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Pedagogy of space in a democratic free school : a case study of Windsor House Mills, Sarah Anne 2006

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P E D A G O G Y O F S P A C E IN A D E M O C R A T I C F R E E S C H O O L : A C A S E S T U D Y OF WINDSOR HOUSE  by S A R A H A N N E MILLS  B A (Hons), T h e University of Victoria,  2001  A T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D IN P A R T I A L F U L F I L M E N T O F THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE D E G R E E OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES ( E d u c a t i o n a l Studies)  T H E UNIVERSITY O F BRITISH C O L U M B I A October, 2005  © S a r a h A n n e Mills, 2 0 0 5  Abstract  This thesis asks the question: what lessons are embedded in the consumption of space at Windsor House School. It is explored by looking at the interconnections between rules, mobility, self-regulation, authority, power, and negotiation of space. The fieldwork for this case study was conducted in the spring of2004 while Windsor House School was located at the Clover ley site in the North Vancouver school district. The research practice is guided by ethnographic strategies of participant observation, observant participation, guided tours, discussions, and reviewing field-based documents. It is authored from a feminist, sociological position that advocates for radical pedagogy. It rests on the assumption that the use of space is a politicized activity with embedded lessons that link to ideology and pedagogy. This thesis finds that the semiotic meaning of institutional school space is being contested and transformed at Windsor House. It concludes that it is important that non-standard school spaces, such as Windsor House, exist because they expand the imagination of what is possible within restrictive spaces.  ii  Table of Contents ABSTRACT  n  T A B L E OF CONTENTS LIST OF PLATES  m :  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS EPIGRAM  v vi vn  INTRODUCTION  1  I M A G I N I N G S P A C E AS A C U L T U R A L P R O D U C T I O N  2  T H E PROJECT  4  WINDSOR HOUSE SCHOOL  7  T H E PHYSICAL SPACE  7  CONTEXT  7  THE GROUNDS  8  THE BUILDING  12  THE PEOPLE  18  STUDENTS  20  STAFF  21  PARENTS  21  COMMUNITY  22  LITERATURE  REVIEW  26  SCOPE AND LANGUAGE  26  FOUNDATIONS  29  T H E FREE SCHOOL MOVEMENT  37  CONTEMPORARY F R E E SCHOOLS  44  RECONCILIATIONS  48  METHODOLOGY  55  AUDIENCE  55  KNOWLEDGE CLAIMS  56  ME  57  T H E TOPIC  61  FIELD W O R K  63  PERMISSION  63  METHODS  66  PARTICIPANTS  69  RELATIONS WITH PEOPLE  69  FIELDNOTES  71  INTERPRETATION  73  WRITING  75  ACCOUNTABILITY  76  MOBILITY AND SELF REGULATION  79  FIRST IMPRESSIONS  79  THE HALLWAY  80  M O B I L I T Y IN P R A C T I C E  :  ™V.  LIMITS AND CONTROL OF M O V E M E N T  82 92  SELF REGULATION  99  TEA, M E , A N D SELF REGULATION  100  MOBILITY  ..  RULES AND GOVERNANCE  103  106  THE BIG MUSCLE ROOM  ~:  110  MAKING RULES  113  C O U N C I L IN PROGRESS  116  ENFORCING RULES  122  LIVING AND LEARNING F R O M RULES  129  AUTHORITY,  NEGOTIATION.  AND POWER  :..  137  AUTHORITY  137  AUTHORITY AND A G E  139  HELEN'S AUTHORITY  145  S A F E T Y , S U R V E D L L A N C E , SUPERVISION A N D SPONSORSHD?  146  'INFORMATION CENTRAL'  151  NEGOTIATION AND TERRITORY  157  TROUBLING THE POWER OF COMMONSENSE  163  S U M M A R Y O F FINDINGS  170  CONCLUDING THOUGHTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.....  174  FOR WINDSOR HOUSE FOR EDUCATION GENERALLY  .-.  ,...174 .....176  FOR IMAGINING SPACE  179  BIBLIOGRAPHY  180  LIST OF PLATES  Image 1.1: Windsor House School Entrance Sign Image 2.1: Windsor House School Building Front Entrance Image 2.2: Sketch of North Vancouver Image 2.3: Sketch of Windsor House School Grounds Image 2.4: Upper Forest Path Image 2.5: Covered Play Area Image 2.6: The Entrance Image 2.7: 'Room' under desk Image 2.8: Windsor House School Building Image 3.1: Couch in Windsor House Library ..: Image 4.1: Path Through the Blackberry Brambles at Windsor House Image 5.1: Sign at Entrance to Building Image 5.2: The Hallway. Image 5.3: The Schedule Image 5.4: Stop, Do Not Enter Sign Image 5.5: Stop Sign Over Room Schedule Image 6.1: Posted Rules for The Castle Image 6.2: Posted Rules in BMR Image 6.3: BMR Blocks Image 6.4: First Page of Complaint Form Image 6.5: Second Page of Complaint Form Image 6.6: Red Flag Image 7.1: Dividing Wall in The Castle Image 7.2: Windsor House Posting Image 7.3: Toy Bins in Cottage Garden Image 7.4: Sketch: Information Central in the Front Hallway Image 7.5: Student Sing In /Out and Information Board Image 7.6: Sponsor Sign for Art Room Image 7.7: Ocean's Eye Door with Papered Window Image 8.1: Hopscotch Game on Back Exit Path  CONCEPT BOX 2.1: STANDARD SCHOOLS CONCEPT BOX 2: DEMOCRACY  vii 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 25 54 78 80 85 92 96 105 110 /// 125 125 126 136 139 150 151 752 153 160 169  19 29  v  Acknowledgements  Producing this thesis, has been satisfying, consuming and frustrating work. It is something that is important to me, and I am pleased to have done it. I sincerely thank the following people for supporting me in this process: Windsor House and Helen Hughes for your courage, open doors, hard work, and for the hope that is embedded in your existence. Michelle Stack, Matt Hern, and Graham Smith, for your time, critical engagement, and trust. Trevor M i l l s , Charlotte M i l l s and Frederic Hyde for your love and belief in me. Larry F i s k , for so gracefully introducing me to an academic space to begin to play with these ideas. v  A m e a Wilbur, Charito Galling, Lonnie M c G u i n n , A b b y Wener, and Shauna Butterwick, for making possible our collective independent study, and supporting and questioning my work. t  A b b y Wener, for your continuity, companionship and cohort-ness. ; Sairoz Sekon, Indira Dutt, Zoe E k l e , A b b y Wener, A m e a Wilbur, Eleri Glass, Jeff Thorlacius, Pamela Richardson, Frederic H y d e , and Trevor M i l l s for editing and listening. Gerry James, for your nimble typing fingers. Ryan Slashinsky and Indira Dutt, for hours o f talk, sharing this journey, and plotting futures.  vi  Image 1: Windsor House School Entrance Sign  Space is fundamental in any form of communal life; space is fundamental in any exercise of power. Foucault, 1990, p 130  Introduction  The use o f space is a politicized activity with embedded lessons; it links to ideology and pedagogy. Often the apparent chaos in the use o f space at free schools, such as Windsor House, inspires a critique that insufficient structure is being provided for children. Windsor House has structure, yet it is markedly different than standard schooling (See Concept B o x 1 ) . A s a result, lessons embedded in the space are distinct from standard schooling.  Reflecting its ideology,  Windsor House is explicitly structured to diffuse authority and foster self-regulation. mediated through rules and governance and is evident in spatial relations. embedded curriculum with implicit lessons about authority and relationship.  This is  This space has an It is important to  explore both the implicit and explicit lessons in considering how Windsor House uses this standard school building to reshape the lessons o f the space. The political hope of this work is that it may assist in expanding the imagination o f what is possible within restrictive spaces. The fieldwork for this case study is guided by ethnographic strategies; it was conducted in the spring o f 2004 while Windsor House School was located at the Cloverley site in the North Vancouver school district.  M y thesis question asks what lessons are embedded in the  consumption o f space at Windsor House? I explore this question as a feminist, sociologist, and advocate o f radical pedagogy.  I root Windsor House within the free school movement, and  examine texts by, for, and about free schools. The concept o f space used is informed by feminist geographies; it is understood to refer to physical and conceptual structures as well as social organization. In this way, the space o f Windsor House School is understood to include the physical building, the social use and conventions o f dwelling in that building, the social concepts o f belonging and exclusion, as well as what the school symbolizes and what is imagined as possible within that space.  1  Imagining Space as a Cultural Production Space was traditionally examined through what Lefebvre critically called an "illusion o f transparency" (Blunt and Rose, 1994, p. 5); this refers to the belief that the world can be seen and charted by a single Truth which centralizes a (European, male, heterosexual, White) master subject (Blunt and Rose, 1994).  Since the early 1980's feminist, post-colonial and cultural  geographers, amoung others, have developed increasingly nuanced contestations o f this idea o f a single perspective on seeing, charting and imagining place and space.  They have come to  understand space as contested, fractured, positional and paradoxical, in short, as a method o f cultural production. L i k e all cultural production, imaginings o f space emerge through shared meaning. The school building is a strong cultural symbol, imbued with meaning and expectations o f particular human activities (Fain, 2004). This semiotic meaning is established through a process o f cultural production, not because it is intrinsic to the structure. A s Stuart H a l l states: "meaning does not inhere in things, in the world.  It is constructed, produced.  It is the result o f a signifying  practice—a practice that produces meaning, that makes things mean" ( H a l l , 1997, italics in the original, p. 24). The meaning o f space is constructed, it is a product o f practice that is not fixed (Hall, 1997) but rather continually being negotiated, contested and affirmed (Matthews, 1997). There is a reciprocal relation o f creation between the production arid the producers; while people produce cultural meaning, culture shapes what people produce. A s a result often the possibility that space is malleable is forgotten as socially constructed meanings become so normative they are assumed to be natural and inevitable ( H a l l , 1997) restricting trie imagination to the limits o f what already exists.  : x  2  D w e l l i n g is the way one occupies, consumes, and produces space.  Loretta Lees in  i "Towards a critical geography o f architecture: The case o f an ersatz coliseum" (2001) takes a relatively unique stance within cultural geography (Gruffudd, 2003), and looks at dwelling as a politicized activity.  Drawing from ideas o f shared cultural meaning, and applying a modified  tradition o f a political semiotic approach to the built environment; she looks at the "embodied practices through which architecture is l i v e d " (Lees, 2001, p. 53) and suggests that the meaning of place changes according to the interaction o f the dwellers with the structure. A s such dwelling is " a politicized practice through which social identities, environments and their interrelations are performed and transformed" (Lees, 2001, p. 56).  This means that altering dwelling in the space  alters the cultural meaning, and the embedded curriculum o f the place. This potential to alter the meaning o f place through social practices is achieved through was Lees terms "creative consumption" (Lees, 2001, p. 72). The idea o f creative consumption o f space focuses on "the ways that the built environment is shaped and given meaning through the active and embodied practices by which it is produced, appropriated and inhabited" (Lees, 2001, p. 56).  Because the people consuming the  space are actively shaping meanings o f that space, the space cannot be thought o f as fixed or essential.  Instead, space is a result o f an interrelated practice o f production and consumption.  Lees argues " a consideration o f social practices enables us to appreciate the embodiment o f gestures of emancipation within the formal imagery o f a b u i l d i n g " (Lees, 2001, p. 75). Simply stated, the meaning o f space changes according to the social interaction o f its dwellers within, and with the space. These concepts are firmly grounded in Foucault's idea that architecture on its own is neither inherently oppressive nor liberatory, but rather that it works with the actions o f the people within space to shape the relationships o f people to the space and to each other within that space (1993). However he goes on to warn that there is an immutable interconnection between the space and the actions that occur there; the original intentions and cultural meaning o f the structure are still at play: 3  I think it is somewhat arbitrary to dissociate the effective practice o f freedom by people, the practice o f social relations, and /the spatial distributions in which they find themselves. If they are separated, they become impossible to understand. Each can only be understood through the other. (Foucault, 1993, p. 136) Spaces are both constructed by, and play an important part o f shaping, social norms and socializing people within them. They have socio-cultural and political meaning; inhabitants are implicated in making these meanings by virtue o f being part o f the space.  It is necessary to  engage with spaces as constructions i n need o f perpetual and simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction. This is the work o f this thesis.  The Project The Cloverley site building was not built to be Windsor House School. It is a typical 1  boxy 1970's Canadian public building widely recognizable as a school. However the space, as dwelled in by Windsor House, would likely not be widely recognizable as a school, much o f the embedded curriculum o f schooling has been altered.  Windsor House School is a small local  context o f shared meanings that is inconsistent with how school is broadly recognized. It is a place where the semiotic meaning o f institutional school space is contested and transforming. A t Windsor House there is an ideological framework shaping the processes and use o f the institutional public school space. This ideological framework is shifted from those frameworks shaping standard schooling: " W i n d s o r House parents, students arid staff are united i n a desire for something different from regular s c h o o l " (Windsor House, 2003, p. 6). These differences center around ideas o f academic non-coercion, parent participation, and participatory democracy. The use o f space at Windsor House School is shifted from public schooling i n relation to a shifted  1  The Cloverley site building is described in detail in the chapter Windsor House School.  4  ideology.  Indeed, as Dorothy Smith stated, "the coordination o f institutional processes is  mediated ideologically" (Smith, 1987, p. 161). This paper w i l l tease but ways the use o f space at Windsor House School are connected to ideology as well as implications o f this praxis. The following chapter provides the reader with a tour o f the physical space and the people who shape it. The Literature R e v i e w contextualizes Windsor House within the stream o f radical pedagogy, specifically focusing on free school literature.  The Methodology chapter  outlines the basis on which I make claims to knowledge and the procedures for this case study. The three analysis chapters explore the themes o f mobility  and self-regulation, rules and  governance, and authority, negotiation and power as they relate to the consumption o f space at Windsor House. The final chapter summarizes the findings, and outlines the recommendations emergent from these findings. Italicized text is used throughout this thesis to indicate fieldnote excerpts. Concept boxes are included to clearly outline my intended meaning behind some o f the ambiguous terminology. Photographs and maps o f the space are included to impart a feel o f the space. Images are not able to include people due to ethics requirements; as such they are rather hollow representations o f a very active space.  Other than Helen, the founder, all names are  pseudonyms. It is my hope that this thesis w i l l be o f interest to readers who are themselves part o f free schools, those interested i n alternative education, as well as for readers interested in negotiating space more generally.  5  Image 2: Windsor House School B u i l d i n g Front Entrance  Windsor House School The Physical Space Windsor House has a history o f relocation: it has made its home in church basements, members' homes, and rooms in parts o f schools. Eleven years ago, Windsor House was allocated a few rooms o f the North Vancouver school district building on the Cloverley site.  Over the  years, the school expanded to occupy the entire main floor o f this building and is jokingly referred to as 'the school that ate Cloverley.' During this fieldwork, Windsor House was in its final few months at this location.  Context  North Vancouver is located on the steep incline on the base o f the North Shore Mountains on the west coast o f Canada. A t the bottom o f the mountains are railway tracks and the Burrard Inlet, which separate the city o f North Vancouver from Vancouver. The east side of North Vancouver blends into an industrial area and port; the west side borders the wealthy city o f West Vancouver.  The land o f North Vancouver is the territory o f the Squamish and Burrard  Nations; the city is intersected by four designated First Nations' L a n d Reserves. There are three commercial areas in the city, a quiet downtown area, a large mall and a 'big-box' shopping area. There are some tall buildings, particularly in the downtown area, as well as a number o f mediumsized apartment buildings throughout the city. However, the vast majority o f North Vancouver's residential structures are modest single-family houses or duplexes, most with front and back yards. The Cloverley Site is located on a quiet street in a residential area. There are three buses that come within 6 blocks o f the site, and a main road nearby which connects to the two bridges that link to the city o f Vancouver. There is a passenger transit ferry that runs regularly between the downtowns o f North Vancouver and Vancouver.  7  Image 3 : Sketch o f North Vancouver  The Grounds  The school building sits at the front o f the property and is surrounded by a large amount of green space (Image 4 ) . Approaching the school the Windsor House sign is visible (Image 1). Behind that is the medium sized parking lot and the school building. A l o n g the left edge o f the parking lot and the building is a green space called 'The H i l l , ' home to a few large w e l l established trees, and a steep grassy incline. During the day The H i l l w i l l usually have students playing sword or chase games, reading or talking under trees, and /or rolling down the hills. Behind The H i l l , between the concrete edge o f the school and the road, is a broad sloped area that has a blackberry patch and a playground. The blackberry patch, whose bushes can reach a height o f five or six feet, is home to a maze o f paths and forts in various states o f tending, which  8  can be quite an adventure to explore. There is no master plan behind the placement o f the paths; they are an on-going work in progress created by those who play in the area. Blackberry bushes, being generous with their growth and fairly indestructible, are well suited to survive these encroachments. The playground nestled into the prickly blackberries includes wooden climbing apparatuses, a little hanging bridge, and a few springy teeter-totter toys all on a woodchip bed. This is a well-used area, which almost always has students o f various ages playing in it throughout the day.  Image 4 : Sketch o f Windsor House School Grounds  9  Behind the blackberry patch is a long wooded slopped area, this is the 'Upper Forest.' Its tall thin trees are companied with sparse ground cover and a well-trod path leading through them (Image 5).  This forest has been stewarded by members o f Windsor House who have invested  time and money into naturalizing it.  Entering Upper Forest feels quite w i l d , peaceful, and  removed from the rest o f the property.  W a l k i n g along the path there w i l l be signs o f forts, tea  parties, climbing ropes and other adventures. The top edge o f Upper Forest is a city road, the bottom edge borders the sports field, and the far end leads into the city parkland; there is no road or fence dividing the school property from the city park. The park has a vast green area, tennis courts, and a colourful city playground. A l l o f which are a great lure to many Windsor House students. The section o f this slope that runs along the eastside o f the sports field is often referred to as ' L o w e r Forest,' because o f the steep incline this area is generally unoccupied.  The  sports field is a large multi-use grass field that has structures to support baseball and soccer and is quick to become muddy in the high use areas.  From the sports field there is a 100-  degree view o f the mountains and the harbour can be seen through the alders of Lower Forest. Between the sports field and the school is a small patch o f trees.  These trees are often  climbed and used as a place from which to  Image 5: Upper Forest Path  watch games.  10  The Cloverley building itself is built roughly in the shape o f a backwards ' L ' (Image 9). Framed by the ' L ' is a rectangular paved concrete outdoor area, half o f which is covered to provide protection from the rain (Image 6). This area includes yellow painted square ball courts, and a small set of bleachers. It can be seen, and often heard, through the large windows o f the classrooms on the side o f the school it borders. The long part o f the ' L ' o f Cloverley is two floors. The bottom floor, including the concrete play area and portable along the East side o f it, are home to a French School that is autonomous from Windsor House. The sports field and the first floor gym are spaces that both schools use; time-use agreements have been established so that only one school uses these spaces at a time. These outdoor school spaces are almost always in high use, especially i f it is not too rainy. Generally there is a continuous movement o f people running around, entering and exiting the building, and coming or going from the property. Noises o f play are heaijl allover the school grounds. Typically people are engaged in small, changing groups or independent play. It is less frequent that a large group w i l l be organized in a single activity;  Image 6: Covered Play A r e a  1 1  The Building  Image 7: The Entrance  Entering the building is most commonly done through the main doors on the front porch (Image 7). There w i l l likely be a group of teenagers sitting on the porch bench and draped over the metal railings o f the accessibility ramp engaged in verbose, sometimes  curse-filled  conversation. The main doors' windows tend to be thickly covered with notices and pieces o f paper, making them hard to see through.  Some of these notices w i l l be clearly intended for  everyone who enters, others are for a narrower audience, usually related to a game in progress. Stepping into the building, the main hall w i l l almost always appear to be a profusion o f commotion, full o f people, o f many ages, walking or running in different directions. A s Chris Mercogiano said o f The Albany Free School, a school similar to Windsor House, it is "an environment so full o f activity that a great many first time visitors perceive it as nothing short o f chaos'" (Mercogliano, 2003, p. 7). The hall looks like many public school building hallways; it is  12  wide, with ceilings that feel as i f they should be just a little higher, its walls lined with lockers have many doors opening into it (Image 12). Room.  To the right o f the entrance is the Multimedia  This is a small room, with computers, a couch and generally a number o f teenagers  working and lounging. Just past the hall entrance is a small glass table and chairs, where people often play chess. The wall behind it, like most of the walls in the school, is covered with a hand painted bright mural. L i n i n g the walls o f the hall is lots o f information posted on boards and clipboards, usually with people writing on or reading them.  First time visitors to the school w i l l likely go to the  office which is a little to the left of the entrance. On the office door, is a large laminated sign that reads, "It takes a community to raise a c h i l d . " The office is a small room that holds a surprising number o f desks, a photocopy machine, and shelving. One o f the desks has a computer reserved for school business; this generally has a student or adult working at it. The photocopy machine is well used; often at least one o f the desks w i l l be covered with papers being collated. It is usual to find a number o f adults and some students loitering around the office.  There w i l l likely be at  least one person sitting on top of a desk; sometimes  it  will  be  students  playing  Mancala or cards, or using the stationary that is stored in the office; sometimes it is a parent, chatting, nursing their  infant,  or  involved with school business. Against the far wall  is a table under which  young  children have built themselves a room o f sorts (Image 8). There w i l l invariably be one  or two small children absorbed in some activity o f their own making under this  I  m  a  8  e  8 :  '  R  o  o  m  '  u  n  d  e  r  d  e  s  k  13  table; often, they w i l l be so hidden and quiet that they may not be noticed. There are two doors off o f the office, one goes into the Secretary's office, and the other goes into the vice principal Helen's office, which is a room in two parts.  One part is her work area; it is a little space {.'  •  consisting o f her desk, a door to the main office and an open door frame into the other part o f her office. The second part she calls her conference room, it has four little couches forming a square, and has many little toys and books. This room is used for conferencing, private discussions, a place where students are sent for direct supervision, or where they go for a visit or quiet time out. The bottom part o f the ' L ' o f the Cloverley building holds the offices, conference room, gym, stage, kitchen, band room, theater storage, general storage, recycling, darkroom and one o f the large classrooms, which is used as the art room. The long stem o f the ' L ' holds seven large classrooms, one o f which is divided into three smaller rooms, school bathrooms, plus eight small rooms and offices, mostly clustered together around the W o r l d R o o m .  Each o f the large  classrooms has two doors that open into the hallway and windows that line the outer wall o f the room. Each room at Windsor House is named, the doors o f most rooms are labeled with the name o f the room, and generally rooms are referred to by the same name they are labeled as.  2  2  On occasion I heard some other nick-names used.  14  3  m  art shrago arrroom  <  FT—  LOPT H  hPOHq  -m  CASTu£  9 vMShrccm  /  I XT  GLZT Ni  7 nelen'sop-'ct  t  -  poo\6\  A —  ^ ju  11  Image 9: Windsor House School B u i l d i n g  'The  Castle' is the first room on the left side of the hall; it holds a bank o f computers  divided from the rest o f the room by a false wall shaped and painted as a wall o f a castle fortress. The  room is set up with rows o f tables and chairs in curved lines facing the chalkboard. The next  room on the left side o f the hall is the Library; this big space has been divided into multiple little areas by the many bookshelves. One corner area holds a couch and book display, another a study carrel and work table, another the main stacks. There is also an area with a round rug cozy chair  15  conducive for reading aloud, and a larger area by the entrance with a table and chairs, administration desk, and a couch. These little areas provide a sense o f coziness and privacy; there is no place to stand in the library from which the entire space can be viewed. Often people who use the library tuck themselves away reading novels, or work in small groups at the main table. The next room on the left side o f the hall is 'The Temple o f the F l y i n g P i g . ' This room is a big open space, with a piano and a large center oval table. This is set up for meetings and for classes with instructors that prefer in the round. organized in three main areas.  ' T h e M i l k y W a y ' is the next room; it is  H a l f the room is a kitchen space with a stove, multiple  microwaves, sink, kettle and lots o f little tables and chairs. M a n y people make and eat lunch here and Stone Soup is held here on Thursdays. A third o f the room is set up as a small make-believe 3  kitchen space complete with many wooden fruits, vegetables and cooking tools. The rest o f the room is set up with larger table and chairs. The last room on the left side o f the hallway is the ' B i g M u s c l e R o o m , ' more commonly referred to as the B M R .  This is a giant, wall-to-wall  carpeted room; i n the far corner is a little loft. The only furniture in this room consists o f gigantic pillows and large wooden blocks (Image 18). This room is intended for running around, play fighting, fort building, and generally being rambunctious.  4  The back end o f the right side o f the hallway holds the 'Space/Time R o o m . ' This room has recently changed from the elaborately set up old-fashioned schoolroom and n o w holds a 5  computer, a large oval table, and a few couches in the corner. On one side o f the room, carefully drawn on the w a l l , is an intricate and detailed timeline pictorially depicting the earth from the b i g bang to today. The back o f the room has a floor to ceiling papier-mache tree with a collection o f Inspired by the folktale of the same name, Stone Soup involves members of the school bringing ingredients for soup, as they are able. These get worked into two main soups that everybody at the school can eat lunch from. For more information see The BMR in Rules and Governance. During the time of my practicum this room was organized down to the last detail as a Victorian schoolroom, complete with inkwells, slates, readers, and costumes. This elaborate set up was done for a simulation game, which is a long running non-scripted role-playing game. The result of this was a peculiar arrangement of school children and school teachers 'playing school' while in school creating many overlapping meanings of the use of space.  3  4  5  16  river rocks at its base, and a large o w l perched in its branches. This tree fits into the mural landscape on the wall behind it, which is completed by a painted stream that works its way around the sink and into a mirrored pool on the floor. The Space/Time R o o m is often used as a production area for ' z i n e s . '  6  The Science R o o m , also on this side o f the hall, holds a big center  table that is either a lab bench or a pool table depending whether the plywood top is on it or not. There are two offices o f f o f the science room, one that is locked and holds chemicals and other potentially hazardous science equipment, and another that is often open and used to hang out in by students. The other large classroom on the right side o f the hall is set up for primary students. This space has walls that divide it into three smaller rooms, 'The Cottage', 'The Cottage Garden,' and 'The Gazebo'. The Cottage has lots o f little tables, art supplies, play areas, cubbies, and a sink. The Cottage Garden has many shelves with bins holding playthings such as puzzles and plastic animals (Image 24). Its floors are carpeted and it has a large p i l l o w area for curling up on. The Gazebo is a smaller room within the Cottage Garden, it has many windows and toys for playing store and house. There are usually many parents in these primary rooms. The other rooms on this side o f the hall are small and medium sized rooms. One area, called 'The W o r l d R o o m , ' has numerous office-sized rooms attached to it. 'The Nest,' in The W o r l d R o o m , is a small loft area in which any one over three feet tall has to crouch in order to stand in. Some o f the small and medium rooms are teacher's offices.  Some, such as 'The Unofficial Russian Embassy' and  'Ocean's Eye R o o m ' , are what are known as 'student controlled rooms.'  7  Entering the space o f Windsor House it does not take long to notice that something nonstandard is going on. M a n y things may appear peculiar for a school space, some o f theses things  While I was at Windsor House I received 'Animaleus Magazaleus # 1 : The B i r d Edition,' ' S . H . I . T . E (Silly Heaters Interview the Establishment): The Back Pocket E d i t i o n ' ; as well as 'The Gamer'. Each of these were student initiated and produced projects, printed and distributed at the school. F o r more information about student controlled rooms see Negotiation and Territory in Authority. 6  7  17  are: age groups m i x i n g ; lots o f adults; children seemingly without supervision; students going outdoors and leaving the grounds; calm spaces o f children raising their hands to vote; lots o f commotion; kids who appear to be doing nothing; the absence o f desks; few large groups; the presence o f babies and very young children; and the gigantic number o f notices that seem to be posted everywhere. It is evident that Windsor House School consumes the space o f this public school building in ways unfamiliar to standard schooling.  The People  Helen Hughes is the founder, leader, and current vice principal o f Windsor House. In 1971 she founded the school with fifteen students and their parents in her home on Windsor Street in North Vancouver. Helen began her career as a successful and efficient schoolteacher within standard schools. She often tells the story o f the enjoyment she had i n her well-structured classroom as a novice teacher and how after her first year o f teaching, her teaching evaluation given by her superior said something to the effect o f Mrs. Hughes keeps a very good classroom, but her blinds are often uneven and open to the wrong level. Helen says she was careful to make sure her blinds were perfect the next year (Hughes, 2003).  Helen's career changed when her  daughter started school. The more her daughter became involved with school, the more Helen witnessed her daughter's sprits diminishing; Helen resolved that intervention was essential. A s is common in the formation o f alternative schools, Helen's decision was to instigate a small school o f her own (Hughes and Carrico, 1996). Thirty-three years later, Helen is teaching in her final years before retiring, her daughter is now a full time teacher at Windsor House and has children o f her own that attend the school.  According to the free school literature, Helen, and my observations, there are two principal reasons why families come to free schools i n general and Windsor House i n particular.  One is  18  because the family has a philosophical alignment with the pedagogical intentions  CONCEPT B O X 1  o f the school.  STANDARD  Often children in these families have been homeschooled or have come to Windsor House as their first form o f schooling. Generally, these students are fairly well adjusted to the school, do well at Windsor House, and would likely do fine in most educational arrangements. It is my impression that most of these families come from a well-educated, middle-class predominantly White context.  The  second  reason  families  seek  SCHOOLS:  In  literature on schools akin to Windsor House there is a distinction made between these schools and what I am calling 'standard schools.' Windsor House literature differentiates itself from what it refers to as 'the regular school system,' (Windsor House, 2003, p. 17). Members o f Windsor House may informally make a similar distinction using the words 'normal schools' or 'regular schools.' Other schools may differentiate themselves by referring to 'the public school system.' Windsor House is rare among these schools as it is part o f the public school system, so this distinction does not apply here. I have chosen the term standard schools; by this term I intend to encompass the range o f mass compulsory schooling both private and public. I acknowledge a vast range o f practice within 'standard schools' however that is not the topic of this paper. I argue that Windsor House is a subversion of'standard schooling.'  out  Windsor House stems from a deep need for a space which w i l l support their child who is not fitting into and/or being pushed out o f standard school settings. Often these families come in desperation and anger about their past school experiences. These strong  feelings are generally due to pressures experienced around biopsychiatric drugs, testing, depression, bullying and/or other forms o f violence.  8  Often these students come with needs that  require considerable attention and they may have a long adjustment period in their new school  These themes, which dominate the Free School literature, were confirmed through general conversation at the school. I had two extended conversations with parents about why they came to Windsor House, one family came to Windsor House from homeschooling (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2791-94). The other came to Windsor House because of frustration at the way their standard school was addressing how one child was being bullied and the other was bullying, they also noted a frustration with the time pressures the school was making on their home life (Fieldnote, M a y 3 1 , 0 4 , 1663, 1674-79). 8  19  setting.  9  These families tend to come from a wider range o f class, race, and educational  backgrounds. M a n y families with less education and financial wealth come from schools that are poorly resourced and are unable to attend to the needs o f their children, these families are seeking alternatives within publicly available options.  Other families come from private school  backgrounds with considerable financial wealth and educational options.  O f the students who  come later in their schooling experiences, many stay at Windsor'House for a short time, either because they find it incompatible with their needs, or because?their families feel they have become ready to return and be successful i n a standard s c h o o l , others find a more permanent 10  place at Windsor House.  Students There are approximately 175 students at Windsor House S c h o o l , full-time, but many attend part-time.  12  11  most attend close to  The students range i n age from five to twenty. The  population has over twice as many kindergarten and elementary aged students as it does secondary level students (Johnson, 2004, p. 6). kindergarten up to the equivalent o f grade ten.  Officially, the school is able to provide  Some students make alternate arrangements to  stay at Windsor House for the equivalent o f grades eleven and twelve.  13  Slightly over half o f the  students enrolled travel thirty to eighty minutes to North Vancouver from Vancouver to attend Windsor House. A handful o f students travel from even greater distances. There appears to be a  9  For further information about the integration of new students see Limits and Control of  Movement in Mobility. This temporary use of the free school is a dominant theme in Mercogliano's accounts of the Albany Free School (1998), and seems to play out at Windsor House as well. There is a discrepancy between the school's numbers on students and the district audit conducted the same year. It is my impression, as a result of the audit that 'recommended' all healthy students attend full time fewer students were attending part-time. Previous to this, many families chose to combine their time at Windsor House with homeschooling. Some forms of these alternant arrangements include correspondence courses, forfeiting credentials, or combining other programs with Windsor House. 10  11  12  13  20  greater 'racial' diversity within the students o f Windsor House than in the neighbourhood where Windsor House is located.  Staff  c-  On site, Windsor House has 8.1 full-time teaching positions allotted spread over nine teachers, one part-time assistant, one very part-time teaching aide, one part-time clerical staff, and a full-time vice principal. There is an off-site, part-time principal who takes a largely hands-off approach to his position at Windsor H o u s e .  14  A l l teachers are licensed through the British  Columbia College o f Teachers. The principal, one teacher and the teaching assistant are male, the rest o f the teaching staff are female. There are no visible minorities or disabilities on staff; there are two openly gay teachers on staff.  Staff choose to work :at Windsor House because o f  philosophical alignment, however, there is a wide range o f philosophy and disagreement within this alignment.  15  A number o f staff began at Windsor House as parents and have since become  staff; some obtained their teaching license specifically to teach at Windsor House. M a n y o f the staff members have children at the school.  Parents Parents are a vital component o f the school. Each parent is requested to provide a half days work per week to the school. Parents offer classes, assist administratively, fundraise, maintain and organize the space, provide supervision, conduct field trips, participate in meetings, mentor, play and interact with students. Parents also support and interact with each other, both through informal interaction and formal groups, such as the new moms group and the non-violent communication group. There are always parents around Windsor House. The request for parents participation assumes parents have the resources to afford this time, however parents for whom providing time to the school is not possible or desirable can meet with the vice principal or the  14  15  1 did not meet him during my time at Windsor House. See Literature Review for more information about this range of philosophy.  21  3  volunteer duty parent coordinator to arrange an alternative or to become exempt from this requirement. I do not know how social pressures may be exerted around this. F r o m the parent work log in the check in area, and from noting the parents I saw in the school it appears that there are many families that do not provide this time to the school, while many others provide much more than what is asked becoming highly influential in the space; there is an appearance o f an ' i n crowd' and 'out crowd' as a result of this.  In addition to these roles, there is an exceptionally active parents group at Windsor House, called the Society for the Advancement o f Non-Coercive Education ( S . A . N . E . ) ; all parents are members o f this group. Families are asked to place themselves on a sliding payment scale and donate $10-$60 per month per child to S . A . N . E . The money is used to purchase school supplies, school resources, and food to fill in for missed or forgotten breakfasts and lunches. A s a result o f this collective arrangement, the school is well stocked with supplies and students are not required to bring individual school supplies.  16  Community Item 1.1 o f the Windsor House handbook begins: " W i n d s o r House is a community as well as a school. It consists of students, staff, parents, graduates and volunteers" (Windsor House, 2003, p. 2). Most o f the literature as well as the informal discussions refer to the school as 'the community.' Community is celebrated as central to the ideology and practice o f Windsor House.  I suspect a reason why it is such a cherished term is that it is used to encompass the  holistic participatory multi-aged aspects o f the school. W h i l e 'community' is the term chosen by the school, it is one I have chosen not to use; instead I use the concept o f membership. While I do not wish to undermine the multifaceted interconnections fostered at Windsor House School, I am leery o f the frequency o f the term community in the public lexicon. Drawing from Matt Hern  This is a method by which Windsor House works to be accessible, it also fosters a sense of communal rather than individualized ownership. 16  22  in M a k i n g Space (1997), I understand that a school can be a vital part o f a community, but cannot in and o f itself be a community; community must be predicated on place and involve all interconnected aspects o f that place. From what I have observed,, Windsor House is positioned in a relatively isolated way from the wider community it is located w i t h i n .  17  Inclusivity is o f stated importance to Windsor House:  W e model questioning not only overt instances o f discrimination and prejudice, but also the subtle assumptions that tend to permeate our society. W e are committed to providing an accepting environment community. backgrounds.  for everyone in our  W e welcome people with varied racial, ethnic and economic W e support  people with disabilities  and people who  are  homosexual, transgendered or transsexual. W e work to counter racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia (Windsor House, 2003, p. 2).  