Paris, early 1970s: On the Left Bank, in the Mouffetard neighborhood, an alternative preschool had opened up. It was founded on the assumption that education should be free of charge, seek the full development of children, and involve the participation of parents. I took my son there every day. Over the months, the project fell apart: The adults hung around on the second floor making love or smoking joints, leaving the kids to themselves. The big kids tormented the little ones until they sobbed, and none of them had their noses or their bottoms wiped. Play equipment and pharmaceuticals regularly disappeared. The few fathers and mothers who actually performed their assigned tasks at the school started withdrawing their children and putting them back in schools run by “the bourgeois capitalist state.” The alternative preschool had become a shambles and, after a few final quarrels, closed its doors.
Shortly afterward, I went to Christiana, a free commune in Copenhagen, Denmark: At a dinner in this sentimental kolkhoz, attended by a few dozen strapping fellows who looked like Christ and their female companions, all with long blond hair, adorable little boys and girls danced on the table, shouted, fought, trampled on the food, and threw cheese, mashed potatoes, and ham at each other amid their impassive parents, who were too busy puffing on their pot