The Book of Learning and Forgetting
Frank Smith
Teachers College Press 1998

If pointless and time-consuming programs, drills, and tests were taken away, teachers could be free to get on with the kinds of activity that promote permanent and worthwhile learning. They could bring students into constant contact with people from whom they can learn, inside the classroom and outside. Teachers who can’t do their job without instructional procedures, materials, and goals designed by people who have no contact with their students are in the wrong occupation and should perhaps be called technicians rather than teachers.

An unremitting school experience of competitiveness, apprehension, and triviality doesn’t strengthen students for future trials and adversity. The people best able to survive sudden starvation are those who have been well fed, not starved for most of their life.

Schools liberated from the official theory of learning would not be standardized. They’d come in a variety of guises. The essence of any liberated school is that it would be a community and not a hierarchy of principal, teachers, support staff, and students. Liberated schools would lack mindless exercises, punitive tests, discrimination, segregation, pointless competition, labeling of individuals, restrictive timetables, and public/private humiliation of teachers and students.

There would be many interesting activities to engage in, from anthropology to zoology. Schools would be full of clubs, interest groups, and talent workshops that maximized highest levels of participation. Not all schools would attempt to do the same things. Schools would vary the way individuals vary.

A liberated school might be organized like a good professional conference. There is plenty going on – speakers, displays, discussions, excursions, and cultural events. There are also constant possibilities for escape, for rest, reflection, conversation, reading and writing. There are quiet corners; facilities for exercise; access to food, drink, and bathrooms; and opportunities for self and social expression, with no coercion or evaluation. A liberated school would be a civilized experience, in other words, different perhaps for every participant but rewarding and satisfying for all.

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