Free Schools, Free People

Education and Democracy after the 1960s

By Ronald J. Miller

Subjects: History Of Education
Paperback : 9780791454206, 240 pages, July 2002
Hardcover : 9780791454190, 240 pages, July 2002

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Table of contents


About the Author

1. Cultural Context of the Free School Movement

2. Free School Ideology

3. The Legacy of John Holt

4. The Rapid Rise and Fall of the Free School Movement

5. Education and Democracy

6. Free Schools and Technocracy: Some Reflections




The first historical account of the free school movement of the 1960s.


This first historical account of the free school movement of the 1960s documents the formation of hundreds of small, independent schools across the United States that marked a turning point in American education. The book revisits and interprets the radical democratic educational vision behind those schools through the works of some of the authors of that time such as John Holt, A. S. Neill, Paul Goodman, and George Dennison. These authors—and the thousands of educators, parents, and young people who took part in the free school movement—passionately advocated for students' intellectual and psychological freedom, and for their autonomy and individuality in a society they saw as increasingly standardized and corporately managed. Although free school ideology was renounced during the conservative restoration of the 1970s and 1980s, and the once popular literature is now largely forgotten, Miller argues that radical educational critique is especially relevant in today's educational climate, in light of the standards movement, high stakes testing, school violence and its suppression, and corporate influence over the curriculum.

Ron Miller is President of the Foundation for Educational Renewal and the editor of Educational Freedom for a Democratic Society: A Critique of National Standards, Goals and Curriculum.


"Ron Miller's book is much more than a cultural history of the ephemeral free school movement. Free Schools, Free People is about the ongoing struggle for the freedom to teach and learn; the clash between technocratic systems of education that rely on bureaucratic and disciplinary authority to achieve standardization and efficiency and those people in pursuit of humane, wholistic, and non-authoritarian approaches to education. " — E. Wayne Ross, editor of The Social Studies Curriculum, Revised Edition: Purposes, Problems, and Possibilites