Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

David Gribble


10
Good news for Francisco Ferrer – how
anarchist ideals in education have survived
around the world1

Introduction

This chapter discusses the educational ideas of Francisco Ferrer, as expressed in his book The origin and ideals of the Modern School (1913) and compares these ideas with actual practice in anarchist schools early in the twentieth century. I suggest that a parallel movement grew up during the last century in the progressive or democratic schools which was in many ways closer in spirit to Ferrer than these early anarchist schools. This chapter reviews the fundamental principles of a free education before describing how these may be observed in practice in some of the many schools around the world that may be described variously as democratic, non-authoritarian, non-formal or free. The examples chosen come from many different cultures, and they differ widely from each other, but all are based on respect for the child as a person with the same rights as anyone else. In such schools, ignorant of Ferrer though they may be, many of his ideas have been proved by experience.


The Modern School

Education in Spain in the early 1900s had been dominated by the clergy for centuries. However, the times were changing. The foundation of Ferrer's Escuela Moderna in Barcelona, and the publication of his book The origins and ideals of the Modern School led to a movement which spread rapidly through Spain and France and even reached the United States.

'In every country,' wrote Ferrer, 'the governing classes, which formerly left education to the clergy, as these were quite willing to educate in a sense of obedience to authority, have now themselves undertaken the direction of schools' (Ferrer, 1913: 26). He described the resulting system as follows:

One word will suffice to characterise it – violence. The school dominates the chil-
dren physically, morally and intellectually, in order to control the development of
their faculties in the way desired, and deprives them of contact with nature in order

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