Free Education!

Aidan Regan Reviews A Primer of Libertarian Education by Joel Spring. Black Rose Books, 1998, $10 from WSM Books, p.o. box 1528, Dublin 8


The overall aim of the primer is to introduce ideas from different libertarian thinkers that are concerned with producing a radical theory and practice of teaching that will encourage non-authoritarian and revolutionary character structures in both the individual and society.

The earlier chapters concentrate on the works of William Godwin, Max Stirner, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Illich and Franceso Ferrer. The common bond between these early thinkers is their radical critique of schooling. Each believed that the school is nothing more than an agent of the state and the school's role was to produce loyal and obedient citizens who will accept the authority of the ruling political and economic elite. The school alienates the learner from what is being taught, the school becomes the socialisation process of the individual rather than the community. Essentially the government wanted schools to produce loyal citizens and industry needed obedient and trained workers.

Spring then introduces some modern thinkers on the issue of schooling, child rearing and the family such as Paulo Freire and Wilhelm Reich. Friere is a Brazilian educationalist that is internationally renowned for his alternative education methods. He argued that the current education system is based on a form of banking. That is, the student is but an object which the school deposits uncritical information. A good student is therefore classified as to how well and how easily they receive this deposit. They are rewarded by their level of obedience. Freire argued for an education system based upon praxis, that is the organic intermingling of theory and action directed at social structures to be reformed. The most important step for a self-governing society is the removal of authority from the character structures of its individuals. Reich argued that for this to occur the patriarchal family and compulsory marriage must be removed.

A radical pedagogy is central to a radical social movement. Strategies must be developed to confront the political realities of the existing educational establishment.

It is without doubt that the education system is set up to serve the existing social order, all one has to do is walk on to a university campus to see how much the university curriculum is designed to maintain a knowledge based economy or the free market. Public schooling offers a way out for many working class youths but to use the school to solve problems of poverty is to seek a conservative solution without directly changing the social structure that creates poverty in the first place.

The school indoctrinates its students with the dominant ideology of the time. This, however, creates a dilemma for libertarian educationalists as to whether the child should be indoctrinated with revolutionary beliefs. How does one avoid placing their beliefs into a child? Despite this, a true education system is one that encourages people's full participation in the world, a social awareness and an eagerness to act.


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This edition is No83 published in November 2004

WS 83

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