In terms o f the composition o f the community and the success o f its goals o f being inclusive, it is my observation that there are more male than female students, especially in the older ages. The staff and daytime adult presence in the school is predominantly female. There are a variety o f family structures at Windsor House. The literature and language does not assume that families are composed o f two-parents (one male and one female) and birth children. There are a variety o f single parent, guardianship, adoptive, same-sex, two parent, and three or more parent families, as well as a number o f students who travel between different homes o f multiple parents; this does not appear to be stigmatized. W h i l e the space o f the school is predominantly heterosexual, there is a wide range o f sexualities visible. This is noticeable in the library materials, in the teaching staff, and in the families at the school. Only once in my time at Windsor House did I hear  Part of this may be as a result of a need to operate without drawing notice to themselves for fear of repercussions from school regulatory bodies. 17  23  someone use the word gay in a hateful way, and it did not pass without an expression o f offence. While the visible 'racial' range in the school appears to be wider than the neighbourhood it is located in, the vast majority o f students appear as White.  W h i l e there is a wide range o f  economic and educational status within the school, the majority o f the members o f the school appear to be upper-working to upper-middle class.  The school is minimally accessible, in that it has an accessibility ramp granting access to most o f the indoor spaces in the school. wheelchair for mobility  There is one member o f the school who uses a  and who is a very active participant  in the school.  However  overwhelmingly, the school is set up for visually, orally, physically and mentally 'able-bodied' people. That said it is evident that there is a wide and integrated range o f learning dis/abilities in the school.  The school has had a long history o f changes, crises and joys. There have been times o f philosophical turmoil in which hearts and egos were bruised and many people left the school. There have been times o f wondrous and exhilarating growth, and there have been times o f slow and steady shifting.  Change, forced from both inside and outside, has been a prominent and  constant aspect o f the history o f Windsor House. E v e n now, as this paper is being composed, things at the current Windsor House have become dramatically different than at the time o f this project.  This is Windsor House School.  24  Image 8: Couch in Windsor House Library  25  Literature Review Scope and language I identify Windsor House as a democratic free school and locate it within the history, language, and writings o f the free school movement, within the wider context o f radical pedagogy.  In the discipline o f educational studies  18  there is an active interest in alternative  education and some interest in radical pedagogy, however the praxis o f democratic free schools is largely absent. It is my intention to centralize the pedagogy o f these schools as politically and experientially significant to educational theory and practice. The scope o f this review includes the foundations o f the free school movement, the height o f the North American movement in the 1960's and 70's, the modern day movement, and issues of power, politics, and space as addressed in the literature.  This review draws primarily from texts directly out o f free schools and is  augmented with works about radical pedagogy. It is not intended to be an exhaustive survey, rather it is meant to untangle some o f the threads and place Windsor House within the tapestry of free schools and radical pedagogy. I identify Windsor House as a free school, however the school's handbook explicitly states "Windsor House is not a 'Free S c h o o l ' " (2003, p. 2), in this way I define Windsor House differently than they identify themselves. The criteria I use to determine a free school is that it is academically non-coercive (Hern, 2003), this means it does not prescribe, evaluate, or reward academic course or achievement, and that it is structured so that students have freedom o f movement and may determine how to organize their days. The handbook suggests that the reason Windsor House says it is not free school is because the role o f responsibility is prioritized (Windsor House, 2003, p. 2); I identify this as a strategic statement to counter prejudicial reactions to free schools as places where children can do what ever they wish without  Educational Studies is the discipline in which I present and defend this thesis.  26  responsibility. M o s t free schools are clear to state that freedom does not mean unlimited  freedom  (Wright, 1989; N e i l l , 1960); prioritizing responsibility is not antithetical to being a free school. While I refer to a 'free school movement,' this is an imprecise phrase as it implies a uniformity that does not exist. There is a diversity o f overlapping and contradictory motivations, politics, and practices within the 'movement.'  There is a strong neo-liberal, individualistic,  conservatism at play that overlaps with leftist counter culture, socialist frameworks as well as libertarian and anarchistic frameworks.  Because o f these overlapping ideologies, the language  around democratic and free schools is challenging.  Most texts use words such as 'freedom,'  'democracy,' and 'natural,' yet the intentions and implications behind these words differ.  The  places o f agreement and contradiction are entangled. While I do not claim to untangle them, I w i l l strive to make transparent the position from which I interpret them. The word 'free' in free school covers a wide territory o f meaning within the literature. Most predominantly it implies a freedom from the fears, harms, and coercions o f schooling. Central to this, is the freedom to think one's own thoughts and form one's own ideals free from anonymous or manipulative authority. prescriptive curriculum, mandatory  To realize this, free schools are structured without  classes, testing, grades, "the pressure o f an academic  timetable and its endless performance assessments, [or] constant behavioral monitoring and adult intervention" (Mercogliano, 1998, p. 40). Freedom o f association and collaboration across ages, and across the boundaries o f school and community are also advocated. Likewise the ability to determine educational processes free from the dictation o f the state is important.  A central  division in the tapestry o f free schools is whether or not freedom is understood as an individualistic or collectivist concept.  Some understand freedom as something an individual  strives for in terms of their personal comfort and psychology. While others understand that one cannot be free as long as oppression exists and see freedom as both a personal and collectively political journey.  Both o f these paradigms play out at Windsor House.  I understand ideas o f  freedom without restriction to be neither achievable nor desirable. A s well, freedom without  27  consideration o f the context that supports it as false. Advocating for these positions stems from a politically dangerous, intensely individualistic neo-liberal framework.  L i f e is inextricably and  preciously interconnected and interdependent, I do not wish to embrace ideologies or practices that assume otherwise. The internal democracy o f democratic free schools refers to a strong, direct, or participatory democracy in which all members o f the school have ample opportunity to exercise a certainty o f influence over the conditions that impact their life (See Concept B o x 2). Free schools are almost always democratic however, it does not mean that democratic schools strive to be free schools (Hern, 2003). A l l democratic free schools have a strong participatory democratic forum as a central component o f their school.  It is at this forum that wide ranges o f decisions are  determined. The jurisdiction o f the forums varies from school to school; some things that may fall under it include the hiring and firing o f staff, admissions, budgeting, rules and procedures o f the school, space set up, conflict resolution and / or disciplinary actions.  A t some schools,  participation in these forums is optional however, it is more common that attendance is mandatory.  What is often inconceivable for people unfamiliar with democratic free schools is  that this process involves one vote per person in a context where children and youth are the majority. This form o f democracy is part o f the practice o f Windsor House. In popular discourse, the language o f democracy is over used and exhausted to the point that it has become a term largely devoid o f meaning. I continue to use the word and advocate for democratic practice because I hold on to a hope that despite the cooptation and implications o f rhetoric, democratic practice still holds the possibility o f being revolutionary.  28  M u c h o f the language around free and democratic schools speaks o f the notion o f a  C O N C E P T B O X 2:  'natural' or 'authentic' self.  DEMOCRACY is the praxis o f people participating in ruling themselves. Throughout its history it has been contested whether or not this is a good idea, who may participate, and to what degree. Deeply linked to the idea o f democracy is the idea that people become fully human through participating in their political realities and achieving citizenship.  deeply  rooted  within  a  This language is liberal  notion  of  individualism and autonomy as it draws on the idea that there is an essential a-priori human nature that exists separate from sociological conditioning or construction. is antithetical  to  most  This  framework  feminisms.  Many  feminists, when confronted with this language interpret it as absurd, limited, and harmful, and therefore they end their engagement with the ideas. I sympathize with, yet do not advocate for this reaction. I understand that while it is necessary to have a critical and skeptical eye, there  are  understandings,  strategies  and  practices within democratic and free schools movement  that  are  beneficial  to  anti-  Richard Swift (2003) in his guide to democracy identifies two strains in democracy: weak democracy, which involves the idea that " a minimalist state should interfere as little as possible with the economic and political rights o f individual" (p. 40) and strong democracy, which "emphasizes the self-rule o f the political community and the equality o f power" (p. 35). There are two principal democratic practices, representational and direct. Representational democracy is the process o f democratically determining a person to represent or rule the membership. Direct democracy is the engagement o f ordinary people, representing themselves by voting on decisions. Direct democracy is mostly excluded from the large-scale public sphere, but is frequently used, to greater or lesser extents, on small-scale initiatives.  oppressive, constructionist, feminist positions.  Foundations Radical pedagogy is concerned with creating dramatic societal change through "new forms  o f socialization that w i l l  encourage non-authoritarian  and revolutionary  character  structures" (Spring, 1998, p. 9). Some seminal threads present in the tapestry o f radical pedagogy informing democratic free schools include: anarchist-based modern schools, which organized anti-authoritarian educational structures as centres o f social restructuring.  John Holt whose  29  critiques o f schools as institutions teaching failure and survival strategies rather than content lead him to become a leader o f unschooling. Ivan Illich, the father o f deschooling, who introduced a critique o f schooling as producing passive people and advocated for an abandonment of practices and ideas o f schooling.  Paulo Freire who critiqued what he called the 'banking system' o f  schooling and advocated for a student emergent, inherently political critical pedagogy that would transcend the relationship of oppression. M y l e s Horton, The Highlander F o l k School, and folk education more generally, which gave a hopeful face to the connection between radical school practice and radical social transformation.  Lastly A . S . N e i l l , who, inspired by the emergence o f  psychology, created a free school intended to eliminate fear and anonymous authority. The modern schools o f early half o f the last century are a "direct philosophical ancestor" o f the free school movement (Miller, 2002, p. 113). They were founded on the understandings o f social advancement through freedom o f thought, equality o f political power, and ownership o f self (Spring, 1994).  Their principal intention was to "abolish all forms o f authority, political,  economic as well as educational.  A n d to usher in a new society based on the voluntary  cooperation o f free individuals" (Avrich, 1980, p. xi).  This movement was emphatically anti-  state schooling, which was seen to diminish the goals o f social advancement by  fostering  uniformity o f thought and belief, the internalization o f laws, and control of the many by the interests of the ruling elite (Spring, 1994).  Modern schools resisted what they identified as a  central purpose o f state schooling, which was the forming of obedient workers (Miller, 2002). Government and education were identified as the two major means by which power is exerted over people. Education was seen as the more powerful o f the two, because "government must always depend upon the opinion o f the governed" (Stirner quoted in Spring, 1994, p. 42).  30  The schools, included Leo Tolstoy's at Yasnaya Polyana in Russia (1859-1863), Francisco Ferrer's Escuela Moderna in Spain (1901-1906) , and the twenty or so modern schools 19  started in A m e r i c a by E m m a Goldman and others o f the Ferrer Association (1910 - 1955/61).  20  Aspects o f these schools include being structured without compulsory attendance or academic competition, an interconnection with a wider community, parent and other adult involvement, and learning by doing. (Avrich, 1980).  21  The desire o f the student was seen as the motivating element in learning  Some of the historical and contemporaneous threads that shaped the schools  included libertarian thought,  freethinkers, secular school movements, socialism, and the  American abolitionist free schools. The schools generally served as centers linked to activism around c i v i l rights, unionism, and access to birth control. Unusual to the time, they tended to be attended and formed by people from both working class immigrant and middle class socioeconomic locations (Miller, 2002), and they prioritized the co-education o f girls and boys. Paul A v r i c h in The Modern School Movement (1980) states that when the Modern School Association o f North A m e r i c a was disbanded, its momentum was continued with the wide range o f free schools that emerged in the 1960's.  John Holt represents a path common to many people developing and practicing a radical pedagogical interest in the 1960's and 70's. The 1964 publication o f H o w Children F a i l  2 2  rode on  a tide o f discontent with schooling. H o l t ' s central question in this text was " o f the things we teachers do, which help learning and which prevent i t ? " (1982, p. 54) F r o m observing students in  In 1906 the school had a student population to 126 students from an initial 30; it had grown not only as a school, but also as a centre of revolutionary action and as such was hatred by authorities for being anti-governmental, antimilitarist, anti-religious and a co-ed and sexually promiscuous environment; in 1906 it was forcibly closed ( A v r i c h , 1980). There was a great deal of variance by the schools administered by the Ferrer Association. While the intention was to expand across all ages, the majority of the schools were for younger students, and many of them were part time Sunday Schools ( A v r i c h , 1980). In the literature of the time, methods of learning by doing were sometimes termed 'integral' or organic education. This text was reprinted with additional commentary in 1982. 19  2 0  2 1  2 2  31  math classes in terms o f how they interacted with the teacher and the content, Holt came to believe that in school, children's first concern becomes self-defense against failing. This shapes all their actions within the school and effectively works to cut students off from their own common sense and curiosity. Holt came to assert that grades, tests and other calibers o f success are unable to determine understanding or learning (Holt, 1982). A closely related concern was students' self-defense with regards to protecting their dignity. H e argued that schooling provides a context in which the way to receive approval is to do, say, and be what the teacher wants. Because o f this it is a context in which students are commonly obliged to "choose between our adult approval and [their] own self respect" (Holt, 1982, p. 238). H o l t ' s conclusion was that most o f what happens in teaching and schooling does not help learning, but rather works to diminish knowledge and reason. Most children in school fail to finish, or finish but fail to learn. Worse yet, some students learn through schooling to become chronic failures (Holt, 1982). " T o a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid" (Holt, 1982, p. 263). Perhaps what carries H o l t ' s work most significantly is a conviction that "under right circumstances they could and would do first class thinking.... W e don't have to make human beings smart. They are born smart. A l l we have to do is stop doing the things that made them stupid" (Holt, 1982, p. 161).  Holt produced many books about the relationship between school, failure, freedom, and learning. Initially his work focused on school reformation, then on free schools specifically, but Holt's vision came to be that he did not see a place exclusively for learning. He saw the best place for children to learn as " i n the world itself, in the mainstream o f adult life" (Holt, 1982, p. 296). Holt became a major advocate for and contributor to, the discourse around home schooling  32  and what is often termed 'unschooling.  When the energies o f the free school movement began  to dissipate, many free schoolers followed Holt in this direction. Ivan Illich was principally responsible for influencing Holt's abandonment o f schooling (Farenga, 1999). In 1971 Illich's Deschooling Society was published giving voice and language for many in the radical critique and resistance o f schooling. A central argument to this work is that school monopolizes the scope o f legitimate knowledge by relying on the myth o f scarcity o f information and promoting school as the only place to obtain this knowledge.  Thus it fosters  individuals to develop an exceptional dependence on schools. Illich argues that the institution o f school teaches institutional values. become institutionalized.  It is through schooling that our selves and our societies  This means that we, as students and as teachers, learn through  schooling to abdicate responsibility for our own growth, which promotes alienation from self and dependency on a external official source. A s a result we confuse teaching for learning, process with substance, and become lost in a ritualization o f process. In response, Illich calls for the disestablishment o f schools. This means not paying public monies or granting social privilege to them.  Connected to this, he makes a very intimate call to action when he urges unlearning  institutional values learned through schooling. This unlearning o f schooling and disestablishing school Illich calls deschooling. Illich credits Paulo Freire as highly influential to his ideas (Illich, 1971). Paulo Freire is known for his ideas on popular education and critical pedagogy ; his 24  most influential book Pedagogy o f the Oppressed was first published in 1970. Core to Freire's work are his convictions that education is always a political process, social organization is seeped  The term 'unschooling' was used by Holt to describe home schooling in a manner that did not reproduce mini schools at home (Farenga, 1999). It focuses on a 'natural' unfolding of education where activities are "chosen and engaged in freely by the learner (Farenga). Unschooling builds strongly on the precedents of deschooling, but the intention of Holts work was more directed at an individual's relationship with learning, while Illich was more concerned with the individual's relationship with institutionalization. Freire was not a proponent of unschooling or deschooling. However his work focused on a radical re-visioning of the purpose and process of education. 2 3  2 4  33  in oppression, and change is possible. He critiques the educational practices that are normally and almost exclusively adopted as being a 'banking system' o f education. In the banking system students are seen as 'empty vessels' to be filled with preformed nuggets o f lifeless and irrelevant information by teachers. This system teaches credulity and passivity. It promotes the illusion that the world is fixed, thus students must adapt to it, this drive to make students adapt manipulates, co-opts and redirects the experiences and needs of the student. The banking system is based on domination and false charity, in short, it teaches how to be oppressed and thus ,must be rejected. We cannot get to liberatory education through the practice o f banking systems; we cannot become subjects through a process o f first being objects (Freire, 1999). Freire insists that education as a process o f freedom must be embraced.  This means  students and teachers must work together in a mutual process to "affirm women and men as beings who transcend themselves" and thus transform the world (Freire, 1999, p. 22). The goal for this process o f freedom must be to make a world where it is easier to love. This liberatory practice is achieved through 'problem posing' methods o f education which are rooted unshakably in dialogue, trust, and the material realities o f the participants.  This path exists in learning to  decode the limiting and oppressive framework one exists in which is done by perceiving the world and one's place in it as a system o f interrelational problems and learning how to transcend these problems. This is done for one's self, with others. It cannot be done for another, and it cannot be forced. Essential to this is the aspect o f what he calls true dialogue, which necessarily embraces challenge, is honest and continuous, includes all stakeholders, and is the foundation o f all aspects o f education and politics. Dialogue must start with faith, contain humility, build trust and be motivated by hope. It must be a co-intentional act o f critical thinking that understands indivisible solidarity between the world and people and between thinking and action. It must understand reality as a transforming process with an unpredictable outcome.  This approach to  learning takes the form o f what Freire calls 'conscientizaco,' which refers to "learning to perceive  34  social political and economic contradictions and to take action against the oppressive elements o f reality" (Translators Note, Freire, 1999, p. 17) Freire found a colleague in M i l e s Horton, founder and director o f the Highlander F o l k School who dedicated his life to the revolutionary potential o f democracy, a faith that poor working class people should and could be in charge o f their lives, and an understanding that civil rights cannot be exclusive. According to Horton there are two ways to have a revolution: " O n e is that people are desperate, and out of desperation they act, that leads to fascism. People who are desperate will f o l l o w any leader that comes a l o n g . . . . People are still waiting for the man on the horse to save them, but that's not the way to salvation, they have to save themselves.... If y o u ' r e going to do it not out of desperation then y o u ' v e got to do it on the basis of rising expectations" (Horton in M o y e r s , 1981) The basis o f rising expectations involves a civic engagement with the circumstances o f the system one is embedded in.  This is done through side stepping educational systems that  shape people to work within the systems and revolutionizing education processes democratically. Thus systems are creating by and for the people who are part o f them. To Horton it was clear: human beings deserve working rights, c i v i l rights, and health care; "the system should deliver these to you, and i f it doesn't you change the system till it does.... Nothing w i l l change until we change, until we throw off our dependence and act for ourselves" (Horton in M o y e r s , 1981). The process o f realizing change is to look at conflict as it already exists in the system and make that hidden conflict visible. D o the work o f interpreting the conflict, and confront it at the level o f justice to resolve it. Highlander. education.  This is the type o f work, networking, and planning that occurred at  The school provided a non-prescriptive venue based almost entirely in peerThe operations o f the school expanded the imagination o f how authority around  knowledge can operate in the hands o f the people. The work that occurred in direct relationship with the Highlander F o l k school included freedom schools, freedom summer o f 1964, and  35  citizenship schools, all o f which fed the flames o f the revolutionary potential o f direct civic action and served as a strong inspiration for democratic free schools (Miller, 2002). F o r Horton, doing work on the edge of social change provokes response and involves risk, it is inherently dangerous work and knowing fear is critical to it (Moyers, 1981). A . S . N e i l l had a very different understanding o f the need for fear. He was very interested in the emergence of psychology and the idea that individuals are formed and harmed through interpersonal relationships. In 1921, after working in other schools geared in response to psychology, and being greatly influenced by Freud and Reich, N e i l l founded Summerhill School. The intention behind the radical practice o f the school was to create a school to fit the child's psychological needs so that they could live a life o f happiness. To this purpose, Summerhill was to be the school free o f fear (Snitzer, 1964). N e i l l saw the greatest inhibitor to emotional w e l l being as fear, he identified children's fear as originating from adults' punishment and disapproval (Neill, 1960).  The pedagogy o f the school worked to remove punishment and disapproval by  restructuring authority to eliminate coercive tactics and anonymous authority as well as systems o f evaluation where fear o f failure is a threat. In 1960 A . S . N e i l P s Summerhill: A Radical Approach to C h i l d Rearing came into print and quickly became a seminal text in the free school movement. It describes the school he built to fit the child, as well as his underlying reasoning behind the school. The two most distinctive aspects o f this boarding school are that academics are optional and decisions about school rules, policy, and disputes are made through a process of participatory democracy. The democratic process and a related assumption o f equality of power are central to Summerhill. The guiding principle is the idea that "no man is good enough to give another his ideals" ( N e i l l as quoted in Spring, 1998, p. 103). The heart o f the structure o f Summerhill is that students take responsibility for their own lives, action and education free from adult coercions.  N e i l l famously distinguished between  'freedom' and 'license' thus: " i n my school a child is free to go to lessons or stay away from lessons, because that is his own affair, but he is not free to play a trumpet when others want to  36  study or sleep" ( N e i l l , 1966, p. 7). T o N e i l l , freedom is self-determination; license is interfering with another's freedom ( N e i l l , 1966).  Although N e i l l was not the only person practicing  education in this way, or thinking these thoughts, his school is the most famous o f free schools and the measure by which most free schools are compared.  N e i l l ' s deep commitment to  individualized psychology greatly shaped the focus o f the free school movement.  Central themes in these divergent theoretical threads are: an analysis that education is inherently political; a conviction that schooling is central in maintaining the normative oppression o f the status quo; a desire to reduce authoritarianism and fortify dignity; a critique that the most important lessons are located within the material context o f the student's life; a trust o f the student; a resistance to standard schooling; an uncommon respect for self determination of the student; a vision o f education as a path to fuller citizenship, awareness and humanity; a hope that social change towards justice is possible; and the idea that education is a critical link to that change. It is emergent with these ideas that the free school movement occurred.  The Free School Movement The free school movement in the North A m e r i c a and Britain was at its most pronounced from the 1960's into the beginning o f the 1980's. The precise number o f schools is difficult to determine; numbers range between 800 and 1500 schools across North A m e r i c a . M o s t schools were small, with 20-60 students, many start up attempts did not get off the ground, many that only lasted a short while and most left behind little, i f any, documentation.  Despite this, a  number o f publications, both small and large came out at this time. B o o k s on free schools most typically are written by a member o f the staff as first person, day-in-the-life accounts depicting  37  events, students and motivations in the free school, between schools.  26  or as journals working to create a dialogue  Reading through the literature, two main emphases become apparent. One is  the Summerhillian emphasis, which is largely psychological in intent and liberal in politics, which envisions the school to be about creating a better environment for the child enrolled. The other is a more politically engaged, radical politic where the intent is to work towards activating a better world for one's child to grow up in. These differing emphases create a tension within and between the texts. The motivation behind the free school movement grew from strong criticisms that standard schools are insufficient, inappropriate, and that they teach stupidity (Holt, 1982; Gatto, 1992), passivity (Illich, 1971), dependency (Illich, 1971), and erase motivation (Dennison, 1969). A s the methodology o f schooling was seen to be predicated on fear (Mercogliano, 1998; Holt, 1982) and "fear and learning make lousy dance partners" (Mercogliano, 1998, p. 67), it was determined that something radically different needed to be done.  W h i l e these sentiments are  common to free schools generally, some free schools articulated a radical structural and political critique o f schooling embedded in an analysis of oppression. This stream was articulated by Dewey as an attempt to counter the mechanizing effects o f society (Novak, 1975, p. 34), and "was part o f a widespread movement for social change" (Graubard in Novak, 1975, p. 35). Many streams o f schooling make up the river o f educational change at this time; Montessori, Waldorf, and open schools, represent just a few.  While there are shared aspects  amongst these streams o f schooling, what differentiates democratic free schools most distinctly from these progressive initiatives is its commitment to deschooling (Illich), unschooling (Holt) and a refusal of the banking system o f education (Freire). This commitment involves: eliminating George Dennison's The Lives of Children. Jonathan K o z o l ' s Free Schools and Alternative Schools. A . S. NeiU's Summerhill. M . N o v a k ' s L i v i n g and Learning in the Free School (notably this was also written as part of a graduate degree), and Nigel Wright's Free School: The White L i o n Experience are all examples of such texts. Skoae: The Journal of Alternative Education (Albany), This Magazine is about Schools (Toronto) later to become Our Schools/Our Selves, and N e w Schools Exchange Newsletter (Santa Barbara), are each examples of such journals. 2 5  2 6  38  a prescriptive path, preset curriculum, ideas o f linear intellectual progressions, and other bonds o f dependency between student and teacher.  This includes holding at the heart a dedication to  facilitating self-regulation, and centralizing the concepts o f freedom and direct democracy. R o n M i l l e r argues that the reason the ideas and practices o f free schooling were well received in the 1960's is because it was a time where the American mainstream middle class widely began to question the role and ideology of the state (2002). The voices and resistances o f the c i v i l rights movement, the women's liberation movement, and the resistance to the American military in Korea and Vietnam resonated to a resounding pitch, and mainstream A m e r i c a began to seek avenues to counter what they identified as the flaws o f their own system (Miller, 2002). This was coupled with a belief that revolutionary action would bring rapid societal change. Schooling, the social institution " i n which culture makes its core values and vision o f the future most explicit" (Miller, 2002, p. 2), provided an avenue to critique the role o f the state, gave children what was seen as an alternative, and activated societal change. This was regardless o f i f one sought psychological and/or political change. While the Canadian and American contexts are similar, there are a few distinguishing factors between them. Principally is the relationship to the state. In Canada, much social change organizing tends to become interconnected with and dependent on .state funding. A s well Canada and the United States have a different history when it comes to private and independent schools. A s a result, many free schools in Canada became, or were initiated as, publicly funded schools.  27  L i k e l y , the schools' dependency on state funding connects to M a r k N o v a k ' s analysis that, "most Canadian free schools began by leaning toward A . S . N e i l l ' s philosophical position.  They  demonstrated a liberal concern for the individual student..." (Novak, 1975, p. 37). This stance is more likely to be acceptable to the state, then a more explicitly political one. In 1968 the H a l l Dennis Report was produced by the Ontario Department o f Education entitled " L i v i n g and  2 7  The relationship between free schools and public schools is addressed later in this chapter in  Reconciliations.  39  Learning: report o f Provincial Committee on A i m s and Objectives o f Education in the Schools o f Ontario." This proposed a dramatic change to state schooling that, i f adopted, would result i n standard schooling reflecting many o f the practices o f free schools. While never implemented, and widely dismissed, the report carried a legitimizing weight for many start up schools. Toronto was a particular hot bed for free schools and the free school movement.  In  addition to a number o f schools and educational adventures happening in Toronto in the 1960's and 70's, it also produced contributions  from  " T h i s magazine is about schools" from 1966- 1969, this included  and letter exchanges between key figures such as A . S . N e i l l , George  Dennison, Marshall M c L u h a n , and Paul Goodman and served as a discussion forum for free schools and similar initiatives.  It also worked as a notice board for communication o f new  schools and events across North A m e r i c a . In 1970, This B o o k is About Schools was published which was a collection o f articles previously published in the magazine. L o o k i n g through the free school literature, I particularly sought out texts that had an explicit political stance, and worked to incorporate power analyses, particularly around gender and 'race.'  What I found is limited at best.  What follows is a text-by-text reading for these  themes. In addition to these texts, some journal contributors such as Sarah Spinks and Satu Repo wrote articles explicitly looking at gender with themes such as girls developing professional aspirations other than mother and housewife (Spinks, 1970), advocating for sexual education (Repo, 1970; Spinks, 1970); however they are not approached in a particularly critical way. The questions they do ask do not seem to be expanded upon or to illicit responses from the dominant voices in the movement. A . S . N e i l l ' s Summerhill, as a revolutionary text, is limited. Throughout the text N e i l l has a desire o f mastery.  28  F o r each problematic circumstance illustrated, he has a definite  explanation—which he comes to through psychology. This psychological framework is used in a manner that does not allow room for consideration o f structural oppressions. N e i l l reduces racism 2 8  For more on A l c o f f ' s (1991) 'desire o f mastery' see Knowledge Claims in Methodology.  40  to an individual pathology o f misguided unhappy people.  H i s theory is that people who are  without fear are happy, and happy people who are able to independently contemplate their world, w i l l have no need to cause harm to others and w i l l thus transcend racism. This is a reductive and oversimplistic analysis, and perhaps what lead to K o z o l ' s assertion that Summerhill was one o f the most racist schools in England (Miller, 2002, p. 71).  The school was built on how N e i l l  understood the needs o f boys; while he states that the school probably works better for boys than girls, he does not explore this ( N e i l l in Snitzer, 1964, p. 16). Neither does he question or address the institutional or sociological division o f gender roles, but assumes gender scripts to be inevitable. The school is a private school with a considerable tuition, it draws students from an affluent socio-economic standing. N e i l l does not ask nor address what possible connections there may be between Summerhill's practice and ideology o f freedom and socio-economic standing. A further limitation o f Summerhill is that the issue o f power in the democratic process is largely overlooked. N e i l l does not problematize what happens to minority concerns when practicing the rule o f the majority other than to state that children in circumstances such as Summerhill are used to thinking beyond strictly individual needs and have a greater sense o f community justice, unfairness and inequality. However, he does not expand on how this works or on dynamics o f power within these processes. Dennison's The L i v e s o f Children (1969) is distinct for the way the student is maintained as central to the school, pedagogy, and text. This book is a testimony to a school that revolved around the children. The relationship between student and teacher is centralized as core to the purpose of teaching. This text is also striking for the degree o f humility, acknowledgement o f imperfection and self-reflection Dennison demonstrates throughout the book.  The First Street  School, which is described in this text, was founded intentionally for the urban poor, it is located within a multi-racial, low-income neighbourhood in N e w Y o r k C i t y ' s L o w e r East Side.  'Race'  and racism are addressed prominently in this text. Dennison believed that hatred based on race is a learned experience. Largely it is considered that racism w i l l be diminished, i f not eradicated,  41  through people becoming psychologically healthier the building o f strong relationships and a greater sense o f interconnection across races. Through this process it is hoped that colour, and thus, racism would disappear. Dennison identifies racism in his students strictly in terms o f name calling and otherwise individualized activities. H e does not address more systematic structures informing racialization and racism.  Passages strongly adhering to stereotypically gendered  typecasting and sexual division o f labour are common, normalized, and unproblematized throughout the book. He describes female students displaying highly sexualized behaviours that are often symptomatic o f having experienced sexual abuse, yet this is never discussed or identified as a concern. However economic class is seen as a complex issue that is actively worked with throughout the text. A s is the often ageist relationship between children and adults, a power relationship not often addressed in educational theory or elsewhere, is critically and deeply engaged within this text as well as many texts o f the free school movement. K o z o l ' s Free Schools (1972 ) in many ways reads as a text on h o w to build a free 29  school. In this text K o z o l addresses the importance o f building networks between free schools and how to address internal and external bureaucracy with little or no money.  H e is both  dedicated to and has trepidations about the free school movement. Freire was a strong influence on K o z o l ( K o z o l , 1972). In this text he maintains power, particularly racialized and bureaucratic power, to be o f central concern. He intertwines an analysis o f radical pedagogy with an analysis o f systematic racism. He sees great harm in packaging the psychological retreatist Summerhillian approach as radical or revolutionary. H e is highly critical o f much o f the movement, which he sees as white folks trying to abdicate their white privileged power and separate themselves from the system. He identifies the very ability to be in the position to retreat is "dependant on profiting from the consequences o f . . a structure o f oppression" (1982, p. 19).  K o z o l ' s intention is to  reclaim the revolutionary potential o f free schools. H e suggests that for this to happen white  This text was republished with the bulk of the content unchanged in 1982 as Alternative Schools: A Guide for Educators and Parents.  2 9  42  counterculture needs to acknowledge and negotiate in revolutionary ways the power that they have. K o z o l charges that the format o f free schools, as commonly adopted in the white counter culture, ignores the pragmatic oppressions that many people, particularly poor and black students face. Likewise, it ignores the unequal consequences o f their actions; particularly that poor black youth cannot so easily choose to j o i n back into the system i f they drop out. He advocates that building schools to fit the child (one o f N e i l l ' s raison d'etre) means incorporating an analysis o f that child's structural location. To do this he recommends schools remain small and address the specific needs o f the community they are located within.  K o z o l has more room for standard  application o f ideas around teaching and curriculum than many other advocates o f free schools. Significant in this text is the theme o f power. H e leaves this warning for free school practitioners: "It is an unhappy truth, however, in many Free Schools I have known, that nobody wants to believe that power is a real thing, that it is so real that it exists even among ten people, that it cannot be ignored." ( K o z o l , 1982 p. 27).  This is an apt description of my experiences and  readings o f free schools, certainly evident in the work o f Dennison and N e i l l . N i g e l Wright's Free School: The White L i o n Experience (1989) is a smaller publication about the White L i o n School in England. This text is interesting because its author, a former teacher o f the school, is highly critical o f both the intentions and the results o f the school. From its description, students at the White L i o n were uncommonly unrestrained.  White depicts a  painful disconnect between the teachers' ideas o f free and democratic schooling and the lived reality o f it. He talks about the staff wanting very much for the school to be a parent participatory school, yet finding that most o f the parents identified this as a sign that the teachers were abdicating their roles and responsibilities.  This tension was further exasperated by the repeated  mention that staff did not approve o f the more traditional path that most parents asked the school to take on. A s a result the leaders o f the school were in the ironic and patronizing position o f wanting to be democratic, but wanting the people to be different than they were. They did not  43  trust the people's analysis o f their situation. This highlights a common aspect to free schooling, and social change initiatives generally, which is the imposition o f ideas to define another's path to freedom. W h i l e antithetical to the hopes o f the free school movement, this is none-the-less a practice that exists within it.  