History book than a pedagogy one, well documented though.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ericstiens

  16. 4 out of 5

    Phil

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jasmin Kocaer

  18. 5 out of 5

    Max

  19. 4 out of 5

    Simon

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Morris-Díaz

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Derek Fenner

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dea G.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric Draitser

  25. 5 out of 5

    ACP

  26. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  27. 4 out of 5

    MR H BIRDEE

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rowland Pasaribu

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Berberick

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Stump

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