Jonathan Kozol Philip G. Altbach

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Philip G. Altbach

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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[Free Schools is] a short, highly readable, and informative volume about the prospects for, and the problems of, free schools. The book consists basically of two themes: one is a useful discussion of how to form and sustain a free school based on Kozol's own experiences in Boston; the other is a critical commentary on some of the failings of the free school movement. Both themes will be useful to those working in the movement as well as to those with serious interests in "alternative" education.

Perhaps Kozol's basic criticism of the thrust of the free school movement in the past few years is its failure to provide a viable educational program for those young people involved in it. The notion of "do your own thing," Kozol claims, is an insufficient educational philosophy and is particularly dangerous when it is applied to children from working class and ghetto backgrounds who desperately need skills such as reading. Kozol is particularly insistent that free schools "teach" reading and other skills, although he does not present a clear method by which such skills should be imparted. He does emphasize that teachers must provide leadership and guidance, and that all too often such leadership has been lacking in the free school movement. The message is stated clearly and it is particularly telling from one of the most articulate spokesman for the free schools. (pp. 54, 56)

Some of the most useful parts of the book for those involved in free schools are the hints about starting and maintaining a free school. Kozol is convinced, on the basis of bitter experience, that the free schools must engage in practical fund raising and must not only struggle against the "system" but must also use it as best they can…. A key to the survival of free schools, and particularly those which serve lower income children, is fund raising, and he...

(The entire section is 464 words.)