Contemporary Free Schools M u c h o f the life energy going in to the free and democratic school movement o f the 1960's and 1970's has been re-routed. Largely it has gone into the explosion o f the unschoolinghome schooling movement 'alternative'  and into initiatives  to grow  community  schools and public  schools that emphasize 'child-centered education' and community  determined  education. However free schools from the height o f the movement still exist today. In Canada, Windsor House and A l p h a remain as the schools with the strongest continuous practical links to free schooling. A l p h a School, in downtown Toronto, has consistently struggled to be a radical alternative within the system, and has many members striving to return to its democratic free school roots, however it does not currently practice as a free school (Slashinsky, 2005). However free schooling has remained central to its purpose.  Windsor House has gone through many  phases around its free school practice. Currently, it is actively struggling with its board to retain its free school ways.  A great deal o f the forces which moved them away from free school  approaches experienced by both o f these schools are because o f their position as publicly funded schools, and resultant school board co-optations and pressures to standardize.  This is a fate  experienced by most Canadian free schools, as a result many from the 1960's and 70's continue to exist in name today, but have, through the processes o f public school bureaucracy, become almost indistinguishable from standard schools.  r  44  Other schools continue to exist.  Summerhill continues to thrive,  directed by A . S .  N e i l l ' s daughter Zoe Redhead, it operates remarkably similarly to how it did in its early days (  Texts such as Matthew  Appleton's  A  Free Range  childhood: Self Regulation at Summerhill School (2000) continue to come out o f the school. Albany Free School, the school that N e i l l said its founder M a r y Leue would be "daft to try" likewise thrives as one o f the most impressive schools I know o f (Mercogliano, 2003a). Recently Chris Mercogliano, a co-director at Albany has produced two books about The Free School, M a k i n g It U p A s W e G o A l o n g (1998) and Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable N o Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed (2003).  M a k i n g It U p A s W e G o  A l o n g follows i n the free school movement tradition o f documenting the praxis o f the school. Central to The Albany Free School is the idea that freedom exists within community and that the notion o f community is necessarily politicized. The school is not contained within the physical, run-down brick building it occupies; it is spread throughout the neighbourhood in all sorts o f ways.  Students apprentice, independently explore, steward, and participate in the community  around them. Likewise the initiatives o f the school include the wider community, in the form of community dinners, a birth support center, housing support, public events, and naturalizing public places. Race, class, sexuality, gender, age, physical and mental abilities are understood to operate on an individual and a structurally political level through out the students and community. Though this school is private, they have prioritized funding possibilities beyond tuition so that the school is accessible to all members o f the community it is located w i t h i n .  31  Teaching the Restless is an unusual book to come out o f free school literature because although it is implicit on every page, it does not directly address Albany as a free school. This Recent court battle with the British Department of Education and Employment over SummerhiU's educational philosophy not withstanding. Tuition slides to zero and no family has been turned away for financial reasons. The strategy to support this rests on the founder purchasing the building the school is located in and the school community buying, fixing, and leasing surrounding properties. This is possible because of the inner-city neigbourhood the school is located in has a shrinking population and low property value.  3 0  3 1  45  book is about the praxis o f interacting respectfully with children and youth that have been pushed out, thrown out or dropped out o f standardized school specifically in relation to being coerced onto biopsychotic drugs. Mercogliano sidesteps standard school assumptions, and describes what he has learnt to be o f service to these students. Albany forbids biopsychotic drugs and instead focuses on giving space for the emotional needs o f the person. It is the only book in the free school literature that I have come across that backdrops the free school for such a wide spread issue. In addition to the schools remaining from the 1960's and 70's, o f which the above examples are only a few. There is currently another wave o f schools emerging, the Sudbury Valley School ( S V S ) model is one stream o f this wave. The initial school founded in 1968, has more recently triggered a number o f schools modeled on it. To become a S V S interested parties can purchase the 'Planning K i t " from the S V S web site and follow the steps outlined (  These schools are very popular with about thirty in operation  more starting every year.  32  and  A n array o f small press publications emerged from the school.  F o l l o w i n g in the tradition o f the free school movement most o f these publications are written by members o f the schools and focus primarily on describing the school and individual stories o f students. W h i l e following closely to the Summerhillian approach, in the reading I have done o f the S V S materials, I have not found credit given concerning the origin o f their ideas. The S V S concept is presented almost as i f it came exclusively from the minds o f the founders. S V S works with a belief at children are best left to mature naturally, without the coercion o f socialization. Within this vision the students are seen as free and independent individuals who together do not have a distinct school culture (Greenberg, 1995). Typically they have a highly prohibitive tuition rate and do not concern themselves with working towards being inclusive.  Generally S V S  schools intentionally strive to separate themselves from the larger political context they are located in. This is the stream o f schooling that exhibits the elements that K o z o l was so incredibly 3 2  Including the Canadian Fairfield School in Wolfville, N o v a Scotia.  46  concerned about in Free Schools and Alternative Schools as "endeavoring] to exist within a moral v a c u u m " ( K o z o l , 1982, p. 19) and attempting to abdicate their inherent power. Over the past few years, there has been an increased public interest in the praxis o f free and democratic schools. I suspect this is largely in resistance to increased standardization and competition in schooling as a whole. This interest seems to have the greatest force, but is not exclusive to A m e r i c a .  W h e n I attended the 2003 International Conference on Democratic  Schooling ( I D E C ) , hosted by Albany Free School, there were free and democratic schools from a variety o f philosophies from many countries. Across the world there are many similar initiatives. There is a great deal o f interesting work being done in A s i a around school and test resisting and free schooling (Nagata, 2002; Asakura, 2003; Tien, 2003); a wide scale democratic, antistandardization schooling process happening in Israel (Hecht, 2003), and powerful participatory democracy and community appropriation o f schooling in the Argentinean piqueteros movement (Bordeqaray, 2004).  33  Recently there have been a small number o f texts coming out which bring to the subject a larger and more historic or academic scope. John Taylor Gatto's D u m b i n g U s D o w n (1992),  34  Joel Spring's A Primer o f Libertarian Education (1998), R o n M i l l e r ' s Free Schools. Free people: education and Democracy After the 1960's (2002), and Matt Hern's Deschooling Our L i v e s (1996)  35  and F i e l d D a y : Getting Society out o f School (2003) are some examples. What these  books offer are: a contemplation o f the historical context o f the schools and the ideologies shaping them, a wider consideration o f the radical potential and limitations in free schooling, and a compassionate engagement with the relationship between schooling our children and shaping our society.  Soledad Bordeqaray, a woman involved with starting a participatory democratic school in Argentina as part of the unemployed Workers reappropriation and resistant movement came with me to Windsor House for a tour of the democratic process used there. She found what she saw at Windsor House to have many similarities to what she was familiar with in Argentina. Gatto's work in Dumbing Us D o w n builds in many ways on the work of John Holt. Hern's work in many ways builds on the work of Ivan Illich.  3 3  34  3 5  47  In terms o f how the literature o f democratic free schools address space, I have not found a single text that centralizes it. However, neither have I found a text that does not address it in some way.  Whether it is talking about the importance o f informal drop in spaces (Appleton,  2000), or space where students have opportunity to try things out free from the scrutiny o f adult monitoring  (Mercogliano,  1998), the  importance  o f being outdoors  (Mercogliano,  1998;  Dennison, 1969; N e i l l , 1960), or o f getting out o f the school building and into the community (Mercogliano, 1998; Dennison, 1969). A school being assigned a district school building (like Windsor House) is rare; most schools occupy houses, old reclaimed school buildings, people's homes, church basements, or otherwise make-shift locations. Some o f the more affluent schools, such as Summerhill and Sudbury Valley make their home on large converted pastoral estates. Almost every school has encountered a battle in maintaining its space.  M o s t are forced to  dedicate time to the difficulties stemming from the pressures o f building inspectors, zoning codes, and educational regulatory boards, which seem to be exerted with unusual fervor with regards to free schools. One o f K o z o l ' s more famous lines, that seems to have resonance throughout free schools is: "it is easier to start a whore house, a liquor store, a pornography shop or a bookie joint than it is to start a little place to work with children" ( K o z o l , 1972, p. 27-28). In the end, this is often what causes democratic free schools to shut their doors.  Reconciliations There are many aspects o f free schools that I find a challenge to reconcile with my hopes for radical pedagogy.  A principal difficulty is the exclusionary and individualistic tendencies  within the movement that often become a white privileged retreat from social justice action. "Let us not ignore that the fact that these [free schools] are largely white, middle-class ideas" concludes Mercogliano in M a k i n g It U p A s We G o A l o n g ,  (1998, p. 136).  The free school  movement has principally been lead, organized, attended and documented by white, middle-class  48  men folk.  In my investigation into how democratic and free-schools self identify in regards to  difference, ' r a c e , '  36  sexuality, ability and class in their web presences  37  ( M i l l s , 2002) only  Windsor House and Albany identified inclusively as a priority o f the school. That free schools serve the interest o f white middle class folk to the exclusion o f everybody else is a most powerful and urgent critique o f free schools. It is one I do not wish to undermine, for it needs to be earnestly considered, addressed, and overcome; I do not believe that the exclusionary history o f free schools is inevitable in the future o f democratic free schooling. A vocal component o f this critique is around the abandonment o f credentials such as test scores, grades, and diplomas. A n argument is made that forfeiting credentials is fine for middle and upper class white kids who have a network o f social capital to prop-themselves up with, but in this racist, stratified society, the risk is much greater for people without this social capital. In this position there is often an assumption that public schooling, and its related credentials, provides a path to equity. M i c h e l l e Fine eloquently articulates this as a myth in her text Framing Dropouts (1991): Initially, she intended to look at why so many B l a c k , poor students in the innercity A m e r i c a do not finish school. Instead she shifted her research question to ask, why so many remain in school given the schools' apparent commitment to their failure.  One participant,  working towards high school completion poignantly describes his motivation to finish school stemming from not wanting to become the B l a c k man on the subway asking for change, yet being cognizant, even as he struggles, o f the futility o f his path, as he is aware that man likely has a diploma himself (Fine, 1991). The promise of schooling, for this participant, is vastly insufficient to hold the promise o f equity. A l l the free school literature I have found addressing 'race' addresses Black and sometimes White; no other racialized locations are addressed showing how severely limited this discourse is. In this section I use the word 'black' mirroring the literature, writing against the assumption of white yet doing so acknowledging its serious limitations. This study looked at the web presence of thirty-five contemporary free schools, for how they self-identify, and what, if any, attention is given to prioritizing inclusively. It is limited by the fact that schools with more resources are much more likely to have web presences. Many of these sites have since added a standard 'this school does not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, or gender' in their admissions sections.  3 6  3 7  49  It is imperative to remember the promise o f equity through schooling as a myth cloaking hazards. W i l l i a m U p s k i Wimsatt in N o M o r e Prisons (1999) addresses this in his chapter "That's fine for white kids like you, but my children need a high school diploma." He asks i f the need for the diploma is real or i f it is an addiction to school.  W h i l e not dismissing public school  transformations in entirety, U p s k i Wimsatt outlines how public school in general not only doesn't work for structurally oppressed students but also causes damage. These damages include, but are not limited to the associated feelings of inadequacy, disheartenment, lack o f esteem which results from  dropping out or failing, "learning to associate being smart with being white" (Upski  Wimsatt,  1999, p. 70), and "learning that we can't believe our own experience" (Asiba  Tupanhach as qt in U p s k i Wimsatt, 1999, p. 70). U p s k i Wimsatt writes that "young people are being taught to hate public life in pre-prison-like places called public schools" (Upski Wimsatt, 1999, p. 152), and highlights other, more strategic possibilities that are being tried: "There is a long tradition o f black people educating themselves in prison or dropping-out o f school and succeeding without a diploma.... B l a c k families have always found secret ways to educate themselves, or they wouldn't be 'free' today" (Upski Wimsatt, 1999, 68).  U p s k i Wimsatt's basic  argument is that many 'oppressed' people are doing home schooling, self-education, and parent run schools, so it must be acknowledged as possible and supported. He doesn't spend much time exploring barriers to doing it, asking why more people are not doing it, or addressing the possibility o f the value o f social capital o f the credentials. Free schools often dismiss the need and pursuit o f credentials for good reason. When the questions are asked, what w i l l assist our children, youth, and communities to thrive? (Hern, 2005) What w i l l foster the growth o f equity and a respect for diversity? unlikely that the rituals and curriculum o f schooling w i l l be the response. The drive to meet the requirements to achieve the credentials often diverges energies from, and obscures the ability to, identify and take action around the conditions o f one's context, inhibiting social change. What has been critically  50  overlooked in the history o f free schooling is that sometimes, those credentials serve an important strategic purpose, allowing communities or individuals more options to thrive.  Wright in The White L i o n Experience (1989) addresses how the mostly middle class staff were regularly at odds with the mostly working class parents around appropriate paths o f action. The parents felt a need for greater conformity to standardizatioh/"which was dismissed as an uninformed position by the staff.  This dismissal fails the very .principles o f participatory  democracy and self regulation the school was attempting to realize.. Unfortunately this is a story common to many free schools and radical education endeavors more "generally. K o z o l addresses this as a concern in Free Schools (1972) when he implores people" involved in free schooling to consider the radical potential o f assisting students in passing tests without subscribing to the related acceptance o f that test as a measure o f success. The Citizenship Schools emerging from the Highlander F o l k School are an example o f an efficient strategy to address the context o f an imposed situation. Citizenship schools were a response to state laws that required 'Negros' to pass a literacy test to be permitted their right to vote. The schools were kitchen table literacy groups, which used the B i l l of Rights as text and had the purpose o f assisting participants to past the test—not necessarily to learn to read. It was largely effective because it met the needs o f that context (Bledsoe, 1969). K e y in this is the role o f self-determination within the strategy. There is no one path or point o f entry in social change; unequivocally resisting credentials may not be the most prudent or radical path. It is imperative that room be made for multiple sites o f action to occur simultaneously. The relationship to public schooling is another point that is difficult to reconcile. R o n M i l l e r , in Free Schools, Free People (2002), argues that the state is invested in maintaining a technocratic society, which is necessarily oppressive. A s such, it is unable to support, or fund institutions such as free schools that are counter to technocracy. This argument was pervasive in the 1960's and 1970's free school discourse when it was seen as possible to escape from society  51  and government. A t this time, particularly in the States, the vast majority o f free schools were privately funded precisely because o f this combined distrust in the interest in the government, and a belief that it was possible to step outside o f that impact. Audre Lorde articulates this concern with partnering with the government most eloquently in her essay " T h e Master's Tools W i l l Never Dismantle the Master's H o u s e " (1984).  Lorde states that working within the master's  house, and defining it as the only source o f support, w i l l never bring about genuine change. Instead, it w i l l result in a diversion o f energies and being subject to the " o l d and primary tool o f all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns" (p. 113). So often the result o f state funding is the shape o f the resistance movement begins to fit nicely into what the state is w i l l i n g to accommodate. This presents the danger that our imagination is limited to what the state allows us to see as possible. It is often accompanied by a growing sense o f dependence on the state for survival. B e i n g state funded increasingly means being subjugated to high levels o f centralization, standardization and bureaucracy, largely i f not entirely, unrelated to the needs o f the members o f the school; a paradoxical dynamic to the idea o f participatory democracy. Windsor House, as both a state funded school and a free school, occupies a contradictory and precarious existence. A s a result o f being publicly funded, and the shifting needs o f the state, Windsor House School has had at many times a great deal o f its energies consumed in defending and fighting for its existence, energies that the members would much prefer to spend elsewhere. This has led to questioning their continued public funding. However, being publicly funded also means access to resources, benefits and money so that members do not have to pay for schooling, resulting in a significantly increased accessibility. Additionally, public schooling is where most kids, particularly those most oppressed, spend most of their time. Further, there is the hope that within a democratic state, it is possible to establish public institutions that work for the people o f that state. The question has become how can Windsor House occupy its public school location most creatively and effectively. This dilemma has informed Windsor House's position, which is to struggle for non-standardization within public schooling.  52  There is not an absolute path o f grace through these dynamics. The questions o f what it means to work for radical action towards equity and respect cannot be succinctly answered. It must involve multiple sites o f action simultaneously, and movement towards fostering an interconnected web o f self-determination.  Windsor House is located within a tapestry  of  democratic free schooling and radical pedagogy; this is a historical, inspirational and problematic context. Developing a sense o f this context can help bring awareness o f weaknesses, a sense o f connection, and clarity o f intention into present work.  53  Image 10: Path Through the Blackberry Brambles at Windsor House.  54  Methodology Audience This thesis is about imagining and creating non-standard spaces, both physical and imagined. It is intended for a broad audience engaged with structuring space, and negotiating rules and authority.  This thesis is intended for audiences o f both the discipline o f Educational  Studies, and those involved with the practice and discourse o f free and democratic schooling. It is not intended to be an argument for reforming standardized schools to be kinder and gentler. The shifted context o f free schools i n general, and Windsor House in particular, is not about "calling teachers by their first name and couches" (Field note, June 23, 5848).  38  Advocating for  these types o f cosmetic shifts, often considered sufficient to make a school 'alternative,' is in no way the objective o f this paper. This thesis is written in similar form to the texts from the free school movement o f the 1960's and 7 0 ' s ; it has an explanatory power for an audience who is unfamiliar with the ideas free schooling and is written to explain the workings o f the school in a way which people from similar schools may be able to identify and compare practices. Last, but not least, the knowledge claims, representations, and explanations o f this thesis are intended to "contain explanatory power in relation to the subjects/ objects that they were designed to represent" (Skeggs, 1997, p. 21). While acknowledging that this is my own work and I do not speak for Windsor House School, it is my hope that the content o f this project w i l l have resonance within Windsor House and be o f service there. In this way, the members o f Windsor House School are an intended audience for this paper. This is a complicated position as it entails my speaking to Windsor House about Windsor House. L i n d a Alcoff, in her essay " T h e Problem o f Speaking for Others" asks:  In a discussion about alternative education a staff member joked that the attributes of calling teachers by their first name and couches seemed to be sufficient for a school to be considered alternative regardless of the schools approach to teaching, learning, education or respecting students.  3 8  55  Is the discursive practice o f speaking for others ever a valid practice, and, i f so, what are the criteria for validity.... In both the practice o f speaking for as well as the practice o f speaking about others, I am engaging in the act o f representing the other's needs, goals, situation, and in fact, who they are.  I am representing them  as such and such, or in post-structuralist terms, I am participating in the construction o f their subject-positions." (Alcoff,  1991, p. 7, 9 italics in the  original). A l c o f f lays out four steps to assist the practice o f speaking for or about another.  The  first, is to carefully analyze the impetus to speak; the second, is to do the real work o f "interrogating] the bearing o f our location and context on what it is we are saying"; the third, is to be accountable and responsible for what one says; the forth, is to analyze and "look at where the speech goes and what it does there" (Alcoff, 1991).  Inspired by A l c o f f s guidance, this  methodology chapter outlines the intention behind my claims to knowledge, my relationship to the topic, the process behind the production o f this thesis, and the beginnings of establishing a relationship o f accountability to this work.  Knowledge Claims The epistemological stance from which I make knowledge claims is founded on Donna Haraway's concept o f situated knowledge (Haraway, 1991). Haraway envisions a web holding all people, technologies, and life each with a knowledge base informed, but not limited to, their situated positions in the web.  The objective o f this stance, is learning to converse between  positions in order to foster partial connections. "The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular" (p. 196). In this model "accounts o f a 'real' or 'objective' world do not depend on a logic o f 'discovery,' but on a power-charged social relation of 'conversation'" (p. 198). The entirety o f the web is beyond the grasp o f any position, thus knowledge claims are  56  always partial. Pursuit o f "feminist objectivity" (p. 188), as Haraway seeks in this approach, lies in the pursuit o f knowledge claims that have increased resonance through the web. I am situated with partial vision.  I have made partial connections with subjects o f  knowledge at Windsor House School who have enhanced what I have been able to see and understand. " W e do not seek partiality for its own sake, but for the sake o f the connections and unexpected openings situated knowledges make possible" (Haraway, 1991, p. 196).  In this  stance, it is imperative to understand objects o f study as agents o f knowledge and, as researcher, to leave space in the imagination, processes, and understandings for the unpredictable and independent humour and knowledges o f these agents. Both A l c o f f and Haraway insist on an acceptance that errors are unavoidable and warn against fostering a 'desire for mastery' which involves "privilege[ing] oneself as the one who more correctly understands the truth about another's situation" (Alcoff, 1991, p. 29) or as one who has a total knowledge o f a position (Haraway, 1991, p. 195). concerns when he warns against seeking the comfort certainty"  39  Paulo Freire has similar  o f closing oneself into "circles o f  and assuming understanding (Freire, 1999, p. 20). Drawing from Haraway, supported  by the ideas o f A l c o f f , I do not claim to present an objective 'real', analysis, or to eliminate accountability by proposing that all knowledge claims are of equal validity. Rather the claims o f knowledge I assert here are "tuned to resonance, not dichotomy" (Haraway, 1991, p. 194).  Me Because traditional objectivity is not assumed, it is imperative that I am as transparent about my biases as possible. I have feelings o f respect, gratitude, and care for the people o f  'Circles of certainly' refers to closing or imprisoning oneself into a 'truth' from which escape is not sought or desired. This position results in one feeling threatened and defensive if that 'truth' is questioned (Freire, 1999). T o Freire the role of the radical is to refuse circles of certainty and fully enter into reality "so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen [or] to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them" (Freire, 1999, p. 21).  3 9  57  Windsor House. I have deep commitment to the ideas, practice, and future o f this, and similar, school spaces. I see powerful work going on in these spaces that is worth note and celebration. I feel this way not only because they dare to go against what is standard, but also because o f the strong ethic o f care, and the nature o f the lessons about self regulation and relational living that can be fostered there. Overall, my politics and motivation within the discourse o f free schooling are rooted solidly within a feminist socialist intention that is buttressed with regrettable liberal habits and an uncertain reliance on anarchist tendencies. I consider myself a strategic constructionalist; I take the stance that i f there is a human nature that exists beyond the reaches o f sociology, it is beyond our collective ability to identify it.  A s we cannot know the confines o f our biology, it is  strategically imperative to push the confines o f our sociology. I position myself as a critical postmodern feminist with material leanings and have the goal o f impacting change. This means I am dedicated to the practice o f picking apart that which is assumed as normal, and that I refuse the master narrative in favour o f fractured and partial narratives. Advocating feminism means working  from  assumptions that power constitutes all  dynamics and that interpersonal and structural dynamics inform one another. Hegemonic power functions through, but is not limited to, aspects o f 'gender,' 'sexuality,' 'ability,' age, 'race', culture, and space.  40  In any critical engagement it is necessary to tease out dynamics o f power.  While I embrace a postmodern frame, I understand that popular imaginings o f reality form reality and must be engaged with in order to feel change at the day-to-day material level.  While I  understand life is not possible without inflicting harm and hurt, my goal is to change behaviour to minimize the harm inflicted.  The quotations around these terms are intended to indicate the term as a construct, and not a definite thing.  4 0  58  I am a White, A n g l o , atheist, bisexual, middle-class, mostly able-bodied, thirty-one year old, Canadian female graduate student.  41  B o r n i n N o v a Scotia, where my family has long  standing colonial roots, my parents and I moved to Victoria, British Columbia when I was an infant. Victoria is a small, disproportionately wealthy, highly regulated, and calm island city. After two years o f daycare, I began my formal schooling i n the standard public school system. B y the close o f grade one, my father was determined to remove me from this process. H i s motivation came from his deep dislike o f his own schooling experience, contact with R o c h d a l e , reading A . S. N e i l l ' s Summerhill,  43  42  and his experience as a casual volunteer at a small free school  in Lunenberg County, N o v a Scotia. When I was seven years old, I started Sundance Elementary School, a Summerhill inspired progressive alternative public school that functioned with studentdirected learning, a high degree o f student mobility, an emphasis on emotional well-being, and without a system o f evaluation, assessment, or prescriptive curriculum. M y mother had trepidations around Sundance's pedagogy but took a leap o f faith and agreed to try out the school because o f how impressed she was with the kindness o f the staff and the respectful ways in which they interacted with me. After six years at Sundance, I attended standard public junior high and high schools, then, a few years later, completed an honours degree in Women's Studies at the University o f Victoria. A s a young adult I spent five years as a caregiver to an unschooling home learner.  Later I spent a few years running a program in a  public community school for the youth o f two very small, racially stratified and isolated villages on the West Coast o f Vancouver Island. Although children have always been a b i g part o f my life, I do not have any o f my own. In my experiences with standard and feminist pedagogical practices I often found myself feeling frustrated and i l l at ease; these feelings began my first day o f junior high and became  Each of these identifiers is imprecise and contested. Rochdale was a co-operative student run residence and free school university in the late 1960's in Toronto, Canada. See Foundations in Literature Review for more on A . S. N e i l l and Summerhill.  4 1  4 2  4 3  59  more pronounced through high school and into university.  I attribute this to a disjunctive  between the lessons I learnt about process, learning, and teaching in these settings compared to those I learnt from radical pedagogy. A s a result, during university I began to focus my academic work on this disjuncture.  Through this engagement I began to understand that many o f my  experiences and lessons from radical pedagogical praxes rested outside o f what many o f my colleagues were imagining as possible, yet may be o f use in addressing their objectives o f antioppressive education. I began to understand my situated position as a place from which to pursue communication that resonates across boundaries o f pedagogical approaches.  When I entered  graduate studies in the specialization o f Feminist Approaches to Social Justice in Education in the department o f Educational Studies at the University o f British Columbia my intention was to document radical pedagogical practices for those unfamiliar with them so that they could more easily be imagined as possible, and simultaneously to critically engage with those practices using the lessons o f deconstruction I had learnt through feminist theory. Shortly after moving to Vancouver for graduate work, I established contact with Windsor House School and requested permission to do a three-month, fifty-hour placement at the school for an elective course " W o m e n as Agents o f Change: A Practicum in Women's Studies." Requirements for this course included a journal, a cumulative report, and in-class presentation.  44  The people at Windsor House graciously welcomed me to the school. While I was there, I was invited by the vice-principal and members o f the staff to root my master's thesis research at Windsor House. Originating from American B l a c k and Chicana feminist academics who identified their own racialization as significant sources of knowledge to bring into the research process (De Andrade, 2000; H i l l Collins, 1999), it has become common practice for qualitative researchers to position themselves as 'insider' or 'outsider.'  These terms are generally applied broadly to refer  There are occasional references throughout this paper to experiences and documents from the time of this practicum, however as I was not in the school as the role of researcher, these references are slight and unspecific.  4 4  60  to membership status about the group one is researching. Often this is unnecessarily reliant on an idea o f a stable coherent self (Preissle, 1999) and provides little information to the reader. I am not an 'insider' at Windsor House; because I have no children I am not a parent, because I have no teacher's license or position I am not a member o f the staff; because o f my age I am not a student. Yet, it is imprecise to position myself entirely as an 'outsider.' M y social status is akin to the predominate members o f the group. M y educational history provides me with an informed knowledge base. M y experience as a practicum student, Windsor House's concept o f community member extending to community volunteer, and the personal relationships developed through the research process (Preissle, 1999) each trouble the notion o f my identifying as 'outsider.'  That  said, and bearing Stacey's warning against the "delusion o f alliance" (1988) that can occur within feminist practices o f ethnographic research methods, I am not an 'insider' o f the space I am depicting.  The Topic M y decision to ask the research question: what lessons are embedded in the consumption of space at Windsor House was inspired through my practicum. During that time I found myself gravitating towards structured events where I felt I knew what to do, and found myself uncertain as to how to engage with the apparent unstructured randomness o f the school.  T w o related  realizations occurred upon reflection o f this. The first is that in my childhood, I excelled i n this self-directed learning environment that was now causing me discomfort.  The second was that  other public spaces with mixed age, seemingly random activities, such as community centres, libraries, and parks do not inspire me to feel at a loss for how to engage. These two realizations worked together to lead me to understand that I had developed strong, visceral expectations about behaviour within a school building, expectations that I did not have as a child and that were being challenged at Windsor House. A s Hern states: "people know, almost instinctively, how to act in a  61  school b u i l d i n g " (2003, p. 76). This is the genesis that shaped my research project around the questions o f what is learnt from the space o f this school. Academic processes and outcomes are conspicuously absent in this project.  This is not  because I do not value academic pursuits; nor is it because I wish to obscure or cloak how this occurs. Rather this decision is based on the observation that many conversations between 'free schoolers' and 'standard schoolers' revolve around the criteria established by the 'standard schoolers' as the most pertinent to education, specifically, curriculum achievement. While this can be an interesting discussion, it is a challenging one in which to communicate the shifted and distinctive educational context o f free schools.  Further highly controversial ideas, such as  children not needing to be taught to read, inevitably become paramount in this discussion. This often sparks controversy, defensiveness, and fear, which severely limits the discussion. For related reasons, I have made intentional choices not to unduly shape this project as a comparison with standard schooling. This comparison often results in a competition for notions o f ideal pedagogies, a retreat to oppositional binary stances, and an inability to hear and speak across them. I do not intend to present the praxis o f Windsor House as an ideal, nor do I wish to spend my efforts engaged in a competition for the best path for standardizing schooling. I do not support the idea that schooling ought to be standardized. In my choice to start with the school building, I am hoping to initiate this paper around that which has broad range  familiarity.  Through focusing on the subtleties o f the school space, I hope to communicate the context and the forum in which learning occurs at this free school.  This decision is predicated on my  understanding that form shapes content, and that process is product (Freire, 1999). M y impetus to speak comes from a desire to communicate in a way that resonates with multiple positions in free schooling, standard schooling and feminism. M y experience in each o f these areas positions me to do the work o f bridging between them. While I do not seek, nor hope for, a path of convergence between them, I do think that more information and clearer communication is useful. Additionally, but related, free schools often face external pressures to  62  conform and standardize. T o contest this Windsor House and other free schools are working to create, and requesting the creation of, more documentation and opportunities to share stories. It is hoped that an increased provision o f information w i l l be a tool to better position themselves to advocate against the forces o f standardization and for their continued survival.  This thesis is  intended to be o f service to this hope.  Field Work What constitutes 'the field' in this fieldwork is not natural or pre-given (Emerson et al., 2001). I limited the field to the documents, people and space o f the Cloverley site, and adjoining parkland o f Windsor House School. This same question could have been addressed with the field expanded to include  fieldtrips,  off-grounds  activity, web presence, community  events, and  personal homes, all o f which are integral parts o f the space o f Windsor House. M y limits were based on the desire to make the scope o f the project more manageable; as it was, the size and scope o f the field was rather unwieldy.  Permission With the informal invitation from members o f staff at Windsor House to conduct research, I sought and received permission from the North Vancouver School Board, and U B C ethical review board. I then sought and received formal consent from Windsor House, in which the vice-principal agreed to oversee my presence in the school. Although this was sufficient to meet the requirements o f the ethical review board, I extended the process o f permission by writing into my project that fieldwork would be contingent on school council approval.  45  On  Thursday M a y 13, 2004 I went to Windsor House to introduce a resolution to allow the research to go ahead; although I was fairly confident it would pass, I was also nervous. The first thing I had to do was learn the process to introduce a resolution.  4 5  For details on the workings and decision-making structure of school council see Making Rules  in Rules and Governance.  63  / approached a teacher familiar to me who was at the sign in sheets doing paperwork. She told me I needed to write the resolution out on a piece of paper—any piece of paper, write "B.I. R. T. " on the top to stand for "Be It Resolved That, " give the paper to the council, and be at council to defend it. As an afterthought she told me that because I am an adult, I needed three students to sign the bottom of it. Feeling a bit sheepish, I walked up and down the hallway looking into rooms for students to approach. Most rooms seemed big and intimidating and I felt I would disturb a lot ofpeople by going in and asking. It felt strange to have this work, which was so important to me, be at the discretion of a group ofyouth. I don' t know when I have been dependant on the approval of kids for permission to do something I wanted; times I have asked for input have felt more like my call than a structural requirement. I went into the small Multimedia room, introduced myself, and said what I needed. There were six students in this room (age 13-16)- five boys and one girl. The girl and a boy were reclined in the far corner, he with his arm around her. Two boys were working on computers and two more were sitting on chairs behind them. In general the students all wore dark clothes, baseball caps, lots of denim, and baggy pants. They were not 'clean cut,' but rather had a sort of 'alternative,' even sullen edge. They seemed unsuspicious of me; I thought they would be suspicious. When I started telling them what I was looking for, they cut me off and said "sure I'll sign" and got a pen. They were very friendly and receptive and made small chat with me as the card I had written the resolution on was passed around and signed by everyone. Afterwards, while I walked down the hall looking for the student council meeting, one of the fellows who signed the resolution walked past me "Are you  looking for the council? " he asked. He showed me where it was (Flying Pig Room) and held open the door for me. (Fieldnote, May 13, 04, 389-432). M y resolution stated " B.I.R.T. Sarah M i l l s may conduct research for her M . A . on h o w Windsor House School uses space." A t council there was some discussion about this resolution. One person asked i f they would be able to see what I wrote. Questions were asked regarding on what it would focus. A suggestion was made that I conduct the research i n two parts, with the second part i n the new location so that the effects o f the forced move could be documented. Other than myself, there was one staff member and four students at the meeting. It passed five for, no against, with no abstains. The resolution was posted in the newsletter. B y introducing the research as a resolution I embedded the condition that at anytime a counter-resolution could be passed revoking permission; this did not occur. The week after the council meeting, I introduced the project at a staff meeting. There was a strong sense o f timeliness expressed and lots o f interest i n expanding the research to include the next school space as well as requests to provide assistance in communicating with the school board.  Feedback was positive about my intention to identify myself with a nametag.  It was  suggested I should differentiate myself from the North Vancouver School Board ( N . V . S . B . ) adding "friendly" to my nametag.  46  With this in mind, I modified the sign on the door to include  the statement that this is an independent project, not connected to the N . V . S . B .  N o concerns  about my presence were expressed although a few members, through their body language, seemed unsure. Because o f the high degree o f movement and the numbers o f persons within the space, the standard practice o f individualized consent was not used. Instead, I provided multiple ways for people to be informed o f the research and to avoid participating.  