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What Free Schools Teach

Ann Swidler
Social Problems
Vol. 24, No. 2, Education: Straitjacket or Opportunity? (Dec., 1976), pp. 214-227
DOI: 10.2307/800340
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800340
Page Count: 14
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What Free Schools Teach
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Abstract

Alternative schools are no more, and often less effective in teaching academic skills than are traditional schools. Alternative schools do, however, teach a "hidden curriculum," a set of norms nearly the inverse of those traditional schools teach. Using the work of Dreeben, On What Is Learned in School (1968), and contrasting his findings with those from a two-year study of two alternative high schools, it is argued that in place of the values of individualism and achievement, alternative schools teach group skills. Students do not learn to cope with the stress of evaluation and the risk of failure; instead they are encouraged to develop autonomy, self-direction, and emotional openness. In contrast to the universalistic, specific norms of traditional schooling, free schools stress diffuse, particularistic, intimate relations between teachers and students and within the student peer group. The paper concludes with an analysis of the social class implications of the norms which free schools teach.

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