T o this end, I placed an  announcement i n the weekly newsletter describing the research, posted a notice that research is The school board's recent audit and resultant 'recommendations' had brought many observers into the school. A s a result, during the time of my observations the school's continued existence was under threat. Because of this there was a tone of heightened anxiety about being observed.  4 6  65  underway on the entrance o f the school while I was present, and wore a nametag which said "Sarah, Researcher" while I was in the school. Anyone who wished themselves or their child to be excluded, in part or in total, could avoid me, or inform me, and they would not be included. Optional forms confirming exclusion were made available upon request. N o person contacted me to be excluded; I am unaware i f people avoided me. Anytime I talked to someone within the context o f the research, I verbally confirmed consent first by telling them that I was doing research and asking i f they were w i l l i n g to talk with me about it.  Methods Ethnography is a social science research strategy focused on "making the implicit explicit" (Stack, 2002) through the "recording of human behavior in cultural terms" (Wolcott as quoted in Creswell, 1998, p. 39). Although this project does not have the breadth or depth to be a full ethnography, it is guided by ethnographic motivations and uses the ethnographic strategies o f participant observation, observant participation, guided tours, discussions, and reviewing fieldbased documents. Participant observation is the dominant method o f inquiry in this project; it involves establishing a place within a field " o n a relatively long-term basis in order to investigate, experience and represent the social life and social processes that occur in that setting..." (Emerson et al., 2001). F o r this project, I not only observed participants in the space, but also placed a heavy emphasis on my own participation in the space. Loretta Lees (2001) argues that looking at the inhabitation o f space for relationships between built environments and social practices necessitates the ethnographic researcher's active and practical engagement with that space. This is echoed strongly by Thrift who argues that in this type o f work, there is "no hiding place" (Thrift, 2000, p. 556), researchers "must become observant participants rather than participant observers" (Thrift, 2000, p. 556; Lees, 2001).  66  I conducted forty-four hours o f fieldwork between M a y 12, and June 25, 2004 i n one to five hour durations. Thirty-nine o f the field hours were spent during regular school hours; the remaining time was spent in staff and evening meetings.  I participated in both informal and  formal activities. Sometimes I was interactive in what was going on around me, playing games, participating in a lesson, digging holes, photocopying documents; sometimes, generally at meetings, I took a quieter approach; as participation in activities is not mandatory, this is consistent with regular use o f the space. A t all times I was working to understand and engage with the space by the norms o f the school. I tried to follow the rules; I do not know i f I did. I never had a complaint i s s u e d ,  47  and rarely did someone ask me to change my behaviour.  Initially, I had planned to conduct a series o f interviews for this project.  48  Because o f a  concern for time in the field, and the need to be physically in the school space, this idea transformed into conducting semi-structured guided tours o f the school. I expected I would be able to conduct a number o f detailed tours o f the entire school and grounds, complete with stories and information.  A s the process o f ethnography is dialectical and emergent there is apt to be  some changes during the course o f inquiry (Eder and Corsaro, 1999); this was indeed the case. The school was big, very big, with lots o f small spaces. It quickly became clear that the length o f time demanded for a complete tour was unreasonable to expect o f any participant, and attempts even at partial tours resulted in superficial conversations; there was just too much to talk about. Instead, I asked people to take me to places where they spent time, and while in those spaces discussed them.  The dominant questions that emerged were 'who spends time here?' ' W h o  doesn't spend time here?' ' W h y ? ' 'What can y o u do here?' 'What can't y o u do here?' and ' H o w do you k n o w ? ' Additional sources that contributed to my knowledge o f the field include: weekly  For more information about complaints and knowing the rules, see Rules and Governance. T w i c e , I was asked to change my behaviour. Both times it was asking me to move a conversation out of a space others were trying to work in.  4 7  4 8  67  newsletters, Windsor House list serve, web archives, as well as the room memory walks and room use surveys conducted by Windsor H o u s e .  49  G o i n g into this research, my intentions were to participate and observe in the space in a range o f places and activities, and to engage with people in the space about how they were using it. I hoped to spend time outdoors, in large classrooms, small rooms, planned activities, academic lessons, a variety o f meetings, spontaneous activities and 'hanging out' in the space. I planned to spend some o f my time in one place watching movement, other time being guided through the space by school members, and other time moving around the space on my own inclination. For each day o f fieldwork, after having written up and reflected on my previous time at the school, I would develop a list o f objectives for my day. For example June 4 * my stated intentions for the day were to "take time out to write and do some o f the following: attend school council meeting; attend a class; find out more room council times; follow up on ' S e a ' s ' offer to do a tour; check in with computer room guys" (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2310-16). Rarely did I follow the list. That day my end o f the day summary o f activities were "math class in the castle; chat with ' K a y ' in flying  pig room; puppet show in the cottage; write in castle; tour with parent ' E l l e ' in the art  room; making bagels with ' T e a ' in kitchen; write in library; chat with ' T e a ' in quiet library; soccer in back field" (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2317-25). M y decisions for my activities while at the school were based on a m i x o f my daily and overarching intentions and my response to the circumstances I found myself i n . B y the end o f my fieldwork, I covered my objectives and was satisfied with my participation. If I were to do it again, I would add more time so that I could have conducted interviews. A s it was, I was just beginning to feel I was getting my bearings by the completion o f the  fieldwork.  Because activities are not standardized and use o f space is so  fluid, I cannot know what was occurring in spaces where I wasn't observing.  These surveys were instigated and conducted by members of Windsor House School in preparation for their move.  4 9  68  Participants A s no people withdrew, my observations included all staff, students, visiting parents, and volunteers I encountered at Windsor House. Regularly, while I was participating in or observing an activity I would ask questions about the activity.  A large amount o f the information was  gathered in these quick exchanges. W i t h the exception o f one person, who responded with closed body language and curt responses, everybody was open and receptive to my questions. I pursued conversations only with those who demonstrated responsiveness. Ten 'tours' occurred during this  fieldwork.  O f the tours I conducted, five were with  students, one with a staff member and four with parents.  A l l the adults were female; three  students were female, one male, and in a conversation with a group o f five students, four were male. The students' ages ranged between seven and sixteen. Eight o f the people I talked with appeared to be White.  The tours were initiated in a variety o f ways; sometimes students  approached me to ask what I was doing, I approached other people after contact was made through participating in joint activities. In general, because I am more comfortable approaching quieter people, in quieter spaces, the people I talked with were those not engaged in activities with lots o f people. A l s o , I talked to people who took the initiative and exhibited signs that they were interested in talking with me.  Relations with people M a n y people writing  about methodology express a concern about disrupting  the  processes one is observing (Eder and Corsaro, 1999). Jane Rule dismisses this as a "worship o f the objective that comes out o f the fantasy fiction o f science.... o f course all present physics says the experimenter changes the experiment; there isn't any way you can have an objective response so it is better to take responsibility for the fact that you are there" ( M i l l s et al., 2003). Inevitability, my presence at the school impacted the school.  However, the flexible structure,  mobility, and spontaneity o f the space curbed concerns about disruptions and being a burden.  69  Because o f their lack o f autonomy often due to restrictions placed on their movement, children and youth are particularly vulnerable populations with which to conduct research (Lipson, 1994). A t Windsor House, because o f their freedom o f movement, and not being subject to formal evaluation, participants have an unusual degree o f autonomy when it comes to entering and leaving the spaces.  Students regularly exercised their mobility while I was observing.  I  interpret that it was easy for students to remove themselves from this research without negative consequence.  This is not the only concern with doing ethnographic work with children.  The  related and principle concern is the power dynamic written into the age difference. The higher degree of autonomy in this setting did something to alleviate this; nonetheless it is an inevitable dynamic.  To minimize this effect, it is often recommended that researchers do not adopt  structural roles with authority, like teaching (Eder and Corsaro, 1999). F o r the most part I did refrain from these roles, however refraining  from  roles with authority  is not effective  in  eliminating my power as an adult. Part o f my observant participation at Windsor House was to engage with the school as a member. Students and staff often made requests o f me because I am an adult. A s a result I sponsored students outside, and on another occasion I sponsored students 50  in the band room. Accepting these roles, at the request o f members, was a way I demonstrated 51  responsibility to the people in the space. It was important to fostering a reciprocal dynamic being an observant participant. Earlier in the year o f this fieldwork the North Vancouver School Board audited Windsor House. A s a result o f this process many substantive changes were being imposed on the school. One o f these changes was the notice that Windsor House School would have to move locations before the next school year. In addition to the sense o f loss at having to leave the Cloverley site, members o f Windsor House were profoundly distressed by the proposed new sites that were not deemed feasible or appropriate to the needs o f the school. They had entered a process o f high 5 0  Sponsoring refers to a system of supervision. For more on sponsoring and licensing see  Authority, Negotiation and Power. 5 1  These roles are not exclusively for adults, older students sometimes take them on.  70  stakes negotiation with the board. The tension around this was a dominant presence in the school during this research. In this climate I was particularly sensitive to concerns about surveillance, anxiety o f changes and exhaustion with workload. In response I clearly communicated the nature of my research, and was courteous in an attempt not to add to the level o f exhaustion by asking for time and energy from those around me. A personal challenge I experienced as novice researcher was overcoming my personal discomfort with the role o f researcher and my need to observe and impose on people. Part of my discomfort was a resistance to ask people questions; I felt selfish and prying. I assume this discomfort was visible in my body language. I found these feelings dissipated when someone approached me to ask what I was doing and an opportunity was created to explain. Because o f this I did not initiate any large-scale dynamic opportunities for participation in the research plan. Fortunately, over the time there I became increasingly comfortable in my role.  Fieldnotes Fieldnotes are a written account and description to aid the process o f bringing a version o f participant observations to an audience (Sanjek, 1990); they are central to the ethnographic approach. Vocabulary and ideas about what constitutes fieldnotes are inconsistent (Sanjek, 1990a; Wolf, 1992).  This project involves four stages o f constructing fieldnotes.  The first stage o f  fieldnotes is 'mental notes' (Emerson et al., 2001) or 'headnotes' (Sanjek, 1990a); these happen during the observation process without pen and paper and are the process o f orientating the mind towards what w i l l be written latter.  'Headnotes' constantly change as new information is  gathered (Jackson, 1990; Sanjek, 1990a). The second stage of fieldnotes are called raw fieldnotes (Emerson et al., 2001), jotted notes (Emerson et al., 2001), or scratch notes (Sanjek, 1990a). These are written "more or less contemporaneously with the events depicted" (Emerson et al., 2001, p. 353). Every twenty to seventy minutes of observation I would pause to write in the notebook I carried with me.  My  71  jotted notes were written mostly in longhand, with some private symbols and abbreviation; they would include one or two sentences to assist with recalling later. I wrote them on site, but would generally withdraw to someplace more low-key like a couch in the library, or a relatively quiet room. I initially found it a struggle to find a place to write, and would often cut my days short because I was getting overloaded.  A t first, because it felt alienating and objectifying, I was  uncomfortable writing in front o f people, according to Emerson et al. this is not an uncommon feeling among researchers (2001).  A s I did not want to cloak that I was, in fact, a researcher  producing a product from my observations, or that those observations would be taken out o f the school for a public viewing, I continued to make these notes in public. B y the end o f my time at Windsor House, I was becoming more comfortable with this process. The third part o f my fieldnotes I also did by hand. These were written the same day and /or the following day as the field research, and completed before I returned to the school. This stage is sometimes referred to as "fieldnotes proper" (Emerson et al., 2001) and involves expanding the jottings into full sentence and what Geertz called 'thick description' (Eder & Corsaro, 1999). This is where the bulk o f the writing and reflection occurred and was core in seeing changes in understandings over time. The forth stage o f the fieldnotes is the creation o f "fieldnote records" (Emerson et al., 2001) this was done during and post  fieldwork.  Fieldnote  records involved the transcription, printing, and binding o f the fieldnotes proper into a linear, ordered, and more permanent record. A s the transcription occurred, some reflections were added, with dated notation.  The final product is a one-hundred-and-forty-seven page single spaced  document. Each stage o f these notes is necessarily a highly selective process, (Emerson et al, 2001). Choices are made about what to include and exclude. Each stage is an "ordering o f 'what we k n o w ' " (Wolf, 1992, p. 91); and is authored with a particular purpose (Emerson et al., 2001). My  fieldnotes  are loaded with detailed description o f rooms, activities, movement,  questions and responses. I included a number o f what Schensul et al. call ethnographic mappings (1999). Almost entirely, my fieldnotes are inscriptive rather than transcriptive (Emerson et al.,  72  2001, p. 359). However, I inserted members' terms and expressions as well as snippets o f verbatim dialogue in my description. A t times, I was privy to private information about people's personal histories, opinions about others, and strategies o f engagement about the forced move. This content, while it informed my knowledge o f the space, has been excluded from this document. Throughout my fieldnotes I included what K i r b y and M c K e n n a call 'conceptual baggage' (1989).  This consists o f including in the jottings and expanded notes reflections about my  thoughts, feelings and personal assumptions.  This is done prior to and throughout the  observations and interpretations i n order that "the researcher becomes another subject in the research process" (Kirby & M c K e n n a , 1989, p. 32). Emerson et al., citing Lofland and Lofland, name three reasons for including myself, as researcher, in this way. One, is that my reactions may mirror others i n the setting; two, they may provide leads; three, it may help to identify my biases, prejudices and changing attitudes (2001). During my observation, while I was i n the process o f composing the fieldnotes, I felt as i f I were gathering inadequate and empty description. M y anxiety was reassured only marginally by the knowledge that this feeling is typical to the process o f novice researchers. I found the process o f recording thick  fieldnotes  immensely tedious, time consuming and unreasonably  exhausting, however I was hugely enjoying my time at the school. The fieldnotes become the text on which the coding is based.  Interpretation Jackson writes that the role o f memory i n and o f itself becomes a type o f fieldnote open for interpretation (1990). The relationship between memory and fieldnotes is entangled. When I read over my fieldnotes, memories are triggered which are filled with colours, textures, faces and emotions beyond the scope o f the words o f the text. Simultaneously, I often find contradictions to what I think I know in the details o f my fieldnotes, and i n this way they work to remind me o f  73  aspects I had otherwise forgotten.  A n additional dynamic of the interplay o f memory and  fieldnote is the subtle yet pervasive way that my memory o f the text begins to overshadow my memory o f the lived experience; as I reflect on my time at Windsor House my memory is reshaped by the tone and content o f the notes I created. In all stages o f producing and interpreting fieldnotes what I looked for was shaped by Dorothy Smith's concept of institutional ethnography.  This is the study o f the shaping power o f  structures (Smith, 1987; Campbell & Gregor, 2002) it looks at "what actually happens as those who live it experience and talk about" (Campbell & Gregor, 2002, p. 52).  Proponents of  institutional ethnography understand "everyday life to be constituted by people whose activities are coordinated in specific w a y s " (Campbell & Gregor, 2002, p. 69) and that mapping these activities and coordinations can offer significant insight into how "people are tied together in ways that make sense o f abstractions o f power"  (Campbell & Gregor, 2002, p. 17). Texts are  seen as a prime component linking and coordinating people within institutions (Campbell & Gregor, 2002). F o l l o w i n g in this tradition, I focused on the relationship between texts, activities, and concepts o f what is possible within this institutional space. Likewise, the field o f feminist geography has significantly shaped my lens. I looked for who spent time where, who forced changes o f location, how power was exercised to gain control over territories  (Matthews,  1997); how people talked about the way the space is used  (Frankenberg, 1993), structures of segregation (Frankenberg, 1993); expressions o f anger (Blunt & Rose, 1994); when and where silences and speech happened (Nairn, 1997); and how and when spaces and activities were gendered ( M c D o w e l l & Sharpe, 1997), racialized (Matthews, 1997) sexualized (Valentine, 1993) and classed (Frankenberg, 1993). Before I began to code the fieldnote records I read through them twice, becoming familiar with their content and jotting notes about possible emergent themes. Then I coded for mobility, authority, rules, gender, names o f spaces, methodology, intimacy, overarching thesis ideas, particular people, the hallway, scheduling, and feelings o f chaos.  I read through the  74  document once for each code. A t the end o f this process I found three principal emergent themes: rules, movement and authority.  From these lists I developed chapter abstracts, then began to  identify illustrative stories to give body to the chapters. This was then transformed into a first draft, which was edited and expanded to include political and pedagogical context.  A s Lees  argues, ethnography is only useful in as much as it engages in a. "critique o f the politics o f meaning" (Lees, 2001).  Writing The style o f this completed document mirrors my fieldnotes; both are a m i x o f what V a n Maanen called "impressionist tales" which are "organized around 'striking stories' to draw the reader into contemplating the problems and puzzles o f a story for themselves" (Emerson et al., 2001, p. 357-8) and "confessional tales" which highlight the voice o f researcher and the research process (Emerson et al., 2001, p. 357). It is my intention to include myself, as researcher, in this text but to not create an "author saturated" text (Geertz as cited in Emerson et al., 2001, p. 361). Although I am the lens through which this is presented, it is not my goal to present an individual obsession, but rather to provide a critical assessment o f this narrative (Atkinson & Hammersley, 1983). "The ethnographer is frequently engaged in something closely akin to narrative writing, pregnant with theme and argument" (Atkinson & Hammersley, 1983, p. 211). Segments o f fieldnotes are included in the final project; generally they have been edited grammatically.  They represent a moment in time; they are no more or less legitimate than the  analysis in which they are contained. They are not intended nor are they able to 'give voice' to the participants. They allow me a device to bring the reader into a moment o f the school. This is not a collaborative project, it is my project; I am accountable and responsible for the words I put down (Wolf, 1992).  That said, input and guidance from committee members, peers, and  members o f Windsor House are crucial to this process.  75  H o w to name, and not confine the experience to the limits o f that naming, is a challenge in any descriptive process (Campbell & Gregor, 2002). While writing, I have worked to look for and include actions, understanding and ideas that resist or push the limits of the analyses I present. There are moments o f contradiction throughout the description o f the space; this is an important aspect o f the space, which I do not want to erase in this telling o f it.  The  epistemological stance o f a web of situated knowledge necessitates contradiction and paradox. The concept o f 'paradoxical space' has become central to much feminist and decolonizing geographies. Developed early in feminist geography by G i l l i a n Rose the key point is that within a physical space occupants are envisioned as occupying several, often competing allegiances, motivations, and social spaces simultaneously (Rose, 1993); a result is that the space itself is envisioned and understood by its inhabitants in multiple, often contradictory ways.  Windsor  House is certainly a paradoxical space, further complicated because it is intentionally continually shifting and reshaping. It is my hope to reflect this in the telling o f this document. Because o f my methodology, this contradiction and sense o f paradoxical space is achieved not by relying on voices but rather by disrupting the "sense o f the whole that one carries around in one's head" (Lederman as quoted in Wolf, 1992, p. 89). This is a small qualitative study. It is not intended to tell a comprehensive or exhaustive story o f the pedagogy o f space at Windsor House School.  This is a sampling, to be used to  provoke ideas and reflection.  Accountability "The researcher may be viewed as a valuable and coveted asset who can act as an advocate on behalf o f the informant" (Lipson, 1994, p. 351). I think there was hope that I would be an advocate for the school's relationship with the trustees, but I have not embraced this opportunity.  This quite possibly compromised the ability for me to be o f service to them. M y  decision was based on the amount o f time and energy I opted to contribute to this particular  76  project; and a concern that, because o f the size and time that would be involved, doing so would curry disfavour with committee members at U B C . The call for reciprocity is common to feminist practice (Lipson, 1994).  During the  process o f fieldwork I worked to contribute to Windsor House by cleaning, assisting with the earthquake drill, providing a presentation about my elementary school to the staff meeting, responding to students requests for assistance with academics, sponsoring students, and playing and talking with students.  It is difficult to identify long-term reciprocity at this stage in the  process. It is my hope and intention to return to Windsor House as a volunteer, to create articles about the school, to make presentations o f this document to Windsor House, make myself available for discussion, to give this document to the school library for them to make use o f it as they like.  M a n y methodologies and frameworks, especially feminist, insist on the need for a  change as result o f a work. I subscribe to this idea; yet, in this moment in time I am unable to predict this aspect. It is my hope that this document w i l l be o f service to Windsor House in both their communications with the outside world, and w i l l inspire useful internal dialogue. It is my intention to follow A l c o f f s guidance and be accountable to where this speech goes and what it does there, that this work w i l l not end with the completion o f this thesis. The three following chapters are the description o f findings, and analysis. Each chapter is named for themes that I have identified as central to the pedagogy o f space at Windsor House School; while they are written as distinct, they are integrally interconnected.  77  Image 11: Sign at Entrance to B u i l d i n g  Mobility and Self Regulation  Children who are genuinely safe are those who are able to make thoughtful, responsible, independent decisions. Hern, 1997, p. 155  First Impressions M y first and lasting impression o f Windsor House is one o f movement; my fieldnotes are full o f comments about chaos and overwhelm.  The philosophy section o f the Windsor House  handbook  education'  under  the heading  'non-coercive  states: "Windsor House  students  independently choose how to spend their time without interference from staff and parents" (Windsor House, 2003, p. 3).  This 'independent choice' requires a high level o f freedom o f  movement both with regards to people moving between spaces and the spaces themselves. This is the cause o f the sense o f chaos in the space, and central to what is radically distinctive about free schools consumption o f school space.  Freedom o f movement connects to the idea o f  building the school to meet the needs o f the child ( N e i l l , 1960) and "being responsive to changing life conditions" (Miller, 2002, p. 66).  It is a methodology to support ideas o f non-coercive  education, self-regulation, participatory democracy, and learning responsible decision-making.  79  The Hallway  Image 12: T h e H a l l w a y When I visualize Windsor House I think o f the hallway. It runs down the centre of the building like a spine, its energy reaches  into the role o f researcher. In this school o f abundant activity, the hallway is the hub. Despite its non-conducive size and  out into the rooms like a nervous system. I  shape, the hall has become the  began each day there by walking up and  common space in the school, likely this is  down the hallway. The doors opening into it  because it is the place that everybody has to  are in almost constant motion; most have  pass through to get where they are going.  windows that provide easy observation into  Containing the chaos o f the hall so that it  the rooms. A s I walked the hall I would look  does not bleed into all the rooms is a  into each o f the rooms, take in the general  constant difficulty.  sense o f the movement, and feel myself pick  moment when I was alone in this space.  up on the rhythm o f the school. This became  my first morning o f observation, between  fci grounding  walking in the door and taking off my coat, I  routine  that assisted me  to  transition into the space o f the school and  primary  I cannot recall a single  encountered approximately  In  thirty people,  80  said hello to two o f them, and talked with one  imagine, as the hall is not really a room but  six year old girl who confidently approached  a place people pass through. However, as I  me asking " w h o are y o u ? " (Fieldnote, M a y  observed these students, I generally saw  19, 04, 1041).  Usually there are people  them in the hallway. Often they would step  yelling and calling out. Once, in a relatively  briefly into a room, but would usually soon  calm moment I observed a small child walk  leave without engaging, and return to the  down the center o f the hall calling " L y d i a "  hall. It is probable that, as they themselves  more than forty times (Fieldnote, M a y 2 1 , 04,  said, the hallway served as the  1243). People would regularly stop me in the  space for these students at school. Both o f  hall to ask me i f I knew where someone else  them had been at Windsor House only a few  was.  Often people would be running while  months. I suspect that the time they spend  others, in an endless battle to bring calm to  in the hall is part o f finding their comfort in  the hall would shout "no running in the h a l l "  the  (Fieldnote, M a y 31, 04, 1632).  comfortable they w i l l spend less time in the  there would  Sometimes  be people playing chess or  school and  as they  primary  become  more  transitory space o f the hallway.  chatting at the table or one o f the benches.  Throughout the hall, and the school  Once there were nine teenagers sitting on the  generally, there appears to be lots o f people  floor in the centre o f the hall in a shoulder  just wandering around doing nothing.  It  massaging chain; they took up a considerable  feels  of  portion o f the hallway; other people walked  unbeknownst  around them, making an occasional comment  inviting, distracting, exhausting, exhilarating  but apparently indifferent to this use o f the  and buzzing with energy.  large, and crowded, with activity;  it  feels  lots  warm,  space. T w o students said that the hallway is the place where they spend most o f their time.  Initially I  found this  difficult  to  81  Mobility in Practice The rooms o f the school have their own histories o f mobility built in them. A t times i n history, the office has been located i n what became the Cottage Garden and the Multimedia room. The Ocean's E y e R o o m , had been a theater production room, and the S . A . N . E room. The space at the top o f the stairs going down into the other school space at one time was claimed and made into a room by a student who liked to spend time alone. The Space / T i m e room was barely recognizable from one year to the next. These changes have come i n part because o f the change in the number o f rooms allocated to the school, but also as a result o f the participatory democracy o f the school.  A s different projects spring forth they require space.  This space is claimed  informally, through just setting up and using it, or formally by negotiating with school c o u n c i l .  52  A s spaces become more or less used, the space is changed to meet those needs. In addition, people come into one room and move supplies or furniture out o f the room to somewhere else. A result o f all this is a sense o f physical flux. A central theme o f mobility regarding people is the movement o f members into and out o f the school. Mandatory and full attendance is a point o f conflict between free schooling and public schooling, based o n differing ideas o f what constitutes safety and a productive learning environment. M a r k i n g a significant shift from standard schooling, Windsor House, like most free schools, resists compulsory attendance. A s Dennison said: we cannot "enhance the moral prestige o f school by basing the entire institution on the act o f force which compels attendance" (Dennison, 1969, p. 88). Students are not obliged by Windsor House to attend school everyday, nor do they have to stay for a full day. M a n y families combine some form o f home-  The system for making and regulating rules is called school council and judicial council respectively. See Making Rules and Enforcing Rules in Rules and Governance for more information.  3 2  81  schooling with their participation at Windsor House;  they determine the amount o f  attendance that w i l l work best for them, inform the school when to expect the students, and notify the school i f and when this changes. To keep track o f who is in attendance, students, parents and 54  guests are required to sign i n and out o f the building (Image 26). Students accessing the wider community through fieldtrips and independent exploring is encouraged because it is seen as necessary in the development o f a continuum o f relationships, build stronger community, and break through the barriers between school and the 'real w o r l d ' (Dennison, 1969; Mercogliano, 1998). In this vein fieldtrips were common. While the Windsor House Handbook mentions apprenticeships, a common element in free schooling, I did not see or hear about this occurring. This seems to be something that while supported in the paperwork, is not practiced. When it comes to leaving school grounds Windsor House monitors the students more closely than other free schools. This could be partly due to its obligations as a public school; however, in comparison to standard schools there is a great deal o f movement accepted. Students who wish to leave school grounds during school time need to obtain a license to do so; for this 55  to happen they have to be o f a certain age, have permission from their guardian, and approval by council. Generally these permissions are restricted to specific areas off-grounds, such as a nearby corner store, the city park at the far end o f the property, or the shopping centre. It was clear that many students took advantage o f leaving the grounds. Often I would see students on the bus, or  Many people I spoke with implied they did, or had done, this. However this aspect of the school was in jeopardy as a result of the N V S B audit in which item A . l states: " a student must attend Windsor House full time except under exceptional circumstances" (Johnson, 2004, p. 16). It was made clear that continued funding is dependent on implementing these 'recommendations.' M a n y people I talked with confirmed that they integrated this flexibility into their family schedules. Comments like ' I ' m not usually here on Wednesdays' and 'we used to come just two days a week' were frequent. A license refers to permission to self supervise; it is issued by council and almost always about mobility and access to space. License as used in this Windsor House terminology is not connected to ideas of license as discussed by N e i l l in relation to freedom.  5 3  5 4  3 5  83  walking down the street during typical school hours. W h i l e there is a rush at the end o f the day, students and parents come and go from the school grounds fairly continuously.  Because my  observations were limited to the Cloverley site, I remain unfamiliar with student behaviour offgrounds. While at school, people have a unique range o f choice in their movement. Other than the twice daily check in times and occasional mandatory meetings there are no schedule obligations, neither are there bells or a public announcement system to direct movement.  56  Prescriptive  scheduling is seen to be in conflict to student-centred education and anti-authoritarian ideas o f self-government.  A s it is not assumed that learning takes place only, or predominantly, in  classes, classes are not considered more important than non-class activity.  For these reasons,  students at Windsor House are not required to attend classes. There is a formal school schedule o f classes in the entrance area o f the hallway (Image 25). It is assembled out o f multi-coloured construction paper with paper dividers forming a grid. A t the top are the school days o f the week and the left hand column marks time increments. F i l l i n g in the grid are coloured pieces o f paper that provide information about the activity, the person offering it, and when and where it is going to be (Image 13). There is no standard start or end time for classes so overlap is common. The Monday morning activities on the schedule are: Language tutorial, unicycle, science tutorial, slang teasers, and a K e l l y News writing class.  Without a bell or P.A. system the twice-daily check i n system, newly prescribed by the school district, presented a challenge to coordinate activities amongst the population. This was problem solved by a staff member walking down the hall with a portable tape player playing loud boisterous music. A t this time, everybody has to pause their activities, go to their area, pick up their paper name card, and give it to their teacher to indicate their presence. A s the bell is not heard outside, people who are outside or off grounds are expected to be aware of the time and return for check in. Mandatory meetings rarely occur. However, when they do, all people must attend them. Anyone can call one, if they get a dozen signatures of agreement. The person who calls the meeting begins to tell everybody that the meeting is occurring. This usually takes the form of walking down the hall and yelling 'mandatory meeting in the B M R . " A l l members are required to go directly to the room where the meeting is being held, telling anyone who may not have heard along the way.  5 6  84  Monday afternoons: School Council, B M R Roaring A n i m a l s , Intermediate W H I M , cooking with wee ones, younger students Literature, Art, French, Intermediate math, R o c k M u s i c History, and Piano (Fieldnote, June 23, 04, 5545-63). A t any given time, less than half the classrooms in the school are slotted for regularly organized activities, this leaves a lot o f space for activities that are not pre-organized.  Anyone can offer  an activity. These can be spontaneous or planned and may occur anywhere that  is  not  already  scheduled.  However, parents or teachers offer the vast majority o f activities listed on the schedule. Significantly the schedule does not  contain  all  the  information  necessary to know what it going on in the school. Information about classes and activities that are being offered Image 13: T h e Schedule only  once, or  that  are  temporarily  cancelled are generally not included. M a n y rooms have their own schedules on their doors. example the student-controlled  57  For  'Unofficial Russian Embassy,' has a schedule on the door with  six weekly regularly occurring activities (Fieldnote, June 23, 04, 566-73). None o f these items 58  are organized or generally attended by members o f the Russian Embassy room council,  and  none o f these items are included on the large hall schedule. I do not know what determines what  See Authority, Negotiation and Power for more on student-controlled rooms. See Authority, Negotiation and Power for more on room councils. 85  goes on which schedule, or why they are not matching.  Additionally, cancelled, moved,  postponed or one time only classes often are not posted on any schedule.  59  Even though I read the newsletter each week while I was at Windsor House, I ran into difficulty with scheduling. Once I planned on attending a class that had been cancelled without my knowing it (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 1337-45). Another time I went to a class, assumed it was cancelled because no one was there only to later discover the class had happened later than it said on the schedule (Fieldnote, June 16,04, 4355). Yet another time, I attended a large meeting that I did not know had been scheduled, but found out about when I saw people gathering together (Fieldnote, June 10, 04, 3639).  60  I was not alone in my confusion with the classes and activities.  Once, I watched a teacher spend twenty minutes rounding up students for an activity that presumably had been scheduled and forgotten about (Fieldnote, June 10, 04, 4518).  Students  expressed difficulty knowing when and where something was happening (Fieldnote, June 2, 04, 3091-96). It seemed to me to be crucial and difficult, perhaps impossible, to be ' i n the k n o w ' about activities.  While I found this frustrating, and some people complained about it, for the  most part people seemed to know their own schedules quite well and this scheduling seemed unremarkable and comfortable to people at Windsor House. So while the schedule is prominent, and serves some use, it does not directly represent the activity in the school as I would assume it does. While there are great benefits to flexibility around scheduling, this structure can also engender feelings o f exclusion from knowing what is going on. When members o f Windsor House arrive at school they may have commitments to a friend, a collective project like a play rehearsal, or the expectation o f attending a scheduled class  Occasionally these make it into the newsletter. During this meeting there were a couple of times when people asked if someone who was not there knew about the meeting, once someone responded that they would go and ask and another time someone responded that yes, but they would not be joining in because they were busy doing something else (Fieldnote, June 10, 04, 3639). This type of double checking and personal knowledge seems an essential way of dealing with the confusion about the scheduling.  5 9  6 0  86  or activity they regularly attend, however for the most part, their activities are not preplanned. People hang out in different spaces, organizing themselves in the spaces for themselves. Some hang out in the same spaces, like the students from the 'Russian Embassy' who said they never left that r o o m  61  (Fieldnote, June 17, 04, 5074) others move around a lot.  The bulk o f activity  appears to occur separately from scheduled activities. Activities that do not make it onto the schedules are sometimes preplanned, through word or mouth or the newsletter, however most often they are not preplanned but occur in reaction to the environment or something that is happening in the moment. Typically lots of things are happening simultaneously in any given space. W a l k i n g into the library for example, it is common that a scheduled activity such as a writing class, w i l l be happening at the same time that a card game and spontaneous conversations are occurring in other parts o f the room, additionally there w i l l likely be a number o f people spread around the room independently reading. Students determine for themselves which classes and activities they participate in, how often they attend them, and for how long they stay. This means they may not attend class, and often times enter into or leave an activity in progress. N o t obligating students to attend classes is rooted in a pedagogical position where it is thought that learning happens best when each student is encouraged to pursue their own interests (Holt, 1982; N e i l l , 1960), and is not coerced. A s Dennison stated: "education must be lived, it cannot be administered" (Dennison as quoted in M i l l e r , 2002, p. 58 italics in the original). value o f the circumstance they are in.  The student needs to be in a position to assess the Prescriptive and compulsory scheduling is seen as  unhelpfully authoritative and in conflict with the principal lesson o f self-regulation.  However this was not entirely accurate, as when the fellows from the 'Embassy' told me this, we were having a conversation in the Temple of the F l y i n g P i g , after they had been ousted from the Embassy for a previously scheduled activity.  6 1  87  M a n y , i f not most, o f the organized activities I attended involved people joining and leaving the session throughout. L i k e w i s e there is almost constant movement o f people i n and out of school council meetings.  Evening adult meetings are similar; parents arrive mostly at the  scheduled time although often the meetings start late. People come and go from the meeting to attend to a child, private conversation, or another matter. Children come into the meeting to sit for a while, ask a question o f someone, or get something, and then leave. I found it surprising that I rarely heard someone who had come in later ask for information to be repeated, I found this high level o f movement immensely distracting, especially i n the beginning o f my time at the school. A s I spent more time there, I found myself becoming less responsive to other people's movement and more able to focus on my own activities. A s I did this, I became more at ease with the level o f movement around me. However, although the level o f distraction reduced, it never completely dissipated. Classes, meetings and activities look different when people can leave and arrive throughout.  62  With the highly flexible schedule activities can continue for a surprisingly long  time. Often new people j o i n so the faces may change while the activity stays the same. A t the end o f the school year, a time capsule project to commemorate Windsor House at the Cloverley site was instigated. What began as a small project, involving a handful o f participants, grew into a memorial involving most members o f the school. A t some point it was decided that the hole to bury the capsule be dug six feet deep and six feet wide to resemble the Louis Sachar book Holes. For two days people dug, the faces changed, but the activity remained constant.  In other  instances both the activity and the faces can remain the same; the elaborate theatre productions, that have become a staple at Windsor House, are an example o f this. Other activities can be short lived and incomplete, people may float about, trying out one thing or another, but not really  See Age and Authority in Authority, Negotiation and Power for more about the relationship between teachers, students and mobility.  6 2  88  engaging. A t the same time there is room and time for people to dedicate and commit themselves to long-term projects o f devotion. Generally all these things happen at the same time, and most students do a little bit o f each o f these. Different people use the space differently; the self regulation around activity in the space is critical to imagining the space o f Windsor House. The high level o f mobility is connected to the idea that people can best take advantage o f their circumstances i f they do not feel they have to be there. I f they feel like they have to be somewhere then they spend their time thinking of, and often times trying, all the ways to get out o f there, fostering a sense o f restlessness and distraction what Mercogliano calls "captivity behavior" (2003, p. 43). If they feel like they have a choice to participate, and they may comfortably act on that choice, then those who do participate do so in a more active and present manner. Dennison and Mercogliano both talk about how 'acting out' and restlessness is a way for the student to say: " D e a l with all o f me! Deal with my l i f e " (Dennison, 1969, p. 15). In a setting, where scheduling is loose and mobility is easy, time is afforded to 'deal w i t h ' the lives and battles in the moment as this structure allows space to attend to the emotional needs o f the person, without subsuming them underneath the curriculum.  For those for whom restlessness is  seemingly constant, who may not be able to abide structured lessons, or participate easily i n quiet spaces, this movement and access to spaces built for high levels o f kinetic energy such as the B M R and outdoors, allows the students to find places to burn energy without disrupting others. A result o f this circumstance is that some particularly high-energy folk spend dedicated efforts working to negotiate access to these spaces. One remarkably dynamic and demanding boy approached me each day I was at the school, sometimes more than once, asking bluntly i f I would sponsor him in the B M R .  6 3  H e appeared fairly indiscriminant about whom he approached, and  seemed w i l l i n g to ask anyone likely able to be in a position to say yes. H e was often refused  See Safety, Surveillance, Supervision and Sponsorship in Authority, Negotiation and Power for more information on sponsorship.  6 3  89  because he had a history o f not respecting the conditions o f the sponsorship. However most days he had at least one or two successes. For h i m , the majority o f his time in the space o f the school was negotiating spatial relationships to meet his high-energy needs.  Although his behaviour  continues to be annoying and high energy, there was room for h i m to regulate it so that it was not destructive to the space, others or to himself; the structure was built so that he could find a way to more or less make the space work for h i m instead o f fighting against it. The B M R  6 4  is integral to the spatial relations o f the space. M a n y young students, have  lots o f energy to burn, for the school to work for them, they need a place to do this.  Not only  does this assist them, but it helps the space work for everybody else, who is relieved o f the exhausting and distracting circumstance o f being held captive with this energy.  The B M R is  often a highly gendered and aged space with a strong predominance o f young boys using it. Older people, who do not need as much sponsorship, and generally bring more structure to their kinetic energy, tend to use outdoors or the gym, for this same purpose. A n incident that stands out for me in terms o f mobility and spatial relations occurred while I was in the Cottage watching a seemingly never-ending puppet show being put on by a slow succession o f primary students. A young boy, about 6 years old, after being told by a teacher that he could not play with some blocks because another boy was playing with them already, marched out o f the room closing the door with something approaching, but not quite reaching, a slam. About five minutes later he returned with another adult to advocate for him. This event was a crystallizing moment for me regarding mobility at Windsor House. This very little boy, to my observation, felt capable and entitled to leave the room and refuse to discuss it with the teacher. H e seemed to feel no obligation to stay. B y leaving the room, and finding someone he wanted to advocate for him he was able to attempt to resolve the situation in a way that provided him with  For more information about the structure of the B M R see BMR in Rules and Governance. 90  more options than entering into direct conflict with the people involved, silencing his frustration, or stagnating the situation by sulking. He was able to seek resolution that worked for him without subjugating everyone else there to his anger. Additionally, I was struck by the role o f the adults. The primary teacher did not go after the student, nor did she try to stop him from leaving. This six-year-old boy was enabled to determine how to engage in this conflict for himself, including the option, although he d i d not take it, o f disengagement—something rarely afforded to young children. The mobility i n the school allowed the boy to walk out o f the primary room i n the middle o f a disagreement and have this be okay. The structure o f the school facilitated the movement o f this very young boy. Physically, the primary rooms are nested in the centre o f the school, this means there are many older students and adults surrounding the primary students, ensuring that when the student leaves this room, he remains observed. Because the adults and students outside the primary room do not have rigidly structured schedules they are required to follow, they are in a position to be available to respond to this boy's immediate needs. Because o f the structure o f self-regulation, the other teacher was in a position to leave where she was and assist the boy. This scenario displays a high level o f trust. Trust in the child to identify his own needs. Trust i n the structure o f the school to hold him in his anger. A n d trust that people w i l l respond to needs as they are presented. This scenario is an example o f how individual self-determination is negotiated with others i n a shared space.  65  For more on negotiation of space see Negotiation and Territory in Authority, Negotiation and Power.  6 5  91  Limits and control of Movement  Image 14: Stop, D o Not Enter Sign.  Windsor House is a strange combination of motion, chaos and limitation; despite the initial appearance of being out o f control, there are numerous factors, rules and postings that restrict and direct movement.  M o b i l i t y is crosscut and mediated by texts, schedules, safety  concerns, members, board regulations, rules, consequences, conventions and free school ideology.  Some free schools, such as Summerhill make the astounding (and to my eyes false)  claim that they do not regulate behaviour (Miller, 2002, p. 53). Windsor House does not make this claim. Wright, o f the White L i o n Free School, claims that all free schools restrict movement (Wright, 1989, p. 27); I agree. While freedom o f movement is prioritized and impressive at Windsor House, it is not unencumbered. I observed remarkable demonstrations o f forthrightness with people joining activities; rarely did I hear someone ask permission to j o i n an activity, they just did. If there is no good reason to prohibit t h e m ,  66  they cannot be excluded; there is a rule at Windsor House stating  A n example of a 'good reason' may be being in the middle of a board game, and needing to wait for the next round to j o i n . However with the high level of mobility it is common that people join as they arrive and leave as they wish. Frequently even board games do not end with the same 92  as much.  The lived reality o f this is not entirely smooth. Some people are intimidated, others  intimidating. welcoming.  Some people are better at sharing or communicating. A n d some are more or less comfortable i n the space.  Some are more or less A l l o f these interpersonal  factors impact movement in the space. One structural aspect o f how movement is restricted at Windsor House is with regards to who has access to the space. A l l students who meet the public school criteria apply, but admission is subject to approval.  68  are welcome to  The integration o f new students is a recurrent  challenge for free schools. A t the 2003 International Democratic Education Conference a special session was held to discuss how schools strategize to integrate older students who have had years o f traditional schooling. Generally it is felt that students w h o have a history o f being highly controlled, push the boundaries o f the free school environment with exhausting tenacity and have a difficult time respectfully interacting with other members o f the school. To avoid this difficulty A . S . N e i l l did not admit any students over the age o f eleven. Windsor House does not share this policy, yet the admission o f older students from standard schooling is approached cautiously. T o be considered for the school, all prospective students and their guardian must come for an interview, and spend a trial week at the school. I f at the end o f the trial they are still interested i n attending, they may make an application. Acceptance o f the application is subject to approval. From what I gather, approval is at Helen's discretion, and she makes this decision based on i f she thinks the school has the resources to support the student. According to her, most students are accepted, but she is leery to accept too many older students from traditional schooling backgrounds at a time, as she sees them band together to sabotage their experiences i n the school, and make unreasonable drains on the  players as they begin with. Another 'good reason' may be that the person is not licensed to be i n the space and therefore cannot participate. See Making Rules in Rules and Governance. This criteria is quite broad, and limited only to acceptable age and residency status. 6 7  6 8  93  school's energy. W h i l e older traditionally schooled students are admitted, they are done so with an eye to keeping a sense o f control over the dynamics o f the school. This highly selective and fairly arbitrary process is one way mobility into the school is mediated. Windsor House accepts a high number o f students who have been labeled as problems in other schools. Members o f Windsor House suggest that in this type o f schooling most 'problem' students find a path to becoming a contributing member o f the school. Part o f the way members o f Windsor House talk about the school is as a place that provides an option for those in the public school system that are out o f options. When it comes to physically entering the school, the front doors are unlocked and often wide o p e n .  69  People come and go regularly seemingly making it an easy place to enter into  unnoticed. One parent, when I asked her about i f this raised safety concerns responded that 'we know when a person doesn't belong here or is new; their body language and the way they move is different" (Fieldnote, M a y 21, 04, 1399). In addition to this, it is a relatively small school so the faces quickly become familiar.  M y experience was that students and adults alike were  comfortable asking me who I was, and what I was doing, demonstrating an active monitoring o f who is coming and going from the school and claiming o f the space as their own. L i k e the front doors, much o f Windsor House is a paradoxical combination o f remarkably open yet highly mediated and restricted space. Helen's office is an example o f this. O n her door shared with the main office is a small white piece o f paper that reads: " D O N O T K N O C K .  Try  handle, i f open poke head in. If locked, come back later. Y o u may slip paper under the door" (Fieldnote, June 16, 04, 4695). This door was sometimes closed, and sometimes open; occasionally I saw people knock on the door, some o f these times Helen opened it.  Sometimes  Other sets of doors going outside are often, but not consistently, locked. This always seemed a bit strange to me, because in practice the students often prop them open, leave paper between the locking device or take other actions to. allow the door to be open from the outside.  6 9  94  she dealt with the requests, other times she asked them to come back later.  Often Helen would  be in the office alone, or with students or parents, and frequently students would be i n Helen's conference room alone. I never saw anyone going through Helen's desk, even though there was no sign to say not to. One boy when I asked h i m where he generally spent his time he said Helen's office "because I get i n trouble a lot" (Fieldnote, June 17, 04, 5325). W h e n I asked h i m i f only people who get i n trouble a lot spend time in Helen's office he said no. Another student, an older girl who had recently left Windsor House but was back for a visit, said the difference she saw between Windsor House and other schools was that at other schools, people want to stay away from the principal, but at Windsor House students want to go to the principal's office. L i k e Helen's office, many o f the rooms have their own set o f rules guiding access to that space; these are posted on doors and walls throughout the school. The Ocean's E y e R o o m has a notice on the door "no one to use this room until [first] attend council meeting" (Fieldnote, M a y 31, 04, 1651).  71  To enter the library, y o u have to be licensed or sponsored. I f you are not  licensed, and no one is sponsoring you or the room, y o u cannot use the r o o m .  72  O n my first day  o f observation a young girl, about six or seven, walked me down the hallway, pointing to the doors as we passed telling me what was behind each one. "That's the L i b r a r y " she said, " D o y o u go i n there?" I asked. "Sometimes, i f there is a yellow piece o f paper o n the door" (Fieldnote, M a y 19, 04, 826). Despite my perplexity, she seemed quite certain this small bit o f information was all I needed to access the room. I found it interesting as a not yet literate person, that she  This is a lovely example of how the rules at Windsor House are usually highly specific, designed to combat specific annoyances, and imprecisely followed. For more about rules see Rules and Governance. This council meeting refers to a room council. F o r more on room councils see Authority, Negotiation and Power. This is the theory anyway. While this room is one of the most clearly organized spaces in the school, I never quite figured out the system of access. Sometimes the room would be unlocked, open and unsponsored and people would go i n and out, other times it would be locked, and other times it would be being sponsored. I could not find a pattern in how this was determined or used.  7 0  7 1  7 2  95  moved through this text-mediated space using visual clues rather than text clues to mediate her mobility. People are often restricted from accessing spaces as part o f a consequence. B e i n g barred 73  from  going outside without adult supervision, going o f f school grounds, or from accessing  specific rooms are frequent consequences. For example, i f someone has a complaint  74  issued on  them for behavior while outside, they may be barred from going outside for a duration o f time. Often stop or de-licensed signs w i l l be posted on doors to indicate that a person is barred from this space (Image 15). While this has the potential for a high level o f humiliation similar to the bounced check notice at the grocery store, the only times I saw this done was at the request o f the student being barred.  75  Image 15: Stop Sign Over R o o m Schedule  A consequence is a school council issued penalty in response to a complaint issued against someone for behaviour deemed deserving of reprimand. F o r detailed information on consequences and complaints see Enforcing Rules in Rules and Governance. Complaints are the system by which students receive consequences. In the cases I observed, the person who requested that the sign be posted was the person it was issued on. Often this is to help remind them, and to help their friends remind them, to reduce the possibility of re-offending and risking an escalating consequence.  7 3  7 4  7 5  96  If consequences and other tactics "seem to make no difference, and a person's behaviour continues to annoy members o f the community... the school council usually gives R E S T R I C T E D A C C E S S for a day" (Windsor House, 2003, p. 17). There are three levels of restricted access ( R A ) ; R A 1, the most restrictive, means that the student may only be at school as long as they are in a class. R A 2, " F o r people who can be home alone," (Fieldnote, June 15, 04, 3945), they may only be at school to attend classes and activities that are adult supervised, and R A 3: " F o r people who can't be home alone", (Fieldnote, June 15, 04, 3947) they attend school full hours but must be under staff supervision at all times. In practice this often means they spend a lot o f time in Helen's conference room.  Issuing consequences and R A is a blatant way that judicial council  plays a strong role in controlling movement at Windsor House.  Another sign that was posted on doors restricting access was the sign stating: "stop do not enter unless you are going to clean u p " (Image 14). I saw these posted a few times. These were not issued by council, but by staff. Apparently these are not stringently followed. Occasionally I saw people in the room, who did not appear to be cleaning it. Another time, I saw a staff member give permission for a small group o f students to use a space without cleaning it, because they needed access to the computers in that space for something they were working on. Sometimes the room with the sign would be locked other times not. L o c k e d doors seem incredibly common at this free school. It remains unclear how this is regulated. Frequently it would be the Art R o o m , or the Library, or one o f the small rooms that I found locked. Other times they would be empty and unlocked. I do not know why they were locked. The Green K e y opens most rooms, although it does not open the kitchen, band room, chemistry room, Helen's office, administrative office, or some o f the other, more highly regulated rooms.  Anyone can make an application to have a green key, and many students have  successfully done so. The process to have a key is to introduce a resolution at council, have it  97  passed, agree to rules about its use and attend Green K e y Meetings called when there is a suspected misuse o f one o f the rooms, such as a gigantic mess or a theft. Some students, such as those I talked with from the Unofficial Russian E m b a s s y , preferred to not have a key to access 76  the room they used, they said it was easier to find someone with a key to open the door each day, then to be bothered with the responsibilities o f the green key. Frequently I saw teachers lend their key chains to students to open a room (Fieldnote, M a y 31, 04, 1648).  The use o f keys  demonstrates a manner that while there is a great deal o f regulation over the space, there are avenues by which to participate in this regulation. The space has lots o f freedoms and restrictions o f movement that despite my best intentions I did not learn how to navigate smoothly. I found it hard to determine where I could and could not go.  While I tried to follow posted information, it was imprecise and unclear. I  never did discover i f I needed permission to go in student controlled rooms. Sometimes doors would be locked, other times not.  I do not k n o w what determined this. It seemed because I am  an adult I was not challenged or particularly monitored about my mobility. doors, I could physically go anywhere without question.  Other than locked  However, I was interested in  discovering and following standard practice and convention, and to this end figuring out the limits and possibilities around my own movement was quite challenging. Some o f the things that I found interesting about the level o f mobility in the school is that it facilitated me being comfortable trying out spaces I was uncertain about, or thought I might be uncomfortable in, because I knew I could leave; this widened my association and comfort zone. Simultaneously, this freedom o f movement allowed me to leave as I felt discomfort and I did not have to contend, or deal with that discomfort.  The Unofficial Russian Embassy is a student controlled room, not a large classroom. 98  Different spaces seem to have different levels o f mobility permitted. For those spaces in which there is often a high level o f dispute or safety concern, such as the band room, B M R or outside, there are strong regulations in force. Other spaces are often open and accessible until conflict inspires a restriction. Exactly how the nature o f these restrictions plays out remains unclear. While freedom o f movement is highly prized within free schools and Windsor House, it is important to consider that it occurs within a highly structured and regulated form that strives to foster self regulation within an interconnected context.  Self Regulation Self-regulation is the central purpose o f free schooling. It is the hoped result o f noncoercion. " O u r first and foremost goal is to help children learn how to manage themselves and structure their own experience" (Mercogliano, 2003, p. 12). This is so for Windsor House as w e l l ; parents describe the school as "autonomy immersion" stating that it "produces young people who are able to plan, organize and persist to meet their needs" (Johnson, 2004, p. 4). This agenda o f self-regulation rests on the presumption "that each and every individual is best able to define their own interests, needs and desires" (Hern, 2003, p, 140).  One o f the most impacting  conversations I had at Windsor House was with Helen about what people learn from the space at Windsor House. She said that at Windsor House people learn the realization that it is their own life they are living, so they better figure out how to enjoy it (Field memory, June 23, 04). She told me how she repeatedly witnessed people come into the school, wander around, appear lost, and then slowly come to realize that it is their life to direct and begin to be able to enact their life in a manner they find fulfilling. regulate.  This process Helen describes is the process o f coming to self  It means losing dependency on the school or teacher and learning to structure one's  own life.  99  I felt myself learn lessons about self regulation while at Windsor House. 1 found the way I regulated myself around movement in the school was to seek out the places where I felt most comfortable. Initially, it was the office, which is smaller, encouraging face-to-face conversations, often full o f paperwork projects that I find easy to help out with and begin conversations.  There  is generally a higher ratio o f adults to students in the office space and it is easy to involve myself in what is going on. From there I began to branch out and try out new spaces and activities. Over time my s k i l l at determining for myself what I wanted to do and making it happen improved. In the beginning, I had felt uncomfortable and uncertain as to what to do with myself in the space and so I looked to Helen to guide me (Fieldnote, M a y 13, 04, 387). Significantly, Helen did not adopt the role o f guide, although she was friendly, responsive and encouraging, she left me mostly on my own. With time, I felt my need for guidance and approval diminish. Self regulation is generally understood as a highly individualized process. A s such, there is a concern that this focus on the self could foster unflinchingly self-indulgent behaviour that is not responsive to unwanted or unsought lessons or information, particularly with regards to social justice issues.  What is interesting about the context o f Windsor House, and free schools in  general, that I would like to explore more than this project allows, is that the lessons o f self regulation do not happen in isolation, but in a context o f an engaged membership o f people sharing and negotiating space collaboratively. Thus, in this context, through the use o f space, the lessons o f self regulation are accountable to the diversity o f people and needs present and deemed significant; this holds strong potential to learn social justice through practice.  Tea, me, and self regulation.  Though I have been familiar with the practice and ideas o f self regulation most o f my life, being at Windsor House inspired new lessons for me around them. These lessons came most  100  poignantly with my relations with Tea and taught me more about how self regulation may often be a slow and difficult process. Tea had come to Windsor House from a standard school earlier in the year. She was the student I spent the most frequent and concentrated time with during my time at Windsor House. Both her words and behaviour communicated to me that she had a great deal o f violence, fear, unpredictability and sadness within her, learned from the context o f her life and brought with her to her daily activities at school. Structural interventions had occurred in her life so that she was no longer in harms way, but she was living with the effects. She used a lot of aggressive language, talking about other people in the school as her 'enemies' and play-acted a lot o f spying on them. O n a few occasions when it was just the two o f us she would act quite violently towards inanimate objects; this took the form o f kicking balls, tearing and stabbing paper, and other activities that were not damaging to the physical space, but were strong expressions o f emotion. Blunt and Rose (1994) suggest that expressions o f anger show a comfort and sense o f safety in a space. From what I observed much o f Tea's time was spent drifting, and she told me she was bored.  77  She seemed to be in pain and because o f this I found it extremely challenging to be around her.  I had deep desire to intervene, give her lots o f attention, and make it better.  Basically I wanted to make the pain go away, so that she did not have to contend with it, and that I would no longer have to be uncomfortable with it. A s much as I wanted to make it all better, and eradicate the pain Tea was exhibiting, and as much as 1 felt almost obligated, as an adult, to do this for her, there was no way I could do this. A s stated in the opening quote o f this chapter, fostering greater safety in Tea's life is connected to her being able to make decisions to find her own happiness and establish her place amongst others. M y role in this was to listen, talk, respond to her, share activities with her, and allow her the time to hurt and to heal. A s much as I may  Sometimes she told me she was bored only because her friends were away, that it was not common for her to feel this way. Other times she said it was common for her to feel bored. 7 7  101  want to, it is beyond my ability to make her pain go away. Attempts to do so may erase her pain from my sight, but could not eradicate it from her life. These attempts would also likely foster a sense o f dependence. The point o f self regulation is that she goes through the process o f learning that it is her life, and she needs to take responsibility for it.  This means not developing relationships o f  dependence where other people tell her what to do. This does not mean that she is ignored, or not emotionally supported, or left without guidance or information, but it does mean she spends a lot o f time by herself learning that she needs to make things happen for herself.  This takes time.  One thing she was given at Windsor House was the gift o f time to move through her pain, without pretending that everything was fine. Her emotion was given space. Mercogliano writes, "the heart o f the Free School's approach to fostering children's to help them learn to deal with their emotional selves" (Mercogliano 2003, p. 41). Tea was going through the awkward process o f figuring out her relationship to the context she was in. In this time she appeared lost and uncertain. Over time, I witnessed, that her state of being lost was becoming increasingly intermeshed with moments o f being connected. One way she did this was by attending organized activities or classes. She would also seek out and spend time in one-to-one contact with adults, whether it is her private piano lessons, or talking with Helen. Often she would spend time with the primary children in the Gazebo and Cottage Garden. When I would see her here, she would be smiling, younger children were excited to have her play with them, and she seemed confident. This was in stark contrast to her behaviour with students her same age or older, where she would talk to herself and other wise exhibit awkward behaviour.  A t the time I was there Tea would  spend an hour or so a few times a week in the primary rooms, and probably about twice as much time in her peer groups. There is a strong parallel between this activity and Mercogliano who in Teaching the Restless talks about a student Damian who has difficulty behaving in nondestructive  102  ways at Albany, and who often seeks out the primary room where he can adopt a role o f authority.  "Just being in an environment where there is no external succeed, or to  socialize only with kids his own age, w i l l slowly enable him to be more at ease, both with himself and with others" (2003, p. 41). The mobility to go between these spaces facilitates her moving between spaces o f comfort and authority and places o f fear and awkwardness.  The mobility  afforded to her in the school allowed her to experience all o f these relations, Tea was able to move back and forth between places o f knowing and not knowing and draw strength from one to bring to the other. Writing about Tea is the most difficult part o f this project.  It is a relationship that is  haunting and difficult to find words to describe. There are lessons in this relationship for me that I have not yet grasped, lessons about respectful relationships and respecting both her 'natural authority' and mine without dominating, patronizing or trying to 'save' her. I was uncomfortable with her strong demonstrations o f emotion; I wanted it to go away so that I would not have to witness it. This was key in learning the lessons o f wanting to save her, but realizing what I could do was support her in finding her path to figuring out how to feel happy about living her life. The best I could do was not deprive her o f the space to live it, and negotiate that space with her respectfully.  Mobility The high level of movement in the space fosters both a sense o f chaos and harmony, it facilitates being able to respond to the energy o f the moment, to commit and focus on activity without being called away, and opportunities to sample or try out new spaces and activities. connects to learning to control one's self in concert with others.  It  M y l e s Horton describes  democracy as a practice "where people have a way to control many facets o f their lives; political,  103  economic, social and cultural. In so far as they are minimized democracy is denied" (as quoted in Moyers, 1981). M o b i l i t y is central to participant control over the conditions of their life. When strong direct democracy is valued, freedom o f movement into, out o f and within the space becomes a central practice in l i v i n g that value. Likewise the flexibility o f space structured into the school is deeply embedded in a democratic ethic.  Part o f participatory democracy is to  construct structures that are responsive to the needs o f the participants.  A s the needs o f the  membership are fluid and shifting, the structure o f the space reflects that.  The hope and  motivation for participatory democracy rests on the idea that democracy and emancipation have a symbiotic relationship. The aspect o f control over the conditions o f one's life is not limited to how one engages with a space (as depicted by mobility) but necessarily includes participation in structuring the conditions o f regulating the space (rules and governance). This theme is the topic o f the next chapter.  104  luilra fur bring intfjeCastle Do t)  Hot let  «m/ff»tft.  U*4«  ^ O U r  ActdUlCV*  M«inum good order - even it it is not your mess If you enter the room and it is not tirtcty -coo, then you must either get the person who made the mess to fix it, or fix it  2) )) 4) J) I) T) I) *) 10)  younelf Pot the chain back at all times Straighten chairs when they are out-of-place. If you want to use a computer, you must get a licence, and a sign-on and password Do not rearrange the tables except for meetings Do noi use this room for anything except academics and meetings. Do IHW make loud noises, and be silent at the computers when a class is in session. If there is a class in session sign on the door, do not enter unless you are in the class. Don t talc anything, especially chairs, from this room unless you have permission from Helen Put the plug stops back in alter using a plug. It is for the safety of toddlers. Do not sit on the tables  Image 16: Posted Rules for The Castle  105  Rules and Governance The curriculum of the school is making rules; once the rule has been made, it has had its use. Helen Hughes, Fieldnote 06/23/04.  During my first visit to Windsor House School Helen Hughes arranged for two students to show me the school and explain to me how it worked. In the forty minutes the students and I spent together they highlighted the importance o f the school and judicial council, and kept me entertained with a string o f anecdotes about life at Windsor House. W i t h what appeared to be great pride and sense o f fun, they told me tales o f inventive and seemingly ridiculous resolutions that were proposed and /or passed at school council. A s we walked through rooms 78  my guides would briefly tell me the purpose o f each room, accompanied by stories o f themselves or others having complaints issued on them for activities in that room. I enjoyed the tour. I felt 79  excited and slightly nervous about my forthcoming time at Windsor House; I also felt confused. Towards the end of the tour, inspired by my uncertainty about what the rules are, and my trepidation about getting in trouble, I asked my guides how I should know what I can or cannot do at the school.  They told me that I can do pretty much what I want as long as I listen; people  w i l l tell me when I am doing something that is not allowed or inappropriate and as long as I listen, and modify my behaviour accordingly, all w i l l be well. I asked what would happen i f I didn't modify my behaviour. They shrugged, and without a sign o f concern told me that someone would write a complaint on me. A s someone who loathes getting in trouble, I did not find this relaxed and unspecified approach to rules particularly freeing or exciting. The rules themselves are typically called resolutions. Complaints are a formal way of enforcing rules. See Enforcing Rules in this chapter for more information.  7 8  7 9  106  For all my time at Windsor House my sense o f what the rules are remains uncertain. While I have developed skills and knowledge to function as a participant o f the school within its structure, I cannot with certainty, outline a list o f specific rules.  In the beginning I was under the  impression that my uncertainty about the rules was personal, a result o f being new and unfamiliar with my surroundings. This was, and remains, a significant factor to this uncertainty. However as I became increasingly familiar with the school it became clear there are other factors at play.  In an attempt to learn the boundaries of what was and was not allowed I began to ask: ' H o w do you know what y o u can and cannot do here?'  ' C a n y o u do whatever you like here?' and  'What are the rules here?' The responses were mixed. The instructions to relax, not to worry, and to listen to others in order to know what one can and cannot do, were by far the most frequent responses. This came from both students and adults in the school. Another common response to my questions was T don't know.'  This response came mostly from students. A few people, all  adults, told me to 'use common sense.' I did not find this particularly insightful, as the sense that was common within Windsor House was precisely what it was that I was trying to figure out. M y impressions of what was meant by common sense were to not cause any person or thing harm, clean up after myself, not to annoy anyone unduly and to be available to answer for or modify my actions. However this idea o f common sense is vague, I was curious more specifically with the details; where one could go /not go, what one could do /not do there, and how people know how to behave in order to not get in trouble?  A s I asked questions about what the rules are, it became apparent that there is no consistent knowledge o f them. M o s t people seemed unperturbed about the prevalence o f lack o f clarity, while a few seemed awkward and shy about it; I found it rather fascinating. However, despite the uncertainty around specific rules, there is a common understanding that the school functions on a  107  vast amount o f remarkably elaborate rules. The language o f 'you're not allowed' and 'we have a rule about that' is plentiful.  A s w e l l , there are some overarching rules that are known and  repeated frequently such as 'no running in the halls' and 'you're not allowed to exclude people.' Although there are differences in the roles o f adults, staff, and students in the school, there is a shared understanding that rules function for all members o f the school, not just the students.  While at no point did anyone refer me to written documents in response to my questions about rules, there does exist a number o f documents containing rules. The primary document is the Windsor House Handbook that is required reading for all new families at the school. This includes numerous rules and regulations around meeting procedures, anger management as w e l l as behaviour for fieldtrip and other off-school ground times. F o r example the type o f rules found here are: "If [students] go home early, then they must notify one teacher and sign out" (Windsor House, 2003, p. 18). " O n fieldtrips, supervisors are the law unto themselves," (Windsor House, p. 16). "If y o u want to be able to go to Park and Tilford or the Q , y o u must get a special license" 8 0  (Windsor House, 2003, p. 20).  These rules do not specifically address the day-to-day actions  within the school. Rules that address this are posted on the walls or written in newsletters. The school is covered with posted rules; all rooms, including the front porch and some storage closets have lists o f rules that guide behaviour for that space (Image 16; Image 17).  The posted rules are often recently posted. Most rules posted are printed by computer and contain modifications made with ink or crayon indicating that they are in use, however it was rare that I saw people refer to them specifically. Because o f this, and because only one person I spoke with mentioned the posted rules when I asked about how they know what they can and cannot do, I do not think they are read, referred to or used with much frequency. It seems strange to me to  The Park and Tilford and the Q are a nearby mall and corner store respectively, they are common places students go when they leave grounds.  8 0  108  go to all the trouble o f posting them i f they are rarely referred to. I suspect that there are many reasons for this; one reason is that with such an abundance o f text it blends into the background and people stop seeing it. Another is that many members o f the school are young and are not yet reading. Another reason, which I believe is the strongest, is that most members don't consciously think about rules as the factor that guides their behaviour; instead rules are understood for the purpose of mediating conflict and safety, i f there is no conflict or safety concerns, there appears to be no need for rules. In this way the rules more frequently indicate what is prohibited, rather than what is allowed. For example many o f the rooms on the East side o f the building have rules about the windows.  In  one room the windows  must stay closed except in  "extreme  circumstances" (Fieldnote, June 23, 04, 5754) another room states that hanging or throwing things out o f the windows is not allowed. The windows on this side o f the school are o f concern because they overlook the play area o f the french school downstairs and there is a history o f incidents o f annoyance between the students o f these two schools. However there are no rules stating that the windows may not be opened, or shouted through in the rooms on the other side o f the school. There has been no such conflict with those windows, so there has not been a need to create such rules around them; people do as they see fit until there is conflict. Not all posted rules are as unequivocal as ' N o hanging out the windows.'  M o s t o f them allow for a great deal o f  ambiguity such as only sponsoring "one overly aggressive student" in the B M R (Fieldnote, June 25, 04, 6473).  Or they are peculiarly specific indicating that they have developed out o f a  particular incident like Hockey Rule #9: " N o Chanting" (Field memory, June 17).  109  The Big Muscle Room  Image 17: Posted Rules in B M R The big muscle room, or B M R , has  safety and supervision concerns (Image 17).  the highest concentration o f energy and the  The B M R is particularly  highest concentration o f posted rules. It has  sponsors. A t Windsor House the supervision  no furnishings other than a small loft, a few  responsibilities are usually attached to the  benches along the w a l l , large pillows and  child rather than the room, this means that a  big mobile blocks (Image 18). This carpeted  sponsor generally sponsors particular people  room is perfect for running around and is the  in the B M R not the room as a whole.  only space in the school where play fighting  People who wish to be in the B M R have the  is permitted. This room is used mostly by  responsibility  younger students as a rumpus room.  sponsorship.  of  stringent  arranging  their  about  own  O n the wall at the entrance o f the  I found the frenetic energy and the  room are ten pages o f rules addressing  multiple rules and regulations o f the B M R  110  rather  intimidating  and  overwhelming.  use. In addition to these rules there are also  While I looked into the B M R every day, it  charts  was not a room I spent much time in.  sponsor and at what level. A s is evident by  Despite this I was approached multiple times  the following postings (Fieldnote, June 25,  every day by younger students asking me to  04, 6462-6525)  please sponsor them in the B M R .  elements  On the next page are some o f the  indicating  left  who  there unclear,  is  'licensed'  are a number or  which  to  of are  contradictory, in the posted rules.  posted rules guiding sponsorship and room  Ill  Some o f the rules posted in the B M R :  "You must know all the names of all the students you sponsor" Three Levels of Sponsorship Level 1: Limit of 5 students. Imaginative games and fort building only. No wrestling, pillow fighting, or block jumping. Level 2: Limit of 10 students. Tag games and block jumping. Limit of one overly aggressive student. Level 3: Sponsor uses own judgment along with set rules on BMR. There can be up to 3 level 1 sponsors at a time (max 15 students). Or There can be 1 level 1 sponsor and 1 level 2 sponsor (max 15 students) Or A level 2 on its own with any combination overseeing the room.  o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o  No food or drink Take off shoes Hitting only with permission Nothing tied around neck No hitting on head or groin area Big blocks can only be piled 2 blocks high No pillows over the top holes in the block No blocking the loft off from vision or the entrance to the loft with pillows No gymnastics Lower windows must stay shut No climbing the windows One person on the loft ladder at a time No jumping from loft or ladder 5 people in the loft only No socks on blocks  "These are the rules for play fighting, pillow fighting and wrestling at Windsor House: The BMR is the only room in the school where these activities can happen. A licensed sponsor (licensed staff member) must be present and directly supervising."  "If any of the rules listed below are broken, the person causing the offence may be immediately ejected from the activity or given one initial warning. (This decision is made at the sponsor's discretion)"  Making Rules Part o f the expression o f democracy at Windsor House is that the rules emerge from an expressed need or desire and are made by those they govern. The central meeting at which this occurs is the school council, which meets every school day with the exception o f Tuesdays;  81  classes are scheduled to not conflict with council. The focus o f School C o u n c i l is to discuss, debate and pass resolutions. Passed resolutions become the rules o f the school. A n y member o f the school may submit a resolution for consideration at council. A s described in the methodology chapter, the procedure is to write on a piece o f paper, " B . I . R . T " (be it resolved that), the proposed resolution, and your name. Adult members must have three student supporters sign the paper. The paper is then placed in the resolutions file in the office or given to the person chairing the council at the beginning o f the meeting. The person proposing the resolution must be present at the meeting to discuss it; i f they are not the resolution is left in the folder until another meeting when they are present.  Each meeting is chaired. Generally this is done by a single staff member who agrees to the responsibility for a number o f months.  82  Often the person chairing w i l l be supported or  substituted by a parent or older student. The person chairing the meeting reads the resolution out loud; a discussion then ensues which they mediate.  Sometimes people at the council have  questions or concerns to address. Sometimes stories and insights are shared about similar resolutions in the past. Sometimes friendly modifications are offered, which can be accepted or denied by the person who tabled the resolution. After the discussion the person chairing asks: 'are we ready to take it to a vote?' If there is agreement, a vote is cast by raising and counting  On Tuesdays school is in session only in the mornings. The afternoons are reserved for staff meetings and consultations between staff, students and/or parents. The personality of the person chairing impacts the tone of the meeting. While maintaining a single staff member as chair assists with knowledge continuity, it may restrict access for those who wish not to engage with the person chairing.  8 1  8 2  113  hands.  Resolutions need two-thirds majority to pass.  Numbers are counted for yes, no and  abstain; there are no absentee votes. A l l members o f the school can attend council and vote.  83  Passed resolutions along with the numbers o f votes are printed in the weekly school newsletter which are archived on the web site, other than that there is no formal record book o f resolutions. Although it is possible to look up a record o f resolutions on the web site, I did not once see or hear about anybody doing this. Instead rules are effective to the extent that they are remembered and enforced. This is perhaps the most significant aspect o f the organization o f this school space.  Attendance at school council meetings is not mandatory. The number and identity  of  participants from one meeting to another varies from as few as six to as many as thirty-five people. teachers.  Usually there w i l l be six to fifteen students, and one to five adults including one or two Although there are faces that appear frequently, it is generally a different group o f  people from day to day. That said there are many members o f Windsor House who almost never attend council meetings. Occasionally there are more adults than students at these meetings but usually the number o f students greatly outnumbers the number o f adults. There is a tendency for the students who attend to be middle or older students rather than the youngest students.  The council meetings take place around an oval table. People sit at the table and around the room on the bookshelves or at other chairs. People j o i n and leave throughout the meeting. M a n y people bring their lunches and eat. It is not unusual that there w i l l be people writing resolutions, perhaps  asking  for  spelling  assistance and  often  receiving  solicited  and  unsolicited  recommendations towards their resolutions. There are side-conversations, but generally it is a  M y voting privileges occurred with an odd mixture of formality and informality. Early in practicum, when I was in attendance at a small council meeting, it felt odd to be present and vote, and so I voted. The teacher chairing the meeting said that a resolution was necessary for to be able to vote. The teacher then verbally introduced a resolution, everybody said yes, and meeting continued. B y that time I had already voted at other meetings without incident. 8 3  my not me the  114  focused forum.  There is no assured timeline granted to resolutions.  passed, it is not carved in stone.  When a resolution gets  A passed resolution can be, and often has been, quickly  overturned, replaced, or forgotten. Other resolutions seem to have a large cyclical pattern where the same resolution w i l l be reinforced then retired time and time again. Sometimes this cycle is long, such as every couple of years, other times it is short. A t times during the history o f council there have been attempts to increase the number o f people participating.  Tactics used have  included making council mandatory and adding ridiculous and controversial resolutions to provoke attendance. Neither o f these tactics is currently used. People participate to the extent that they find it useful to them.  When a provocative resolution is being considered the number o f people in attendance goes up.  84  Sometimes it becomes clear that a longer discussion is necessary than the time allotted in  school council and a special meeting is called. These meetings occur during school time and are announced in the newsletter so that more people can find out about it and attend. the list o f 30 rules around hockey posted in the gym was passed by 3 0 / 0 / 0  85  F o r example  indicating a fairly  significant attendance which was likely discussed as a special meeting. Other topics that may be turned over to a special meeting are issues around repeated violence, theft or bullying.  Provocative and controversial resolutions continue to be introduced. The difference now is that they emerge out of an experienced difficulty, not for the sole purpose of drawing a crowd. These numbers are written as they appear on postings and in newsletters announcing new resolutions, they indicate the 'for'/'against'/'abstain' respectfully.  8 4  8 5  115  Council in Progress A number o f boys between the  might think and the school's reputation.  86  A  ages o f ten and fourteen went through a spell  great deal of concern was expressed around  o f playing a game in the green space by the  impact on younger students.  parking  everybody  suggested a 'friendly revision' that the game  entering the school. The game consisted o f  be modified so that instead o f inflammatory  one boy being chased by  insults, other yells were used.  lot  in  full  view  of  all the  other  A teacher  The game  participants, who, while they chased h i m ,  players said that would  hurled insults at h i m ; it was always the same  People expressed discomfort with the idea o f  boy that was chased.  a game where the point was to bombard  A parent wrote a  resolution to ban the game. argument  was  a  Initially, her  concern  for  the  ruin the game.  another person with insults. It was clear that this discussion was not going to be resolved  victimization o f the boy being chased. This  within  boy came to the meeting to express desire to  meeting.  continue the game and offense that someone  passed that the game be put on hold for the  else was setting the conditions by which he  rest o f the week and a special issues be  would be labeled victim.  called for the following M o n d a y .  discussion arose.  A twenty-minute  game that were  impacted but  also  everybody who had to witness it. Concerns were  mentioned  time  of  the  school  council  It was proposed, voted on and  87  People involved made  arguments that it was not only the boys in the  the  about  what  neighbours  Concerns around the school's relationship with its neighbours and its public reputation are often expressed. Part of this stems from the need to 'stay under the radar' because of the school's unusual and unfamiliar educational approaches within a system prone to standardization. Windsor House has suffered a history of often bizarre, often defamatory rumours about it. Newsletters are issued on Fridays.  86  8 7  There is a lot going on i n this  significant was that ethical positioning was  scenario in terms o f expressions o f power,  considered as intrinsically important to the  group process, and authority. I imagine an  decision; the concept o f the resolution was  effect o f this postponement was a loss o f  not  interest i n the game, and thus the process o f  members wanted to live as a community.  passing the resolution had the  The  intended  separated  from  ideas  discussion covered  of  how  ideas  of  the  false  effect (of stopping the game) regardless o f  consciousness and who gets to establish  whether the resolution passed.  when another's behavior is bad for  This is one  the  o f the ways the abundance o f bureaucracy  person.  can be powerfully wielded to impact and  abstract theory and specific lived experience  operate in a participatory democracy.  were  bureaucracy can be used to tie practice so to disable it.  The  up  the  However I do not  know i f the members in fact stopped the  In the process o f this discussion,  inseparable;  this  seemed  like  significant learning and an illustration how  the  making  of  the  rules  of  is  the  curriculum o f the school. During this discussion, the meeting  game. I find it significant that while it  filled up with the boys involved. What was  was likely that the resolution to end the  interesting was that they did not speak with  game would have passed, a vote was not  one voice.  deemed appropriate because the discussion  opinion at council is taken seriously. When  did  of  the meeting moved onto the next item o f the  resolution. It seemed to be understood that  agenda, most o f the people left the room.  passing a resolution without agreement from  They  the people who are being asked to change  business other that that which  their behaviour would be futile to living out  them.  the resolution.  mobility and self regulation interconnect.  not  achieve an adequate  sense  Another aspect I  found  were  It appears that one's personal  not  obligated  to  attend  to  interested  This is an example o f how rules,  117  Although the business o f council is often serious, such as in the preceding example, the process o f inventing defending and considering a resolution is generally addressed with creativity, experimentation and a great deal o f play. Even the most outlandish resolutions brought to the forum o f school council are discussed, taken to a vote, and i f passed, implemented. A t one meeting a group o f older boys introduced a resolution to make it so that the people who volunteer to take messages from a meeting in process to people needed for the meeting, would have to be called 'bounty-hunters.'  There was much laughter from the presenters of this resolution who  were enthusiastic about it. They insisted it had to be a school resolution and not just something they did amongst themselves. This resolution did not pass because concerns were raised about introducing a label embedded with so much violence, and about needlessly forcing people to use a particular vocabulary. However, it was a small meeting, i f the boys proposing it had brought a few more people with them it likely would have passed, despite one o f the boys initially advocating for it, voting against it.  88  The space to make bad rules, and play with the possibility o f  the outlandish is key to council working.  B a d resolutions implemented can fail to solve the  problem, trigger annoyance, get quickly over turned, and /or fall flat with people in the school refusing to adopt to it.  This sense o f playing with the possibility, and trying rules out is  imperative to feeling like an entitled member o f the process o f democracy. It is an expression o f real impact on and entitlement to the space. L i v i n g with the results o f bad resolutions, brings insight into the process o f making effective resolutions.  Play  and experimentation  provide  the possibility  o f addressing real concerns with  unexpected but effective solutions, and expanding the imagination o f strategies for resolution.  This was met with guffaws by his collaborators. When they asked what was up with his vote he responded by saying it no longer seemed like a good idea. This was not the first time I saw groups of peers break ranks when it came to voting. I was impressed with these demonstrations of independence.  8 8  118  For example, a few years ago there was a fad o f introducing wordy resolutions that exhausted the council and made everything take a long time. In response, a resolution was passed stating that all future resolutions had to be written in haiku format, this effectively nipped the lengthy prose in the bud. Later that resolution was modified so that resolutions did not have to be written in haiku, but those which were, would be addressed first. effect, but did not see it u s e d .  90  89  I was told that this resolution was still in  It is this sense o f play that engenders ownership and a functional  material understanding of negotiating space with others. Participatory democracy means living with the effects o f your actions and grappling with the relationship between the rule and the lived reality.  This is why it is the process o f making the rule, not the rule itself, that is seen as  significant, and why it is important that the results o f the process are changeable. Helen told me about how she has observed that sometimes, even i f a resolution is not passed, the discussion o f the proposed resolution is in and o f itself sufficient to shift the behaviour that inspired the proposal o f the resolution (Field memory, June 2 3 , 04).  A t Windsor House, the rule does not  exist for the sake o f the rule, it exists to be o f service i n the negotiation o f the sharing o f space, i f the rule is not working for those effected, then the rule is changed or dropped.  In addition to the school council meetings, and special topics meetings, there are other ways rules are made. A l l funding decisions need to go through S . A . N . E and occur at those meetings; resolutions that involve parent participation are also introduced and passed there.  91  These  meetings follow the same protocol as school council. Rules are also developed in committee meetings or room councils, both o f which are developed to tend to the needs o f a particular space  Because the person who introduces a resolution has to be present to defend it, having a resolution at the beginning can prevent having to sit through multiple other resolutions waiting. L o o k i n g in the newsletters after this fieldwork, I see the trend of haiku returned. M a n y funding and administrative decisions seem to be made in this forum. I am unclear how much structurally protected influence students have over this. I didn't see students voting at the parents/evening meetings. I do not have enough information to establish the finer details of this.  8 9  9 0  9 1  119  or topic, and are under the authority o f the school council.  M a n y individual rooms have  councils that determine the use and rules for that room, it is these councils that are often responsible for the rule postings on that room.  F o r example the rules about the process o f  checking books out o f the library is tended to by library council not school council. The library has a particularly strong council, which has intentionally reduced the rules for that room to three rules written i n h a i k u .  93  There are also rules imposed on Windsor House from outside. To ensure  public funding, Windsor House and its staff are under the obligation to follow a number o f district regulations around safety and other standards. The rule o f no smoking on school grounds for example, comes from the district.  Within the language o f Windsor House there is a lot o f interplay between the vocabulary o f rules, resolutions and procedures; however there is some sense o f distinction between them. The language o f resolutions seems to primarily apply to rules that have been recently created. The language o f rules seems to be for another set o f overarching, firm rules. These rules seem to be the resolutions that have stood the test o f time. F o r example, a common statement i s : at Windsor House, we are not allowed to exclude people.  The language o f procedures is for outlining the  course o f action by which a solution may be derived for situations as they come up. The overarching or what I call super rules, such as not excluding people; seem to be understood as fixed and definite, and beyond the scope o f change. Exactly were the divide between malleable and nonmalleable rules lies, and who sees what as changeable, is a source for further investigation.  Complaints about room councils can be taken up at school council; school council does not oversee the details of room councils. The three rules o f the library are: "Furniture stays still. Trust in the wisdom of the library council," "Silence must prevail. A quiet place to read is what must be maintained," and "Eat at the table, on the linoleum floor, no crumbs must be found." A l l rules set for the school apply to the library as well. 9 2  9 3  120  Over time the structure o f council has changed, at some points it worked on consensus, at other times it worked with majority rule. central.  Collaboration o f all participants has always been  A t times, intervention has been used within a system.  Six years ago the school  experienced a crisis o f existence in the high school level. Teachers and parents were frustrated and exhausted by what they considered a highly apathetic teen group that was causing a bad reputation for the school by their off-school ground school hour behavior.  In an unusual and  coercive move, the staff said they were unwilling to continue teaching the high school students, and shut the school down to them.  Students were allowed to come to Windsor House only as  long as they participated in what was to become known as the ' L o n g Meeting.' This meeting was a multiple week meeting in which guidelines and rules were negotiated between the members o f the staff, parents, and high school students to address concerns and come up with a strategy for continuing the s c h o o l .  94  This constant change, intervention, and repeated cycles are not  considered an impediment but rather an important part of the participatory democratic process. Power dynamics are always at play, the change and the discussion that forces the changes likely does more to curb these dynamics than striving to establish a perfect system.  There are other formalized conventions at Windsor House intended to support the members o f the school and the democratic process, but which are not o f themselves democratic. These are primarily the philosophy meetings and conflict resolution sessions. Philosophy meetings may be called by any member o f the school and are generally held in the evening. They are intended to be "about what we believe—and how to bring either our actions into line with our beliefs, or our beliefs into line with our actions...These meetings are to share ideas, but do not attempt to resolve problems or achieve consensus" (Windsor House, 2003, p. 6).  Conflict Resolution  The Windsor House web site has posted detailed minutes for this.entire process. 121  Meetings are a convention intended to resolve conflict between the people who are experiencing it.  95  I have a lasting image in my mind o f walking down the bustling hallway, feeling tired by the noise and the movement o f people all around me. Through a left ajar door o f the Temple o f the F l y i n g P i g , I saw a small quiet group o f students raising their hands to vote. I was impressed both by the intent and sanctuary that seemed to be in this room. This small group o f people making the decisions for the running o f the school calmed me. I was impressed with the rest o f the school going on as usual while significant decisions were being made; leaving others to do that day's work without everyone having to be involved with the details o f every decision. C o u n c i l is a tool that provides structure to the chaos and rhythm to the space. This moment, which is crystal clear in my mind, left me with a sense that something powerful was happening here, something connected to the relationship between the individual and the collective.  Enforcing Rules. Judicial Council, called J . C . , occurs after the resolutions o f school council have been completed. It is a central system regulating how rules are enforced and conflict is addressed. The function o f J.C. is to hear complaints and determine consequences. A n y member of Windsor House can write a complaint on another member o f the school. Complaints are written when one member is hurt or annoyed by another or witnesses someone breaking a resolution, and is unable to resolve the situation on their own. Complaints do not necessarily go against a known or stated rule; for example there is no rule that one is not allowed to throw paper airplanes at someone, but there is a stated mandate and general understanding that when y o u are doing something annoying or unsafe, y o u have to stop when asked. If someone throws paper airplanes at someone and w i l l  9 5  See Enforcing Rules in this chapter.  122  not stop when asked, a complaint may be written on them, but throwing a paper airplane at no one in particular, or a w i l l i n g target, may be perfectly fine. Common complaints involve: an act o f exclusion from a game; violence such as being pinched, punched or threatened; inappropriate touching such as grabbing bums; being pestered; using a space without being licensed for it; leaving a mess; or not following sign-in /sign-out procedures.  96  Submitting a complaint involves filling out the first page of a complaint form, (Image 19) which are available in multiple places around the s c h o o l .  97  The form asks for a description o f  what happened, the name o f the person filing the complaint, the name o f the person the complaint is on, the name o f any witnesses, and a proposed consequence; this suggested consequence is considered and occasionally implemented by council. The complaint is then put in the council folder.  98  It is not necessary to come to council to defend your complaint, although council may  send a runner  99  for y o u i f they require more information.  O n a given day J . C . may address  between four and twenty complaints. The complaint is read out, consequences are suggested and collectively considered with regards to the particular individual and the context.  Some  complaints are simple, but some, because they involve repeated offences or seem particularly mean-spirited require a considerable amount o f discussion. A person's file may be consulted to see i f there is a history of similar complaints.  W h e n it seems like there is a tone of general  agreement in the council, the consequence is put to a vote.  Consequences pass by the same  process as resolutions. The people implicated vote i f they are present. When a consequence is  See Information Central in Authority, Negotiation and Power for more information. Younger students, who are not yet writing, often ask older students or adults to scribe or assist with spelling with these forms. Often the request for assistance filling out the form is not accompanied by a request for assistance about the content of the form. Often younger students hand their complaint to an adult to place in the council folder. When council deems it necessary to have more information about a complaint a person from the meeting w i l l volunteer to go find that person, this is called a runner. When a runner comes to get y o u , you are required to come to the meeting.  9 6  9 7  9 8  9 9  123  derived, a council member  writes the information on the second part o f the form (Image 20).  The consequence is then run to the person receiving the consequence, they accept it or in rare exceptions come to council to present a case to have the consequence eliminated or changed. If the people involved in the complaint are present generally the consequence is not put to a vote until they verbally agree to the proposed consequence. It seems to be deemed futile to assign a consequence that is not accepted. Complaints and consequences are not published in the weekly newspaper. They are filed in the student's file in the unlocked cabinet in the school council meeting room. A s far as I understand, there is no official process to ensure that consequences are followed. " W e have no police system, so must rely on the good intentions o f the people receiving the consequences" (Windsor House, 2003, p. 17). Nobody suggested to me that consequences issued are not followed, however I did witness particular surveillance o f individuals with a history o f complaints issued on them implying that the handbook statement does not necessarily or consistently reflect the practice.  A n interesting side effect of this arrangement is that while there are conventions in arriving at a consequence, a person does not know the consequences for their actions ahead o f time, nor do they known i f there w i l l be a consequence issued for breaking a r u l e .  101  This  uncertain arrangement can be restrictive because o f the fear o f not knowing the sources o f trouble. It can also be embraced as freeing, such as the boys who gave me my initial tour, who said to do what y o u want, but listen for when it is bothering people.  A s with the resolutions, a 'council member' is any member of the school who is in attendance. A l l o w convention seems to be that a person issues a threat of writing a complaint prior to writing the complaint. 1 0 0  101  124  COMPLAINT FORM /what Happened?  ^ ^ \  Use  TV*;  V  y  Image 19: First Page o f Complaint F o r m  Image 20: Second Page o f Complaint F o r m There is a wide range o f consequences. Some are creative and specific to an incident. F o r example Helen was given the consequence o f replacing light bulbs. This consequence came in response to a complaint written on her that she had made a sexist assumption by asking specifically for boys to help her move something heavy. Changing the light bulbs was seen as typically male work, so it was deemed appropriate to the context. C o m m o n consequences are to be temporarily restricted from the room where the incident occurred, or to be de-licensed, which is to lose special permissions. F o r example i f someone does not listen to their sponsor in the B M R , the council may decide that that person has to go a week without using the B M R . I f a person does not follow procedure for leaving the school grounds, their license to leave grounds may be revoked for a specified time. In this way, complaints and consequences are significantly about negotiation o f space.  125  Each student  has a file in the unlocked file cabinet kept in the Temple o f the F l y i n g P i g  where the meeting is held. A s consequences are 'community' business, these files are open and accessible to everyone. They hold all complaints filed and consequences issued on that person. If a person has repeated complaints made on them, a red flag w i l l be introduced (Image 21). This indicates a preset, exponentially increasing consequence with regards to any further complaints o f a similar nature.  Red flags are reserved for '"red flag' behaviours such as physical violence,  intimidation, bullying, sexual harassment" (Fieldnote, June 15, 04, 3956), as written on outside o f file cabinet), or behaviour that is deemed problematic that w i l l not change. A red flag is issued so that further behaviour o f a similar nature w i l l be addressed with increased seriousness. C o u n c i l can remove Red flags from a file; typically this is done when the person with the flag introduces a resolution that the flag be removed. For this resolution to be successful, council must believe the behaviour has changed, and the flag is no longer necessary.  RED F L A G HAS RECEIVED A RED FLAG FOR THE FOLLOWING:  L_  ——  '  WITH A SET CONSEQUENCE OF:  D A T E  .  (SEE BACK FOR FURTHER INFO)  Image 2 1 : Red Flag  Judicial C o u n c i l is not the only venue in which to address conflict.  Other often-used  options are conflict resolution and small group problem solving: sometimes these are formalized and sometimes not. They are generally used for incidents that seem to have an ongoing history, 1 0 2  1 do not know if teachers or parents have such files. 126  have a high degree o f emotional upset, and /or are particularly targeted or mean spirited. Sometimes J . C . w i l l require participants i n a conflict to have a small meeting instead of, or i n addition to, issuing a consequence.  Sometimes staff or parents request these meetings, and  sometimes the participants themselves request them.  Conflict resolution and problem solving  groups allow the participants a less public venue and a tighter influence on the outcome. Helen plays a primary role in mediating these groups.  While all these structural tools are in place, the preferred mode o f action is for people to figure out a way to work things out for themselves in the moment. Sometimes this is simple, for instance a few times a person I was talking with and I were asked to move because our voices were distracting to others. This was easily done, and there was no need to evoke or create a rule. Sometimes people working things out for themselves can be more involved, like the following example which occurred midday i n the Temple o f The F l y i n g P i g when a few people had been talking around the table:  Boxhead  103  (aged 6) was walking on the table towards two loud young girls  (ages 6/7?) who had settled at the end of the table and were beginning to unpack their lunches. Boxhead was walking with determination and certainty, making some sort of proclamation at the two girls. The girls looked at him.  One said,  "no walking on the table. " Boxhead sat down on the table. A teacher and I were still in the room, so were a few older kids. None of us seemed to be responding to Boxhead on the table at all. I don't think any of the three involved in this interaction were particularly conscious of the adult presence being a factor in evoking or enforcing this rule.  104  1 assigned this boy this name because of an incident at the beginning of my fieldwork when he barged i n on a conversation I was having with two girls wearing cardboard armor and bearing a long cardboard sword. Part of his armory was a large box on his head. 1 do not know i f this is a rule or not, but it was evoked as i f it was, and was not disputed. 103  104  127  Everyone leaves the room during or shortly after this so it is me, the two hyper girls, and Boxhead remaining. Boxhead is talking in a loud voice, banging his lunch box against the table and swinging it around his head. The girls are talking loudly, and their movements are dramatic and seemingly uncontrolled. The girls are not sitting down; they are at the end of the table eating a chip or a carrot at a time from their lunches and dancing around. Boxhead makes fun of their dancing. He swings his lunch box and it opens, everything falls out and makes a mess on the carpet. He then expresses a lot of hateful words towards the girls including "I'm going to kill you."  The girls seem unconcerned and  unresponsive to his anger. The level of his upset concerns me; I ask him why he is so upset. He says that they [the girls] are laughing at him.  As he says this, he  begins to clean up his food, and repack his box without me asking him.  I say, I  don't think they are laughing at you, and that they have been laughing ever since they came in the room.  He turns his attention back to the girls and expands on his "I'm going to kill you" by saying, "I hope you freeze to death." He then begins to develop increasingly imaginative ways by which this could happen. When he gets to the point of sending them to the South Pole in their bathing suits, one of the girls finally responds to him saying that wouldn't work because they never bring their swimsuits to school.  "But," he counters, "there is a swim trip coming up."  "Well, we '11 bring winter clothes. " "Well, I'll set up an airport with security that will only let you through without winter clothes. " "Well; I'll take a parachute and jump out before we get there. " "You don't know how to jump. " "Well, my mom does, I'll get her to teach me. " While this conversation of plots and sabotage is occurring, Boxhead is returning to his sitting on the table, his body and voice grow calmer and it seems he is happy to be having this discussion. He asks them to dance, and they do. (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2428-74,)  In this example I interpret that Boxhead wanted to participate in the girls' fun and was frustrated about how to make that happen. The girls, who are themselves a bold and dominate force in the school, seemed unperturbed by the Boxhead, but did not want him crashing their fun.  128  Resolving this conflict by turning his hostilities into a game that was fun for all parties is a path I find perplexing, unexpected, rather humorous, and slightly concerning, however, it seemed to work for all involved in the moment. M y concerns rest in the possibility that often a gendered way girls predict and dissipate boys entitlement to space and their physical or confrontational stance is to appease them by giving them enough of what they want to prevent the possibility o f violence.  This is part o f the way gender scripts operate.  W h i l e this may not have been the  dominant factor here, gendered power dynamics around negotiation o f space are certainly present. A potentially hostile and explosive dynamic dissipated without adult assistance being sought, expected, or apparently desired.  Living and Learning From Rules A t Windsor House the rules operate in the absence o f the members having consistent knowledge about what the rules are, and with ambiguous instructions about how to follow them. Members do not use rules as the primary factor guiding their behaviour; instead behaviour is reliant on contextual consideration and deliberation. The process o f the system o f governance and creation o f rules is to find an agreed upon path through conflict.  Rules emerge from an  expressed sense o f resolution by all parties; they are a process of negotiation.  The rule itself  represents a codification o f the process; it is the process o f negotiating the conflict that is meaningful, and the heart o f the curriculum o f the school. People participate in governance to the extent they find it useful to them, and the rules are effective to the extent that they are remembered and enforced. Embedded in this process is the lesson that rules are human made tools to provide a use, thus they can be malleable. The ideas o f democratic citizenship rely on people being active in the formation o f the structures that govern them.  This system holds  129  powerful lessons about responsibility, participation, and negotiation, though it is not without its problems and tensions. Richard Swift in The No-Nonsense Guide to Democracy (2003) suggests that active citizenship cannot be expected without at least some experience o f direct democracy (p. 95). In the context o f Windsor House where direct democracy is abundant there is a strong sense o f citizenship. Because the rules are always a work in progress and they can be easily changed there is room for play and experimentation.  This can foster feelings o f ownership o f and belonging to  the space. There is something powerful about having a random, and sometimes ridiculous idea o f one's own become a rule, and then seeing how it manifests within the school. For those who participate, this fosters a sense o f connection and responsibility to the surrounding people and space. Because rules get taken up on an individualistic basis within their context, this fosters people seeing each other as individuals as they negotiate.  Because these negotiations are  happening in a collective context, these individuals are each accountable to the larger group. There are powerful lessons within this structure about learning that rules can be malleable to the needs of the people. That the structure can be in the service o f the people, and ones' individual needs can be continually negotiated within the context o f an interdependent and interconnected community.  There are also abundant lessons about investing one's self in the issues that feel  particularly important to the individual and not opposing someone else's interests needlessly.  It  seemed remarkable to me that through all this negotiation around rules I did not once hear anyone say, 'That's not fair.' In this structure o f governance fairness is built, not decreed. L i v i n g with this state o f rules is full o f contradiction and uncertainty. A few students I spoke with expressed doubts that the system o f writing complaints served a useful purpose.  One  student, who was new to the school, took difficulties she was having directly to Helen or another  130  teacher to address instead o f using the complaint system. Part o f this may have been bringing habits from her many years' experiences at standard school, or she may have felt that doing this had more satisfactory  results.  Another  student, who  had been at Windsor House for  approximately four years, told me that it is "useless" to write complaints. (Fieldnote, June 2, 04, 2013). That they do not work to stop whom ever was bugging her. Instead she kept her head down and tried to be " i n v i s i b l e " to all but a handful o f friends and "enemies" (Fieldnote, June 02, 04, 2065). She talked about Windsor House being a place o f strangers, without connection.  That knowledge o f rules is inconsistent serves both as an important function and a cause o f concern. Often frustration is felt and expressed about how difficult it is to stay in the loop o f the current changes. This is particularly strong, but not exclusive to, members, especially parents, who have a lot o f physical distance from the school. Negotiating the balance between providing clarity to members so that they feel connected, and maintaining the benefits o f flexibility is tricky work.  Rules, although a significant part o f the school, are not the pinnacle o f authority.  Human  interaction takes precedent. Hense the rules come second to the context o f the moment. This is a circumstance that challenged my preconceptions.  Circumstance and interpretation are written  into many o f the rules themselves. F o r example there is a rule for the front porch: "no swearing when any adult who might be offended is near" (Fieldnote, June 17, 04, 4823). One cannot evoke this rule absolutely, a consideration o f context and the perspective o f the person who swore, who was offended and who evokes the rule is built into it; discussion and negotiation are necessarily part o f it. This call to be engaged and accountable, despite my good intentions, was one I found hard to live up to. This is exemplified in my  fieldnotes:  131  The front porch was busy, mostly with what I would call the 'cool' kids. While Tea and I were talking, B-girl and another of her friends came up. Tea was eating Jell-O. Her arm was bumped and a big glob of the Jell-O fell onto the floor. Everyone giggled, then the other two girls left out the front door. A moment later Tea followed. Then I left the area. The Jell-O remained on the floor. I feel regrets about my avoidance here. It was my responsibility to Tea and the processes of Windsor House to do something. However I didn't want to contend with the bitchiness of the girls or target Tea in front of them. As a result I am likely slated by B-girl as someone to be ignored. I worry about having not taken Tea seriously enough to engage with her about this, and with leaving a mess that would get progressively more gross, that someone else had to clean up. In retrospect, I should have said, I'll get the paper towels to help you clean that up, and went from there. (Fieldnote, June 17, 04, 4844-4863) I could take the stance o f being an uninvolved researcher /observer, but this was inconsistent with how I was i n the space.  Talking to the participants, threatening to or actually writing a  complaint all were options. However, regretfully, I did not engage. I find it a great deal o f work to be as constantly engaged with the people around me, and myself, as this structure seems to warrant.  I have an inclination towards quiet isolation that this sort o f community engagement  seems incompatible with. I do, however, appreciate how the space pushes me to work with this important lesson.  This process o f making and negotiating rules is the curriculum o f the school; the tedium o f negotiating rules is not extraneous to the activities at hand, but central to them. It is important to emphasize it is not intended that the rules be enforced in every possible instance; rather they are  132  to be used sparingly and only when the participants cannot otherwise resolve the situation for themselves:  105  "The spirit o f the rule is more important than the letter o f the law. Community members are expected to assist in enforcing a rule when the breaking o f the rule causes difficulties in the community. A 'code o f silence' is unacceptable, but one is expected to use discretion in 'fingering' culprits. If y o u get pleasure from 'telling' on someone, then y o u probably shouldn't do it, but i f y o u feel that someone's behaviour is a problem to the community, y o u should file a complaint even i f that person is a good friend". (Windsor House, 2003, p.8)  M a n y , i f not most, o f the rules have to do with trying to foster a culture o f inclusivity, flexibility and respect. The specifics o f the rules, as they are always in flux, are less important than the intention behind the rules. L i v i n g in this arrangement necessitates a large amount o f local cultural knowledge (often called 'common sense'). The staff seems very knowledgeable o f the rules; so do students and parents who are actively engaged in the school and have been there awhile. There appears to be a heavy reliance on oral history and memory which in some ways fosters an 'in crowd' was well as an 'out crowd.' Often students say they don't know the rules. In my experience, students who were new at Windsor House were more likely to express this. Broadly, even when there is no knowledge o f the specifics o f the rule, there is knowledge of the process o f the rules at Windsor House.  While records are maintained in the student's files about whom complaints are written on, no records are kept for who writes complaints. It would be interesting to document the range o f the population that uses the complaint system, as there are many complaints filed. I was surprised to  While working it out for one's self is preferred, I did not hear anyone in council ever suggest that a complaint should not have been issued. I see this as a method to combat hard to identify power dynamics that may be behind why the situation was not resolved. F i l i n g a complaint is a way of asking for assistance. 1 0 s  133  see one young girl, approximately seven-years-old, who has many red flags herself, write a complaint on a girl who she called her best friend.  Just a little while before I had seen her  joyfully dancing with the girl she was writing up on complaint. She came into The Cottage, and calmly asked the teacher to help her with some o f the spelling words for her form. She did not ask the teacher to resolve the conflict. The teacher did not make any attempt to dissuade her from writing the complaint.  Some rules seem to be less significant than others; for instance the rule about running in the hall, while commonly broken and often talked about, is infrequently taken to J . C .  Rules  involving a high level o f dispute are heavily enforced. A n example o f this is the computer sign up sheet in The Castle. There is a form on the wall that outlines time increments, with maximum times allotted, for each o f the computers. A c c o r d i n g to the information posted, people wanting to use a particular computer are supposed to slot their names into the next available time.  Even  though most o f the computers are in use most o f the time the sign out sheet is generally only used for the few newer highly demanded computers (Fieldnote, June 2, 04, 2166). M a n y times the threat o f writing a complaint is sufficient for a situation. Often, I heard both students and staff threaten to write a complaint i f certain behaviour did not stop.  Witnessing is considered  involvement and is sufficient to write a complaint, and threats to write complaints were also used by witnesses.  This system o f rules and governance fosters inconsistency and uncertainty, as w e l l as an emphasis on discussion, context, and relationships o f negotiation between rule breakers and enforcers.  A t Windsor House, most people are both.  The uncertainty serves a necessary  function; it maintains a necessity to think about the situation at hand and reflect on what actions make sense.  Pedagogically and politically, doing democracy is what creates democracy.  134  Through this deliberative, participatory process, in Freire's (1999) terms, participants are subjects o f their own experiences. "The best rules are still the ones that learners make out o f their own experience" (Holt, 1982, p. 181). Holt was talking here about gaining knowledge about the material world. It rests on the idea that people can only know what they understand or the correctness o f their ideas by testing them. I understand this to apply to the core o f rules at Windsor House. It is the process o f figuring out, and testing, how to get one's own needs met, while sharing space with others. It is a continuous work in progress. This demands a great deal o f inter-personal interaction, personal accountability, and contemplation. There is a trust built into this process. Trust that people w i l l take the process seriously, and trust that members o f the school w i l l monitor one another kindly and effectively. I have a lot to learn about relaxing about the letter o f the law, realizing that the rules are tools to serve a greater purpose, and about listening and being accountable to those around me. L o o k i n g back on my initial tour o f Windsor House, I think in a way, that is what my guides were trying to tell me—to trust the people around me. The past two chapters have explored how mobility and rules are structured to foster selfregulation.  The following chapter w i l l explore the role o f authority within space explicitly in  terms o f age, negotiating space, and the power o f commonsense.  135  136  Authority, Negotiation, and Power The thing they learn here is how to negotiate space with other people. This is the point. Parent, Fieldnote, 05/19/04  Authority Throughout this project I have worked to gain knowledge about how power and authority operate and are embedded i n the space o f Windsor House; this has been an illusive task. F r o m the beginning it was clear that authority operated at this school in ways shifted from what T am accustomed to. Children and youth appear to assume and be granted authority with surprising comfort and ease.  This was evident i n my official tour guides being youth who proudly  entertained me with tales o f having complaints issued on t h e m ,  106  and in the little girl who  confidently walked up to me with her hands on her hips asking 'who are y o u , ' positioning herself as someone who could monitor the space.  107  I use the word authority to refer to a person (or source o f information) in a position to enforce or dictate rules, provide reliable information, have official power and/or knowledge worthy  o f respect.  Free school literature often distinguishes between 'natural  authority'  stemming from experience and reliability, and 'manipulative' or 'arbitrary authority' exclusively serving the needs o f the institution or person i n a position o f power; natural authority is established as something to be fostered while arbitrary authority is something to be eliminated (Holt 1982, Dennison 1969, L l e w e l l y n 1997). I have two primary criticisms o f this position. The first is that the idea o f 'natural' is predicated on the idea o f the innate and is thus inconsistent with  106  107  For more information on complaints see Rules and Governance. See The Hallway in Mobility and Self Regulation for more information.  137  ideas o f social construction.  The second is the problematic o f conceptualizing that which is  named 'natural' as oppositional to that which is named 'manipulative;' this overly simplistic binary does the disservice o f providing the false sense o f a safe position (named natural) from which to critique the other (named manipulative). Authority is more multifaceted, overlapping, and complicated than this distinction allows. Each is made too much o f the other for a binary conceptualization to be useful. However, I understand the need to distinguish between authority for the sake o f authority, and authority that stems from knowledge and experience. In this work I have borrowed from Freire who makes this distinction using the concepts o f authority and authoritarianism (2001).  Matt Hern (2003) argues that all relationships hold multiple layers o f authority and that it is essential people learn to distinguish and evaluate for themselves claims o f authority.  Standard  schooling, by conflating being respectful with being good, meek, and rule obeying, obfuscates the ability to distinguish between claims o f authority. In the authoritarian space o f standard schooling, students are in a position o f obligation to obey authority regardless o f how they evaluate its value. A s such they are restricted from responding to claims o f authority based on its perceived value. manipulative.  The result o f this circumstance is that all authority, by default, becomes I  observe Windsor House embracing authority  and  a  non-authoritarian  environment, intending a space that fosters a relationship to authority articulated in F i e l d Day . (2003) by Hern thus:  "I think it is critically important for kids to be able to see and feel and smell different layers and kinds o f authority.... W e all need to be able to develop bonds o f trust, and learn to identify who we can rely on, who can support our own autonomy and not subject us to official or manipulative decision m a k i n g . . . . That process should really be started as soon as possible, so kids can have the opportunity to make mistakes, find their way and author themselves" (p. 72-3).  138  Windsor House works to structure itself so that members have a relationship to authority where they are able to try out, question, refuse, and embrace claims o f authority and people in positions o f authority. Some o f the ways it does this are: by building a space where members are collaborative participants in shaping that space; creating an organizational structure where members have access to multiple sources o f authority and where they may refuse and seek out alternatives; reducing students' dependency on teacher approval; and most crucially, positioning each member as a respected authority over themselves and the conditions o f their life.  Authority and Age  The ideology o f fostering self-regulation or 'autonomy immersion' (Windsor House Parents as quoted in Johnson, 2004, p. 4) necessitates decentralizing adult authority as it is typically practiced.  The question o f what to do about age-based authority is central to most writings about  free schools and is an area where there are significant differences in intention within approaches. The Sudbury Valley School model promotes striving to reduce or even eliminate adult authority 1 am unfamiliar with the context this posting was used in. I first saw it as part of the end of year school clean up. 1 0 8  139  in the lives o f their students, preferring an approach that leaves students to their 'natural' development and regulation "unhindered by adult interference" (Greenberg, 1999,p. 111). In this setting parents are largely absent, while teachers have strong limits on the scope o f interaction with the students (Greenberg, 1995). I recognize this as a neo-liberal approach that dangerously tries to forfeit the responsibility o f socialization and which confuses freedom with l i c e n s e  109  (Friere, 2001; N e i l l , 1960, 1966).  Windsor House embraces a strong engagement o f adults in the lives o f the students while simultaneously dedicating itself to fostering self-regulation. In a society strongly habituated to adults' entitlement to control children and youth based on age, negotiating the tensions between adult authority, authoritarianism, and self-regulation requires a shift in the typical structure o f adult /child relationships. The role o f the adult and the relationship between adults and students  110  are some o f the most significant ways Windsor House creatively and strategically  negotiates authority. Members are serious about questioning the entitlement to authority granted to adults and denied to children and youth based on age.  The intention is not to try to abdicate adult authority (something that is impossible), or for adults to hold back from participating i n order to produce a 'learning experience' for the students, or to take a false c h a r i t y " approach by allowing students a say in the conditions o f their lives. 1  The intention is to create a structure that fosters equitable collaborative relationships where all parties can engage seriously and fully. This necessitates an explicit commitment to not being ageist and involves continually adjusting and reconsidering the structure to counterbalance the  For more on license, in comparison to freedom see Foundations i n Literature Review. 1 am using the word students, to encompass both children and youth. I acknowledge that this is an uncomfortable term in the frame of deschooling, but this paradoxical space remains a school, even as it embraces deschooling, and as such I am retaining the language o f 'student.' False charity is used here to denote the patronizing condition whereby the person providing the offering determines the nature of the offering, the recipients, the conditions of its use, and the time of its removal. 1 0 9  1 1 0  1 1 1  140  wider naturalized habits o f adults taking charge, and students faced with only the option o f compliance or sabotage. This means considering all members: parents, students and staff—and striving for a space that works for everyone.  Collaboration between adults and students can be highly unfamiliar for everyone. It is often hard work for adults to imagine collaborating with children and youth; it involves having to learn to listen, consider, and often try out ideas and strategies that likely go against their sense o f reason, while respecting their own knowledge for both its strengths and its limitations. It means letting go o f control and outcomes, and considering that the adult may not always know best. W a l k i n g this fine line between autonomy and safety creates a constant tension. Freire articulates quite nicely the intention behind this collaboration: " O n e o f the pedagogical tasks for parents is to make it clear to their children that parental participation in the decision-making process is not an intrusion but a duty, so long as the parents have no intention o f deciding on behalf o f their children" (2001, p. 97). While this intention is not age dependant, the particular shape it takes may look different for the very young compared to older children.  In the space o f Windsor House, roles and positions o f authority are in flux. One o f the unique aspects o f this school space is that adults are not necessarily or automatically assumed to be sponsoring. This experience was quite interesting to me. It made me uncomfortable as it placed me in the unfamiliar position o f interacting with kids without being in control o f their activities. Simultaneously, it felt quite freeing, because unless I explicitly took on sponsorship roles, I could move around the school without the restriction o f not being able to leave children on their own. I, as an adult, could be rather childlike and rather adult-like depending on where I was and what responsibilities I took on in that place. O f course I was always an adult, and could not abdicate that 'natural authority.'  M y 'adultness' however, did not translate into being in  charge.  141  I was not the only one to feel this. In a lengthy conversation with ' E l l e , ' a parent o f two teenage children who teaches a class at Windsor House, the theme o f multi-age relations was strong. She talked about how when she first came to Windsor House she was intimidated by the youth on the porch, but over time has gained "just the right amount o f contact" so that she now feels she knows them as people (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2876).  E l l e placed a great deal o f  importance on her contact with the teens at Windsor House occurring in such a way that " I ' m not an authority figure. authority.  I might ask i f it's all right that they [are doing something] but I'm not an  They learn that not all adults are authority figures" (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2861-63).  E l l e saw this as quite different than her friends outside o f Windsor House who may only have contact with youth who are friends o f their own children in their own home, where they are in a position o f authority.  W h e n I asked E l l e i f this meant that she herself was also learning to  interact with youth without taking on the role o f authority figure, she agreed (Fieldnote, June 4, 04,2843-68). Students as well as adults can have multiple roles and levels o f responsibility in the school based on where they are and what responsibilities they take on there. They may sponsor someone for part o f the day in the library, only to be sponsored themselves outside later that same day. They may vote on a peer's consequence in J.C. then spend time alone in a small room for another part o f the day. E l l e talked about a young girl who sometimes hangs out with her teenage daughter, having the opportunity to "try on the world o f the 13 year o l d s " (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2878-81). E l l e sees her daughter's behaviour change in response to being a role model. E l l e ' s story reminds me how I have witnessed younger students, enter a space where there are older students, watch for a minute or two, and then leave again. I had thought o f this as intimidation, which may be a factor. However, another possibility could be that the younger kids are checking out how life o f the older kids looks and feels, and self-assessing i f they are ready for it. Independent mobility between spaces and activities is central to facilitating the flux in roles o f authority so its types and layers can begin to be felt. This movement between space and roles o f  142  authority disrupts the practice o f innately and automatically tying claims o f authority to age. Additionally, those used to always assuming a role o f authority are often in a position where they do not always have it and must respond to other's claims. The flexibility o f space allows students, parents and community members to be able to use the rooms for instigating classes and activities. This fosters a disruption o f who traditionally has authority around knowledge production in a school, it interrupts the schooled lessons that learning is the product o f teaching and professionalism (Holt, 1982) and that one must be dependant on authority for action to occur (Illich, 1971). Dependence on authority  is reduced through the elimination o f grades and formal  evaluation. A s students' dependence on teachers' approval is reduced students have less to risk in challenging a teacher's authority.  This frees up potential for challenging and disruptive  interactions between student and teacher.  Dependence on authority is further reduced through  allowing maintained records about a person to be accessible to that person and their guardians. When teachers and schools hold secret files about students which are significant to their future, the student and family are in an uncertain and vulnerable power relationship with the teachers (Novak, 1975). The reduction o f secret files reduces power imbalance. M y understanding is at Windsor House few records are kept, and the majority of those records are public. J . C . records are kept in an unlocked filing cabinet in the meeting room. They are accessible to all members o f the community; they do not form a permanent record and are kept no more than two years.  In  the office there is an unlocked drawer with family files, these are used primarily for a system communication between parents and families, and are readily accessible to anyone. In the secretary's office there is a locked filing cabinet containing student's  files.  These files are  generally kept slight, and are available to the student to w h o m the file belongs, their parent(s), and staff. This transparency with record keeping diminishes the sense o f the school as being a highly evaluative space.  143  Teachers have a unique role with regards to authority. W h i l e they are required to follow the rules, they are generally the ones that are seen to hold the knowledge about what the rules are and have been.  They also have particular responsibilities around safety and providing structure  that students do not have. The 'stop rule' means that when a teacher uses the word 'stop' it is because a there is an issue o f immediate safety concern, and all people have to immediately stop what they are doing.  Teachers are hired by the school board and have more responsibilities to  the school and to the students. Generally they are seen to have a strong authority; their voice and comment carries weight.  The structure o f the school is such that students have a bureaucratic  option to challenge their authority.  F o r example a student could write a complaint that a staff  person had abused the stop rule. In practice students do not often issue complaints on teachers and parents.  Consequences issued to teachers have to be considered in terms o f the potential  impact on students.  112  The high degree o f mobility also allows the student and teacher options in  avoiding interaction when there is a conflict o f personality.  113  Being a parent participatory school, parents have a great deal o f access to official sources o f authority. They teach class, facilitate council meetings, allocate funds, promote the school, do media relations, write handbooks and other guiding texts, organize and maintain the space, interact with the students, and do office work. The parents, particularly through S . A . N . E , " have 4  a strong structural authoritative role in the school. The functioning o f the school is dependant on the role o f the parents.  In standard schools, parents are often helpers with little or no official  access to structural power, at Windsor House parents are in positions o f power and have high degree o f responsibility.  A teacher being barred from a room in which they often organize activities would greatly impact those who participate in those activities as well as the teacher. However, some spaces are clearly under the jurisdiction of one particular adult, the band room and school council (facilitated predominately by one teacher) are examples of this. A s a result, participating in these spaces would be close to impossible without contact with that instructor. The Society for the Advancement of Non-coercive Education is the parent's group at Windsor House. A l l parents are by default members of S . A . N . E . , some are more active than others. 112  113  1 1 4  144  Helen's Authority  Helen Hughes is a gigantic force in  diffuse it and ensure public accountability.  the school. She is a charismatic leader and  Because o f the structure o f the school, her  central  parent  leadership is dependant on the membership  participation school. She is the founder, and  o f the school. However when there is a deep  she is in charge. Externally, she is uniquely  conflict, which there has been, it is Helen's  accountable to the school board as being  school and she remains while other people  responsible  leave.  personality  for  the  in  site.  this  115  Within  the  school, she is very much accountable as the leader.  She seems to have super power  when it comes to authority.  She is well  Helen is constantly in motion and continuously called on for assistance and insight.  She is exceptionally dedicated to  respected and can make calls that are fairly  the school, skilled at supporting students and  inconsistent with the rule system. Her voice  wins trust and confidence with ease.  carries most weight in meetings with staff,  directing this school for 35 years she has an  parents and students.  easy confidence and finely honed skill that  Intermeshed with the  participatory  is truly impressive.  After  She is often laughing,  democratic practice o f the school is a stream  and while she never has long to be in one  of hierarchical authority, o f which Helen is  place she w i l l often take a moment with  the pinnacle. This is a significant point, one  almost everyone. She is an  that I do not see as contradictory to the  who has a clear knowledge that the best way  intentions o f the school. Helen claims the  to structure the school is so that people may  authority she has, but builds structures that  access it for themselves.  administrator  Interestingly she was never promoted beyond vice-principal, I suspect that this was a way to keep her in check. 115  145  Before going to Windsor House I had assumed from reading the handbook that the rules and conventions would apply to me irrespective o f my age. While in the school I found myself wanting to believe this was what I was experiencing. I found however, that I was less scrutinized with regards to mobility, access to spaces and what I was doing. It was also readily assumed that I was able to take on responsibilities because o f my a g e .  116  It became clear that despite the way  the handbook talks about the school adults are able to operate differently than students in terms o f rules o f mobility.  It appears that sponsorship and licensing apply exclusively to students while  parents and teachers seem to be exempt. I had assumed that adults had to follow the same rules as students when it came to licensing and permission to sponsor. However, I did not see any evidence that this was the case. Adults seem to have relatively uninhibited access to most o f the school and are able to sponsor having to be licensed themselves. This is an area where there are inconsistencies between the way the school is talked about and the way it is lived. A t Windsor House there is a system that allows adults to have authority as well as the opportunity to exercise discretion and a sense o f control over adopting roles with particular responsibilities. While there are dramatic differences o f authority  based on age, there are  structural checks that work to counterbalance adults' tendency to move towards authoritarianism in their relations with children and youth.  Students, who typically have little structural authority,  are allowed venues for publicly keeping in check adult authorities through the participatory democracy system. They also have many opportunities to try on and assume roles o f authority, as well as, opportunities to negotiate, refuse, and sample claims o f authority.  Safety, Surveillance, Supervision and  Sponsorship  Factored into this is the consideration that I had become a regular face in the school and was seen to be responsible. 1 1 6  146  Walking along the edge of the field toward the school from the back playground I see across the field two girls balancing and playing on a narrow fallen tree where the field and upper forest meet. They look to be about nineyears-old, they are the only two people I see. From the distance I stand, the seen is silent. I am struck by the apparent tranquility of the image. It seems to me, that I am seeing a version of what is nostalgically called 'the good old days' when children could explore the woods without fear. This inspires a sense of peace and hope for me. (Fieldnote, June 16, 04, 4338).  Refusing the ' L o r d o f the Flies' theory o f what happens to children left on their own, students at Windsor House spend a great deal o f time with what at first appears to be an absence of adult supervision. The distinction between notions o f safety and surveillance at free schools connects to the idea that safety is constituted through people being able to identify dangers and take action to change or avoid those dangers.  Rather than fostering a relationship that is  dependant on external authority to determine degrees o f safety, it is expected that students are most safe when they are able to self regulate without harming themselves or others. Fostering this requires that the student feel a strong sense o f entitlement in the processes, ownership o f the space, and connection to a web o f support. A t Windsor House there is a purposeful, intricate, and rather amorphous structure o f supervision and safety predicated on a foundation o f collectivity, and fostered through participatory democratic governance, freedom o f movement and practices o f negotiating space.  Chris Mercogliano argues that too much supervision presents a risk to children; he puts forth that the "rise o f the number o f distressed children who have a hard time controlling themselves" (Mercogliano, 2003, p. 25) is largely derived from the lack o f risk taking resultant from the rise o f programmed activity.  This argument, that not having practice at controlling  147  oneself makes it difficult to do so, suggests that children who have opportunities to control themselves consequently learn about how to do so. It is clear from observing at Windsor House that they share this understanding. This is not to suggest that supervision does not occur, or that safety is only achieved through leaving students to learn the skills to fend for themselves. What it does suggest is that supervision and safety may look different than expected and may not always involve a one-to-one, adult-to-student negotiation. A tension continuously negotiated at the school is fostering safety through removing contact with danger, and fostering safety through encouraging self-regulation. Trust is a core theme in this negotiation; trust that our children have the ability to regulate themselves, and students learning to trust themselves. After all, as Freire states: "If the people cannot be trusted, there is no reason for liberation" (1999, p. 110). receive this trust.  Part o f growing up is learning to give and  W i l l i a m Wimsatt U p s k i argues that there is a close relationship between  notions and practices o f freedom and notions and practices o f fear (1999). This is something that echoes throughout free school literature, perhaps most clearly when Mercogliano states, "the antidote to fear is trust" (1998, p. 68). These tensions between roads to safety and between fear and trust are played out in the physicality o f the space.  B u i l d i n g a structure to foster self-  regulation means trusting members to have the space to practice regulating themselves, like the girls regulating themselves in the upper forest. Many physical aspects o f the space are built to foster members o f the school to use the space as self-regulating agents. Aspects o f this include unmediated access to many o f the supplies, access to bureaucratic processes and a reduction o f the omnipresence o f surveillance. A significant part o f how this is done is through the physical creation o f lots o f small spaces. The rooms off the world room, the multiple classrooms, more rooms than teachers, the way many o f the big spaces are divided with shelves and other structures to shape them into multiple spaces: these all provide students with many places to spend time so that they are not directly in the line o f sight o f adults. This allows students an opportunity to experience being trusted to regulate  148  themselves. However these small, seemingly private spaces are couched within the larger adultsaturated space. M a n y aspects o f the space have a built in supervision element to them. A s an example, the cottage garden gazebo in the primary room has the feel o f a private small room.  It  has four walls and a door that closes it off from the rest o f the space, however the top half o f the walls, above the heads o f most o f the people using the space, is glass—making it easy for observation.  A s well, this entire space is contained within the primary room where there are  always adults; anybody coming and going from the gazebo has to pass through them. The windows in the classroom doors, the small nooks within the larger rooms, the classrooms having windows large enough to monitor much o f the outside play areas: these are all ways in which both observation and private space are fostered. Most spaces are organized so that members can access the space and equipment without being dependant on someone else. For example, the toys in the cottage garden are all organized in bins on shelves, each is labeled so that anyone can know where things go, and the bins have open tops so that the toys are visible to those who cannot read. A l l the little k i d s ' toys are on low shelves accessible to little people. The expansive props room is a locked room, however, once access is gained, supplies are all meticulously labeled in large storage boxes with a borrowing system similar to a library so that someone may borrow the supplies without going through another person or having to defend their reasons for wanting those supplies. M u c h o f the space is like this, for instance the kitchen is not openly accessible, and requires licensing, however once a person has pledged to use the space responsibly, follow the posted rules, and they are trusted in that pledge, access is fairly direct.  149  Image 24: Toy B i n s in Cottage Garden  Because o f the way texts, rules, and spaces are arranged there is lots o f room for subjective interpretation—members have to figure out and negotiate for themselves, in relation with others, what they are going to do. Dorothy Smith (1987) argues that through participation people are brought into line with ruling ideas.  "Some elements of ruling arise formally and  explicitly through legally binding discourses. Often ruling happens less explicitly as people consult their own understandings o f prevailing and dominant discourses and act accordingly" (Campbell and Gregor, 2002, p. 41). Smith suggests that part o f diminishing institutional power is to make "texts that work outside ruling positions, to help them recognize their  own  participation in the relations that rule them" (Campbell and Gregor, 2002, p. 129). This is what appears to be happening with Windsor House. The system o f using the space has embedded in it a sense o f implication and responsibility. A s such even i f one rarely participates in the ruling system o f school council one is continuously participating in the relations that rule them.  School  council, though integral to the functioning o f the school, is not where most relations of ruling occur. These occur outside council in the negotiation o f space. The school itself is a democratic space, o f which the democratic council is but a part.  150  'Information Central'  6ctrCOL  SCHOOL.  E\JENTS Nonce  Tw6 STUtagAJT  ANt> INFO.  •  OUT ? BoPtfZb  •  AtX/LX SlfcjslirJ  1  COWMTIUMITV  NOTICE. SoAetJ (externa./)  T>ftmPHi£ri|ir  TtaUT  Image 25: Sketch: Information Central in the Front Hallway  Many o f the bureaucratic organizing  people can enter  and leave the school  texts o f the school are publicly accessible in  without necessarily going through another  the area I refer to as 'information central.'  person.  This is at the entrance area o f the main  need to maintain knowledge o f who is in the  hallway.  117  They address the bureaucratic  It holds the schedule (Image 13) F o r instance, once I had received permission to be i n the school, I signed in and out of the school through the parent/visitor clipboard, I d i d not check in to the office. 117  and  student  sign in-sign  out clipboards  (Image 26), which are organized so that  151  school, while facilitating a high degree o f  the space for conducting their o w n business  autonomy with regards to movement.  as is evident from Image 26, a school-wide  As a  result o f the requirement that everybody sign  invitation  in and out o f the school, everybody uses this  Information central is a way that Windsor  space, at least a little.  House  Information central  to  an  organizes  upcoming  its  space  party.  to  be  also holds the parent duty roster, outdoor  administratively transparent and accessible,  licensing information, off school  facilitating  licensing,  notice  about  ground  emergency  procedures, upcoming fieldtrips and other information.  a  more  diffused  structure with which to  foster  authority a  direct  participatory democracy.  Members o f the school claim  152  The system o f licensing is part o f the regulatory supervision structure built to foster safety. The process to become licensed is determined by that area's room c o u n c i l .  118  I f a person  suffers a complaint i n that jurisdiction, they risk losing their license as a consequence.  119  Individuals apply for licensing on their own behalf, and as a result people have different combinations o f licensing. M a n y spaces have a posting which lists who is licensed for that area. These lists are predominantly for spaces that usually do not have  direct  supervision, like the front  outside, the smaller rooms, and the g y m . these lists used o n c e ,  120  porch,  I only saw  it was a student whom, when  Helen told h i m he could not be on the front porch, pointed to his name on the list to say he could. Helen looked, and then said there had been a mistake. Helen is part o f the porch room council, but presumably so were the people who added his name to the list, unless he cheated  the procedure.  This is an interesting  moment o f authority and bureaucracy coming together.  Image 27: Sponsor Sign f o r A r t Room  Interestingly,  Helen's  word was stronger  than  the  paperwork, and the boy had to leave the porch area.  I  did not see any evidence as to how these lists are maintained; 1 am not aware that the room council for the front porch meets.  Perhaps it is as  simple as going to someone on the council (their first names are listed on the licensing sheet).  If there is not an active room council for that space, then it gets taken up at school council. For more information on room councils see Negotiation and Territory i n Authority, Negotiation, and Power. Although it is room council that issues the license, school judicial council may take it away. People may not use these lists often because they arrange to put themselves on the lists and so they know if they are on it. 1 1 8  1 1 9  1 2 0  153  This seems to be another instance o f local knowledge.  I spent some time on the front porch  without being asked i f I was licensed; this was likely a factor o f both my age and that my behavior was not causing a disturbance. It is difficult to determine how meticulously this system o f licensing is followed. In my experience it can also be used rather indiscriminately as a way to monitor behaviour. I did this with two girls who were switching on and off the stage lighting, an activity I found particularly annoying. I looked at them and asked, " A r e you licensed to be here?" In response, they giggled and left. The boy I had been sitting with said " I ' m not licensed either" to which I shrugged.  I  wasn't licensed either—I didn't know i f I needed to be or not. Perhaps it is only evoked, in the same way as rules, when there is conflict. A n additional formal aspect o f supervision is sponsorship. Most rooms have multiple members who can be sponsors. Some rooms, may be sponsored as a whole so that anyone can use them, the art room and the library are both examples o f this.  When someone is sponsoring,  their name is posted on the entrance, people entering that room implicitly agree to be sponsored by that person.  Other spaces are sponsored on an individualistic basis.  121  For example younger  students are not allowed to receive licensing to go outside on their own.  Thus they need a  sponsor to supervise them outside. I found the system o f sponsorship to be rather confusing. The Windsor House handbook states: " Only supervise activities and people that you feel are safe and you are comfortable w i t h " (Windsor House, 2003, p. 14), this allows a fair amount o f personal discretion. A young student, Lake approached me to supervise her outside. I said I wasn't sure i f I could, we asked a teacher who said yes and told us to fill out the outdoor sign out sheet. I was surprised by how few people had signed out on this, especially given the number o f people outside. While outside, I was asked to sponsor more people. I was sponsoring four out o f the seven people playing on the H i l l ; the others were self-sponsored. When I came inside I found that some o f the paperwork had changed, but not consistently with the changes that had occurred 121  See BMR section in Rules and Governance for an example of this.  154  outside. This is a circumstance o f paperwork not being in synch with actions. It seems to operate, as all the rules do, where jurisprudence is focused on places o f discord. While outside, Lake announced, ' I ' m going inside.' She was standing at the bottom o f The H i l l , I was sitting on the top. " / was unsure of protocol around safety—should I trust her to go inside? I wanted to talk to her about signing back in—'We had signed out together, shouldn't we sign in together'? But now I was with three other students. Lake made her announcement and turned to go" (Fieldnote, M a y 19, 04, 1214). I didn't call after her. When I came back inside Lake was in the office with a complaint form, she told me she was looking for someone to scribe for her. I said I could help her. She asked me to write a complaint on another student who had poked her when she had been heading inside.  In the incident, she had threatened to write a  complaint, but they had not apologized. A t no point did Lake ask me to resolve the problem, she did not seem particularly upset. Apparently sponsoring her outside did not mean mediating her behaviour. I was not someone to turn to for assistance as a mediator; after all she did not know me. Parents' high involvement is key to the functioning o f supervision in this frenetic space. Despite the claim o f not policing, there is an authoritative, supervisory feel that comes from the strong adult presence in the school. Teachers, adults and students are continuously informally monitoring spaces and behaviour, creating a tension between private space and surveillance. Examples of this are plentiful. While I was in the Kitchen with T e a ,  122  three adults in the twenty  minutes looked into the room, when they saw me they kept going; while Tea may have been unsupervised, she was highly monitored. Another example of how this works occurs when 1 was alone with a parent in the art room. The art room teacher came in and set a student up to do some painting, the teacher then left and the student stayed and painted. The student was either licensed  Helen had given her keys to her to make her and her brother a bagel. One of the ways Windsor House ties to be equitable is to ensure that food is always in supply for students who may have forgotten or been unable to bring lunch from home.  155  or had special permission to be in that room without sponsorship.  After a while, the student  finished painting and got up to leave. The parent asked him i f it was all right to leave all the supplies out on the table like that. The student responded that it was, that the art teacher had plans for the supplies (Fieldnote, June 4, 04, 2977-86). talking to me.  The parent said okay and continued  During this time, although we were the adults and were in the same room, his  being in the room was not contingent on our being there, yet we participated in the monitoring o f one another (mostly the parent o f the student).  On another day two older boys were walking  ahead o f me in the hall, they were talking and swearing. A parent in the hall ahead o f them looked at me and then, in a strong disciplinary moment, told the students to "watch their language"  124  (Fieldnote, June 2, 04, 1971-72). These types o f examples demonstrate how the  adult presence creates a highly monitored space. A n interesting facet o f the use o f space, surveillance, and authority at Windsor House is that it is a context where the parent has structurally weakened power because the students could refuse the authority or write a complaint on the adult without academic consequence. In this way, while it is the adults who do much o f the monitoring, students can use the system to monitor-back and counter balance adult claims o f authority.  Likewise, sponsorship, supervision, and  surveillance are not the exclusive territory o f adults. W i t h multiple age groups all sharing space students are constantly under the vision o f older and younger students who have and use the weight o f bringing disciplinarily measures on one another. The way the space is set up fosters a collective monitoring o f a collective space, what I understand as collectivist supervision. There is a sense o f ownership and responsibility in which  Neither the parent or I had put our name on the door to sponsor the room, nor had we agreed to sponsor the student (we were not asked) by the norms and rules of the school it would not be assumed that we were sponsoring the student. 1 had not seen this parent before. I assume that she had not see me either. With all the stresses of the audit and forced move their was a heightened concern with observation. I assume that she thought I was someone from the district that she wished to impress. When she told the students to watch their language, she stressed that it was because there was lots of people observing in the school. 123  1 2 4  156  all members have responsibilities and claims to authority within the space. The intention is that each person is an authority in the space and that likewise others are authorities. Windsor House walks the fine balance between trust and the scrutiny o f many eyes.  Negotiation and Territory Negotiating space, and claiming territory are a predominate occupation o f members o f Windsor House. Signs o f it are everywhere, they can be seen in the constant presence o f young people asking to be sponsored in the B M R , the young boy leaving the cottage over the dispute with the toy, the rules as codifications o f some o f these negotiations hanging everywhere, the sign about knocking on Helen's office door, and the boy and the dancing girls. The front porch o f the school is a beautiful example o f a negotiation o f space between different sets o f needs. A s noted, it is a popular hang out for teenagers, probably because it provides the best vantage point to see the comings and goings o f the school without having to be directly involved.  Some members in the school, mostly adults, would like the youth to stop  sitting on the front porch because they feel uncomfortable passing through them to enter the school, or because they have concerns for the school's reputation. A s a result, the front porch is a place o f relatively constant contention. Through its history a number o f regulatory conditions have emerged, including the creation o f a front porch room c o u n c i l . licensed area, licensees agree to the set o f rules posted on the p o r c h ; House are l i c e n s e d .  127  125  126  The front porch is now a most teenagers at Windsor  The license gets used as a bargaining chip to regulate behavior; for  example youth are allowed to be on the porch, but i f they suffer a complaint while there they risk  The room council has seven students and Helen on it. On June 17, 2004 the posted rules for the front porch were: "Porch-Just sit and talk. 1. No water balloons 2. Even if it is not your garage you have to pick it up—de-licensed if garbage is there. 3. N o banging on walls 4. N o spitting 5. N o swearing when any adult who might be offended is near 6. N o horseplay 7. N o bikes on porch" (Fieldnote, June 17, 04,4815-29). Seventy-three student names were listed on the license sign hung by the rules by the front door to the porch. Plus seven names which had been crossed out (Fieldnote, June 17 04,4828). 125  126  1 2 7  157  losing their license. Instead o f unilaterally removing youth from that space, or forcing the adults to transcend their worries or prejudices, this awkward, frequently contested, sharing o f space is negotiated. Negotiating space is the primary occupation o f Windsor House. Frequently, these negotiations are more spontaneous and less formal than the above example.  It is often said o f democratic and free schools that more than half the time o f any  activity is spent on the negotiation and discussion o f rules and conduct. A s Freire so eloquently states: "freedom becomes mature in confrontation with other freedoms" (2001, p. 96). This is why the making o f rules is the point o f the curriculum and why rules are inconsistently remembered, followed, or enacted. The point is the process o f negotiation, not the product o f the rule.  A ball game I witnessed provided a good illustration o f this on the fly negotiation. Each  inning provided an altered team composition. Each play involved deep discussion o f interested folks at home plate, with liberal advice being yelled out from onlookers (sometimes players) in the trees. It was an amusing portrait o f a highly regulated, negotiated anarchy amongst children and youth. Watching it, and numerous other such negotiations, it became clear that individualism and collaboration are factors that are dependant on one another.  F o r people to collaborate  effectively, it helps i f those involved are able to articulate, understand, promote and defend their needs and abilities. However this individual awareness only becomes mature as it is negotiated through collaboration. This is a rather extraordinary, potent and messy process, one that comes with complications. complication.  The interplay o f power and acquiesce in these negotiations is one such The following example illustrates how the intent and letter o f the rule can be  followed while power operates through the negotiations. I was in the nest in the world room with three young boys (aged 7-8). They were telling me that this, the cottage garden, and the B M R are the places that they hung out in the most. We were playing an in-house created board game that like many o f the activities at Windsor House seem to never end.  158  A new boy (age 7-8) entered The World Room and walked around the back of the nest and into the little hall there. When the first boy, the one who had been the most in control of directing the game saw him, he said "Does anyone feel like ending the game? " I said I did. 1 boy: "We all have to help put it away" and we all started cleaning up. The new boy asked "What are you playing? Can I play" and began to climb into the loft. st  I ' boy: " We 're just putting away the game " s  The new boy enters the loft 1 boy: "You can'tplay, we 're not allowed to be in the same room together " st  New boy: "that's only if we 're annoying each other " 1 boy: "You're annoying me, and you're annoying my backpack" st  New boy: "It's only intentionally annoying each other " New boy settles in, the other two boys (a little younger) begin to play the game again including him. 1 boy: "but we need to put it away st  me: "can't someone else take responsibility for it? " 1 boy: "okay " he tells them where to put it away in the flying pig room, repeats that it has to go away and threatens to write a complaint if it is not put away properly. It doesn't appear that anyone is listening to him. st  I ' boy asks me if I will help him fill out some paperwork. I say yes, and we leave into another room (Fieldnote, June 17, 04, 4894-917). s  Clearly new boy and 1st boy had a history o f difficulty with one another.  They had a  clear sense o f the parameters and they had to figure out how to negotiate within them. In this scenario 1 boy was able to save-face and avoid violent conflict (something he had a history o f st  with 2  n d  boy), however I do not believe that he was able to get his needs met. N e w boy joined the  game with disregard for 1 boy's attempts to dissuade him. I believe that awareness o f the superst  rule o f not being able to exclude impacted the way these boys were interacting and likely prevented 1 boy from saying that he did not want new boy to j o i n the game. A s a result 1 boy st  st  was effectively pushed out o f the game. H i s options were to include the boy, or leave. He left. This scenario is heavy with power and history. Without knowing the history o f these two boys I do not know i f 1 boy's acquiescence is typical for them. st  It raises a number o f interesting  questions about how power plays out i n negotiating territory. It seems likely that some people  159  end up acquiescing more and being more accommodating. I wonder i f this is identified as a point of concern, monitored or intervened in? Part o f the script o f being a girl is to appease, I wonder how gender plays out in the spontaneous negotiations.  A s people play out these negotiations,  they do so with all o f the scripts they have adopted. counterbalance for this gender script.  I am not aware o f any structural  While this is beyond the scope o f what I was able to  address in my time in the school, it raises concerns. These patterns o f acquiescence and scripts are in no way unique to Windsor House, however what is worth being mindful o f is the question o f how they play out in this unique space. There is a sense o f territory that plays out at Windsor House. There is a common understanding that certain spaces are where certain people hang out.  There are stories o f 'hostile  takeovers' where one group o f people occupy a room, then make a claim that the room council is not using the room to the full potential, and try to become the new room council.  I did not  witness any o f these hostile takeovers, though the students told stories o f them with great gusto.  The 'super rule' of non-  exclusion, as well as the room schedules being able to be reserved by anyone (who  goes through room council) are  structural elements in place to counterbalance this.  H o w is  territory claimed in ways that reproduce hegemonic power structures? It is predominantly White space with a sense o f girls  I  m  a  g  e  2 8 :  Ocean's E y e D o o r  with Papered W i n d o w  vs. boys. Some spaces in the school are clearly more gendered.  160  The Library, for example, has a very strong room council, which is almost all girls (ages 9-12), and the Ocean's Eye R o o m ,  1 2 8  a student controlled r o o m  1 2 9  is also all girls (ages 7-9). Both o f  these spaces are highly organized and embrace a strong bureaucracy. These girls have claimed these spaces by buying into the school structure and using that structure to exert territorial control. The territories that are predominantly male, such as the Russian Embassy and the M u l t i M e d i a room, are less reliant on school structure, instead they are more likely to assume an entitlement to the spaces they use. This suggests the possibility, that those whose scripts make it more uncomfortable to claim space, use the structure to reinforce their claims. The girls who claimed territory seemed to do it by using the school structure. I wonder what happens to those who do not buy in to the structure, and do not have powerful scripts o f entitlement to fall back on. I fear they are like Sea, and feel invisible. The practice o f freedom and mobility is curbed by territory.  Territory is exerted structurally as w e l l . Each staff member has a space that is their room, generally these are the main classrooms. Exactly how this works, is not clear or standardized. The teacher controls access, organization, and guidelines for that space. N o teacher spends all o f their time in their space, and access to the space is not dependant on that teacher being present, although what allows access is often inconsistent and unclear.  R o o m councils control other  rooms; these are usually composed of students, but sometimes parents or staff may sit on a room council. H a v i n g an adult on the council, can give more legitimacy at council, and be a weight against others who wish to take control o f a room. R o o m councils operate under the jurisdiction o f school council, they must follow the school council's resolutions, and complaints about the  The door of the Ocean's Eye R o o m (Image 28) is a scrumptious example of a negotiation of space. Adults insisted that visibility through the window be maintained, while the members of the room council wished to have a sense of privacy (Fieldnote, M a y 2 1 , 0 4 , 1397). A s a result the window is covered with the exception of a paper flap which can be lifted by teachers, parents, and room council members only (Fieldnote, M a y 2 1 , 0 4 , 1 3 2 1 - 2 3 ) . A student controlled room is a room that is run by a room council of students. 128  129  161  control o f a room can be taken to council. While room councils are not allowed to exclude members, they tend to have small and consistent membership, indicating a high degree o f exclusiveness. Use o f the room schedule can be another way to ensure a claim on school space. Activities that have been scheduled take precedence so that they may ask those not involved to leave for the time booked.  Those who claim space predominantly through their sense o f  entitlement, then have to acquiesce when the structure infringes on their space. Those who do not buy in to the system either push and push until they themselves are pushed out, or they start to figure out a way to not bother people so much, or, as Sea said, they become invisible. The structure is a tool that is not inherently freeing or constricting; it has the potential to be used and wielded in many ways. Windsor House's occupation o f the Cloverley building itself is a constant negotiation.  A  great deal o f external authority is exerted on the school. The public school system, through the federal and provincial ministries, regulates the district boards and trustees who coordinate allocation o f space, hiring and firing o f staff, safety regulations, curriculum delivery and evaluation, all o f which has to be negotiated. The presence o f the board, and a feeling o f vulnerability under this jurisdiction is a constant concern; the potential for jeopardy is ever present. The operations o f Windsor House are inconsistent with the fervor around standardization, and as a result find themselves located within "an occasionally hostile system" (Hughes and Carrico, 1996, p, 139) reluctant to cast too much attention on themselves for fear o f backlash. This could be a reason for their relative isolation from the wider neigbourhood they are located in. This feeling o f ominous surveillance is not uncommon to free and alternative schools. A l p h a School in Toronto, a public alternative school well informed by their free school roots, also has a concern for their relationship with the board and feelings o f vulnerability running under the surface o f everything they do (Slashinsky, 2005).  A t Windsor House the imposed authority  coming from the district was certainly making itself known in the time I was there, since that  162  time, this has only increased. That said, when I asked for permission to conduct my research at Windsor House, I asked about any potential vulnerabilities or concerns that may be had with a researcher within their school and Helen's response was 'we are proud o f what we are, we have nothing to hide.'  Troubling the Power of Commonsense I am working with an understanding o f power that sees "questions o f meaning, interpretation and identity [as] political issues" (Blunt and Rose, 2003, p. 9). I understand power to be about one set o f people controlling and shaping people, space, and nature, as well as their meaning; and has both the capacity to prevent things from happening as well as make them happen (Blunt and Rose, 2003). Power is contained i n a broad range o f sources, full o f fusions, paradoxes and complexity. It is a force that is difficult to name explicitly, and often becomes so normalized as to seem inevitable and natural.  A s Valentine states: "the strength o f the  assumption o f the naturalness o f ... hegemony, is that most people are oblivious to the way it operates as a process o f power relations in all spaces" (1993, p. 286). Spaces are imbued with ideological frameworks that have understandings o f power structures with regards to sex, gender, age, race, ability, who belongs, who is entitled, who is missing, and who isn't. Power is invested and expressed through everyday spaces through territorial power, such as who gets control over what spaces, how space is negotiated and claimed (Matthews, 1997), through practices such as leaving or not participating (Costello, 2001), and through exclusionary practices such as making others invisible (Valentine, 1993). The panopticon, an architectural device that Foucault famously discusses in terms o f power (1972), is useful to consider in relations to schooling. Intended initially for p r i s o n s ,  130  the  central principle is visibility. From a central point o f observation the guards view the prisoners;  1 3 0  However it was soon applied to other institutional settings such as schools and hospitals.  163  the prisoners, from their position, are unable to determine when they are being watched. Because the prisoners are always highly visible, they have to work on the assumption that they are always being watched.  The result is that the prisoners begin to self-police and need less and less  observation. The physical space is key to this arrangement; while the person in authority may change, their positional relationship to the prisoners does not. This omnipresent penalizing authority structure is often used to describe standard schools. The architecture o f the central hall, centrally located office, classrooms with desks in rows facing the authority figure all structure themselves in a way to be a constant reminder o f the presence o f the authority and have the culturing effect o f people in these spaces policing themselves accordingly. Hern refers to this as a "panoptical imprint" which he describes as the effect whereby:  "people who have been  rigorously schooled reflexively believe they are always being watched, monitored and evaluated. Schools and schooling lead us to believe that we are always under surveillance, and whether or not it is actually true is insignificant, it is the impulse that the schooled person necessarily accepts, and adjusts their behaviour accordingly" (Hern, 2003, p. 144). A t Windsor House the panaoptical gaze has been shifted. Despite the architecture o f the standard school building they dwell in, a centralized authority cannot observe the entire space. The mode o f dwelling allows for a sense o f privacy gained from small spaces, the option (for many) o f leaving the property, subjective interpretation o f rules, and a relatively non-litigious environment all contribute to diffuse  131  the gaze o f authority. Costello's idea o f the omnioptigon  is a useful device to consider in terms o f these shifts. Carrie Y a n Costello in "Schooled by the Classroom" (2001) looks at the hidden curriculum in school dwelling and introduces the concept o f the omniopticon to describe the workings o f power in the circle approach adopted by schools working to reduce hierarchical authority.  She discusses the " f u l l presence o f horizontal power  The word diffuse is carefully chosen; it is not intended to suggest that hierarchical authority is made to disappear. A s in photography, a strong light source casts a direct, obvious and harsh light on the subject. A mechanism is added to diffuse that light so that it spreads out; the diffused light retains a direction and a source, but the impact is harder to pinpoint and creates a softer effect. 131  164  relations" i n which "each student [is] continuously responsible for the disciplinary gaze o f every other student" (p. 57) and argues that the power o f communal disciplinary tactics such as these can create a pervasive sense o f being watched that can be "an even more effective disciplinary mechanism" than the panoptigon (Costello, 2001, p. 57). This idea o f 'communal disciplinary tactics' bears significant consideration within the context o f Windsor House which through its rules, mobility, and consumption o f space conveys the "nonhierarchical socialization message that what occurs i n the classroom [school] is a communal responsibility" (Costello, 2001, p. 56). The circle at Windsor House is not only the literal sitting i n circles at meetings and activities, but also the collective monitoring o f the space. It has a dwelling practice that depends on people watching one another, bearing responsibilities to each other, and regulating each other's actions.  This structure o f the disciplinary gaze has  potential to exert a strong coercive force. To a large extent Windsor House has disrupted the sense o f being watched.  132  The  omnipresence o f the disciplinary gaze is alleviated by the sense o f privacy garnered from the small spaces, not being too stringent with the implementation o f letter o f the rule, and the maintenance o f a top down power structure.  133  While the idea o f communal disciplinary tactics  with regards to actions seems to be acknowledged and to some extent minimized at Windsor House, what does not seem to be publicly grappled with is communal disciplinary tactics with regards to language. A t Windsor House there is a strongly dominant discourse. Aspects o f this include: unflappable positive praise o f the school and democratic process; framing the school as "having no concept o f 'entrenched principles' but [instead] reflecting the views and concerns o f current community members" (Hughes and Carrico, 1996, p. 137-138); and, perhaps above all, a Although it must exist, it was not something that I felt in my own experience, nor did I hear others talk about it. However people whose behaviour is largely considered to be annoying or concerning are monitored with a scrutiny I did not experience. Helen and the staff maintain a hierarchical authority (diffused though it is). Though interestingly this hierarchical authority it rarely acknowledged in the way people talk about the space, it is a strong component of living in the space. See Helen in Age and Authority for more exploration of this theme. 132  133  165  dominant language o f 'common sense,' 'the community,' and ' w e . ' These ways o f talking about the school were almost entirely without fracture. Reasons Windsor House may desire a strong ' w e ' are because there is something distinct going on in the space o f Windsor House and this is one way to name it, also because there has been so much adversity being faced by outside forces, which can spark a sense o f unification. This language is highly problematic.  134  While it is important to "rigorously evaluate any practice  in the light o f commonsense" (Freire, 2001, p. 60), the concept o f 'commonsense,' is not without its problems.  A s Freire argues, while commonsense is necessary, it is not enough, we must  continue to question that which is held as common and sensical (Freire, 2001). Commonsense, a concept o f great importance at Windsor House, like ' w e ' and 'the community' rests on an assumption that there is an inherent natural reason at play, which is shared by everybody. This ideology o f commonness is o f itself an 'entrenched principle.' I propose that this uniformity o f language is a problem at odds with the intentions o f the school.  The consistency o f this language creates a power-filled, coercive force to become part o f  the 'we.' The language o f having 'no entrenched principles' assumes the ' w e ' to be natural and inevitable rather than itself being an ideological stance.  The result is that it is difficult and  uncomfortable to speak out of sync with the 'we,' and when one does all other claims have to stand in relation to it. The impact is that other voices are silenced or marginalized, differences can be erased, and invisibility is fostered. It is important to be mindful o f how this pressure to conform to the commonsense may reproduce hegemonic systems o f power. The school "cannot abstract itself from the socio-cultural and economic conditions o f its students, their families, and their communities" (Friere, 2001, p. 60). People bring into the space all the power placements from outside. The space o f Windsor House may make some significant changes with regards to  1 use the overused term problematic as drawn from the work of Dorothy Smith, to mean an identification of structural power problems, which may not yet have been posed, that are latent in the actualities of the experienced world (Smith, 1987, p.91). 1 3 4  166  power,  but it is still located, educated by and perpetuating the wider context it is located in.  Windsor House is embedded in a larger apparatus. Relationships o f power are still there. There is an interesting assumption commonly made throughout the discourse o f free schooling, which is that the difficulty and failure experienced by a person within the space is generally understood to be symptomatic o f not yet having arrived at self regulation, and that drifting without purpose is a temporary stage indicating a process o f healing. It is understood that over time discomfort and disconnection in the space w i l l dissipate for the betterment o f the person experiencing it. This is an assumption, that while I see myself reinforcing it in this writing, I am also skeptical of.  Sea's statement o f feeling and trying to be invisible, and stating that at  Windsor House most people are invisible (Fieldnote, June 2, 04, 2063) is deeply unsettling and offers an important challenge to this assumption. It may w e l l be a result o f being outside o f the ' c o m m o n ' o f commonsense and having not come into the structure by embracing it or challenging it. Ruth Frankenburg makes a compelling argument that ideology can supersede material experience when it comes to memory and description (1993). I argue that the language o f ' w e ' and 'the community,' which is so pervasive at Windsor House, are closer to an ideology than to a close description o f the state o f things. Its impact is a coercive pressure to conform, undercutting the core intention o f self-regulation in community; this is further heightened through the discourse in the school. Frankenburg (1993) reminds us there is a risk that without intentional intervention, we w i l l not learn to see who is missing from, or are invisible within, those spaces. It is assumed that who is present is everybody who should be present, so that it becomes commonsense that everybody  is at the proverbial table.  'commonsense' perpetuates the invisibility  The language o f  'we'  o f hegemonic power and inadvertently  and  restricts  The two most notable are the constant troubling of assumptions of entitlement to authority based on age and creating a structure that those with typically less power can use and shape to keep claims of authority in check. 135  167  unlearning these structures. Windsor House has people who feel invisible within it, additionally, it is a mostly a white middle class endeavor. Not everybody is at the table. This paper rests confidently on the assumption that the intention behind Windsor House is to foster self-regulation that is mature in its awareness and relationship with others. I support wholeheartedly this intention and commend the commitment, imagination and hard work that is, and has been, dedicated to fostering this. Embedded in the social space at Windsor House is a way o f talking and presenting the space with such certainty that it is intimidating to voice a dissenting sentiment.  I do not believe that this is the intention, but it does appear to be the  impact. For self regulation or freedom to mature, it needs the intricate negotiation o f relationship with others; it needs lots o f divergence o f voices. Disrupting the uniformity o f voice is one way to intervene. diversity.  The potential o f the school rests in its ability to incorporate and respond to  Drawing from Horton a path to better democracy is doing the work o f making the  hidden conflict visible. W h i l e power is an ever present force and cannot be eradicated with good intentions, it is malleable. Democracy that can hold equitable change is dependant on dissenting voices. Windsor House moving further towards living its ideological position needs more room for these voices.  168  Image 29: Hopscotch Game on Back Exit Path  Summary of Findings This thesis is a close look at the implicit and explicit lessons embedded i n Windsor House's use o f a standard school building. cultural meaning and ideology.  It looks at the how dwelling practices connect to  It focuses on where one can go (mobility), what one can do  (rules), h o w one acts (negotiation), to whom one is accountable (authority), and underlying intentions (self-regulation). From my observations and contemplations, I put forth the following findings for consideration, discussion, and creative negotiation.  1.  The politicized practice of Windsor House's dwelling at Cloverley fractures the signifying practice of the school building, expectations around behaviour within such a building, and serves as a reminder that standard school space is malleable rather than inevitable. Rooms are themed and people move between them sharing resources across a wide range o f ages. The bulk o f activity occurs separately from scheduled activity and does not occur in concert. Unreserved space accommodates this. Though in many cases mediated through paperwork or committees, members generally do not need to go through another person to access supplies, resources or much o f the administration. Neither are they dependant on an official to initiate activities or classes. This eliminates many factors o f dependence written into standard schooling, effectively rewriting one o f the strongest schooling lessons.  2.  The apparent chaos of movement has purpose. M o b i l i t y is a large part o f how Windsor House uses space. People come and go from the school, classes and activities on their own agenda; however adults have more mobility than students. In places with large safety concerns there is a strong awareness o f rules around mobility. In the places with less safety concerns and potential for conflict, there is less attention to making or enforcing rules around mobility. Though staff bear more responsibilities, mobility is collectively monitored. A key purpose o f the high levels o f mobility is negotiating claims o f authority and reducing the strength o f authoritarianism. The movement o f a person connects to their autonomy and self-regulation. The movement o f things and rooms connects to members' sense o f ownership and entitlement to the space. This all connects to embedded lessons that the space is built for the people, not the other way around, and as such, engenders a sense o f entitlement.  3.  Small spaces are important. They allow students alone time and space to get out o f the ruckus. They allow a place to feel removed from direct surveillance and because o f this foster self-regulation. B y providing access to office spaces, other small rooms and building nooks and crannies into the b i g rooms, Windsor House works to deflect the panopitical imprint that generally accompanies standard school buildings.  170  4.  Navigating the school is dependent on knowing local knowledge. Despite the abundance o f paperwork, Windsor House relies heavily on oral history and memory. W h i l e for most people this presents few problems, for those who are new, quieter, part time, or less active i n the school, it often presents difficulties. This fosters a sense o f an 'in-crowd' who know this knowledge, and an 'out-crowd' who is unsure o f it.  5. Through negotiating the texts and spaces with others, members of the school are implicated in the relations that rule them. A great deal o f room exists for subjective interpretation i n the way texts, rules, and spaces are arranged. Members have to figure out for themselves, in relation with others, how to interpret them. In doing so they enact and internalize the ruling dynamics. Smith (1987) argues that this sort o f participation brings people into line with ruling ideas. In the space o f Windsor House, because o f the constant need to negotiate space and rules, participatory democracy is saturated throughout the space. Members enact it even i f they do not attend council. 6.  Collectivity and individuality are co-dependant entities. Freedom as embraced at this free school means self-regulation within i n a collectivist negotiation. Windsor House practices a collective use, negotiation, monitoring, supervision and responsibility for the school space. It is this collective care that allows the individual to have a high level o f autonomy. Selfish individualism is curbed through collectivism. "Freedom is not the absence o f limits. What I have sought always is to live the tension, the contradiction between authority and freedom so as to maintain respect for both. To separate them is to provoke the infraction o f one or the other" (Freire, 2001, p. 99). Freedom in this way, as practiced at Windsor House, is perhaps best understood as a "collectivist freedom" (Hern, 1997, p. 54). Freedom and self-regulation mature through being accountable to a diversity o f needs.  7. Participatory democracy is dependent on the high degree of mobility and self-regulation. These aspects promote autonomy and diminish coercion allowing members to participate more fully as individuals, or i n Freire's terms as subjects, in the collective democratic project.  8.  The strong hierarchical authority of standard schools is diffused at Windsor House so that there is more room for people to be authorities over themselves. This is done through: emphasizing authority o f self, and working for that to be real rather than charitable; transparency o f paperwork, folders, and other ruling systems; allowing people to move away from, and seek out alternate claims o f authority; creating flux i n terms o f who has authority i n what places; setting up the space so that people are less dependant on others to accomplish their needs; allowing access to shaping the rules; instigating normative structural processes that allow and encourage people to challenge impositions o f authoritarianism; giving structural room to refuse authority; and creating structures where people are called upon to defend claims o f authority. While adults and teachers have more and different authority than students, and a hierarchical authority is retained, those claiming authority are held to public accountability to defend it, and people with less claims to authority have structural options to challenge claims o f authority. These structural checks are used to counterbalance adults' tendency towards authoritarianism i n their relations with children and youth.  9.  Horizontal power structures are not inherently or necessarily freeing. This structure brings with it the scrutiny o f many eyes, and can, i f not kept i n check, exert coercion to conform.  171  10. Rules are understood for the purpose of mediating conflict and safety, if there are no concerns then there is no need for rules. They are codifications o f process not a source o f absolute authority. For the most part people do not know the rules, and for the most part they are comfortable with that. Rules are not read, referred to, or used, with frequency. Instead they are effective to the extent that they are remembered and enforced. M o s t people do not consciously think about rules as the factor that guides their behaviour. Some restrictions around rules, mobility, and access to space are arbitrary and opaque, while others are consistent and transparent. Governance exists and rules are evoked to be o f service to the people they govern, they do not exist for their own sake. There are a great deal o f rules, yet they are given l o w priority in determining actions. People, as individuals with needs, are given higher priority then bureaucracy. This connects to the radical potential o f Windsor House, what Horton called a revolution through rising expectations: expecting the system to be o f service to those it governs. 11. Windsor House is a paradoxical space. It holds a tension between private space and surveillance, and walks the fine balance between trust and the scrutiny o f many eyes. It embraces deschooling within public schooling. In this paradoxical space harmony and conflict seem to live inside o f one another. It appears that Windsor House is not concerned with seeking absolute resolution from these tensions, but instead has accepted living in this unsettled, contradictory and complex terrain. This is a way Windsor House works to evade illusions o f mastery or circles o f certainty. It inspires great invention and provides hopeful potential for navigating the difficult terrain o f working to be more inclusive. 136  12. Outside pressures are a key factor in shaping the space. The sense o f pressure, restriction, observation, surveillance, and potential for penalization from external sources (reputation, school district) effectively brings a standardizing force into the school. This can be seen in many o f the 'recommendations' o f the 2004 audit which result in severe restrictions or eliminations o f many o f the unique ways Windsor House uses space and puts at risk much o f what is politically hopeful about Windsor House. 13. There is a coerced conformity within the dominant language of community. The centrality o f the language o f 'community,' ' w e , ' and 'commonsense' presents a unified force that is difficult to interject a dissenting voice into. The language o f being without entrenched principles works to cloak what those entrenched principals are. The dominance o f this language is a homogenizing presence in the school. This is one way Windsor House does not evade falling into circles o f certainty. 14. Invisibility is a factor. Windsor House processes and structures have room to incorporate and respond to people who resist and act out against the system; the collectivism o f the space, and horizontal power structures are able to respond and regulate this behavior. What seems to be less i n place is a way to respond and include people who intentionally or otherwise do not connect to the system by becoming invisible. 15. Power operates through the frequency of acquiescing, and being accommodating. Power scripts that are already written i n the larger culture are brought into this space; hegemonic power is not erased through good intentions and is i n operation at Windsor House. The See Knowledge Claims in Methodology for more information about A l c o f f ' s 'illusion o f mastery' and Freire's 'circles of certainty.' 136  172  school structure is evoked both to impose hegemonic power (adults with the game with the boys) and to counter it, (girls using it to entitle themselves to space, students using it to challenge adults). W h i l e the structure has the potential to be a tool to counter balance power norms, this is not inherently so. 16. Windsor House practices a strong faith that democracy and emancipation have a symbiotic relationship. In a participatory democracy, the practice is accountable only to those who engage. The system is dependant on people buying into it; this is part o f its inherent flaw. Those who do not buy into it, or are invisible to those who do, do not participate i n building it. Those who do not build it are less likely to feel ownership and entitlement to it, and more likely to opt out o f it. T o ensure a better democracy, and in this ideology, a better emancipation, it behooves the project to facilitate the engagement o f more and diverse voices. 17. The sense of play that permeates the school widens the sense of what is possible and expands the imagination. Experimenting, pondering, and puzzling through ideas and problems is a frequent activity at Windsor House. The perfect system is not the goal, revamping the current situation to make it better is. The constant change and repetition o f rules is not an impediment, but rather an important part o f participatory democracy. Because resolutions lose their life i f they are not useful, there is room to play and experiment. This fosters a sense o f engagement. Serious consideration o f ridiculous ideas facilitates inclusion and can sometimes provide useful components that may not otherwise have been considered. In the making o f bad rules, there can be important lessons about making good rules. D o i n g democracy is what creates democracy. This involves making room for the ridiculous possibilities o f people's imaginations. The outcome o f participatory democracy cannot be predicted.  173  Concluding Thoughts and Recommendations Windsor House's position as a deschooling school within the public school system is not a simple location, but it is an important one.  It is in negotiating this contradictory location  creatively, with an eye to increased social justice that this space holds its potential and its inspiration. Windsor House stands as a testimony o f devotion, creative political action, and hope. There is a structure o f practice where good work can and has been done. It has built itself with a history o f responding to needs as they arise, and developing structures that can be evoked to interrogate and counterbalance typical relations o f power.  It is these structures, and the  dedication behind them, in which lies a great deal o f political hope.  For Windsor House  137  Windsor House raises the important question o f what it means to facilitate children to have a sense o f entitlement to be subjects i n their own lives and communities.  It is crucial that this  question be considered i n relation to a complex concept o f community. The political hope o f this sense o f entitlement is relatively slight i f those children are already i n position o f power and unable to see the invisibilities around them. exacerbating o f privilege. concept o f community.  In this context the result would likely be an  However there is a great deal o f hope i f this includes a complex Drawing from H a r a w a y '  38  (1991), this means striving for increased  resonance and accountability across the web o f existence. Concerns about the atmosphere o f exclusion and invisibility are the most pressing obsticals (See Findings # 4, #13, #14, #15 and #16). To this end I make the following recommendations:  Although these recommendations are intended for a specific audience, they are not exclusive to that audience. See Knowledge Claims in Methodology. 137  1 3 8  174  Recommendation: Expand the 'community' by breaking the sense o f 'school' down and building stronger interconnections with the context that Windsor House is located within. Apprenticeships, stewardships, participation in community events and local political negotiations are some ways this can be done. Recommendation: Investigate h o w language, and practice may contain assumptions that 'everyone' is on board. Actively look, and begin to name places for invisibilities. W h o is not taking part? W h o is missing? Why do they not participate? These are questions o f future work. Recommendation: A t an internal level strive for a less exclusive sense o f ' c o m m u n i t y ' and work to make room for more voices and differences. Recommendation: While a dependence on local knowledge is likely inevitable, work to increase awareness o f how this may be exclusionary. Recommendation: Critically engage, with an eye to transcend, the liberal retreat focus that has saturated much o f the free school movement. This involves focusing less on sanctuary and retreat from the world and more on working towards a wider scale collaborative project to create a better world. A critical engagement with these histories is recommended.  A significant reason for entering into the public school system was to be more accessible to a diverse population.  Ironically a considerable factor informing the homogenous  voice at Windsor House is the position o f the school to be on the defensive because o f its struggle for survival with administrative bodies within the public school system (See Finding #12). Although this struggle is important, it is imperative to be mindful o f Lorde's (1984) warning o f becoming occupied with the 'masters concerns' at the expense o f one's own.  o  Recommendation: M i n i m i z e , as much as possible, the energy being put into negotiations with the district. Put this energy instead into building and expanding strengths.  Windsor House currently operates with a fantastically flexible system that has built itself with a consideration to how voices that do not usually get heard (children and youth) can be supported to exercise real power over the conditions o f their lives (See Finding #10), and hold those who exert authority over them to a high level o f public accountability (See Finding #8).  175  Windsor House has a legacy o f trust, invention, care, and dedication.  It has an intentional  commitment to be inclusive. This is a powerful and hopeful legacy to draw on.  Recommendation: Take strength in the system that exists. Place considerable thought into h o w ideas and practices o f this system can be expanded to embrace more and diverse voices.  o  Windsor House has built a intricate mode o f dwelling within this school building which fosters self-regulation, collectivity, and the powerful democratic lesson that systems ought to be built by the people they impact (See Findings #2, #3, #5, #6, #7, #10, #11 and #17).  o  Recommendation: Maintain access to small spaces.  o  Recommendation: Maintain the sense o f playful experimentation.  o  Recommendation: Maintain the abundance o f unscheduled space and time.  o  Recommendation: Maintain the high levels o f mobility and control over rule making.  o  Recommendation: Maintain the room for interpretation structure.  o  Recommendation: Maintain structures that foster accountability to those who are impacted by actions.  and negotiation  in rule  For Education Generally That which is assumed to be 'common sense' in standard schooling is not necessarily 'common sense' at Windsor House. C o m m o n sense is not an unequivocal or universal state; it is a practice with intention. generally.  Windsor House serves as an example o f deviation for education  This is important because it inspires questions about what standard educational  practices are predicated o n — and i f they are necessary. Windsor House serves as a reminder that there are other ways. o  Recommendation: Let go o f common practices and ideas that are not working; it is not necessary to keep trying to force them to work. Rethink the basics keeping in mind that what is common is not inevitable.  176  Windsor House has created a non-standard space through honing and wielding standard resources. They have not waited until better resources came along, but made use o f what was available, building something that works to respond to the emergent needs o f the people involved.  o  Recommendation: Put effort into playing with possibilities o f the resources that are at hand. Consider how to use these resources to their best ability.  o  Recommendation: Develop, share and record as many stories as possible about nonstandard practices and locations so that the imagination about how to use resources and space may be expanded. A political hope within the use o f space at Windsor House is the creation o f non-  authoritarian change. It is my hope that shifting the conversation out o f the realm o f curriculum achievement and evaluation and onto the embedded lessons o f the intentions and practices o f the space (as I have done here) shifts the conversation to a powerfully political place. Lessons from space o f Windsor House focus around democratic practice and entitlement, negotiating the tension between the individual and the collective, and building processes and spaces that meet the needs o f the people rather than people to meet the needs o f the structure (to reverberate on a famous A . S . N e i l l quote). In a society that promotes a devotion to democracy, these are critically essential lessons, ones that hold potential for social justice.  o  Recommendation: When one is tempted to use the language o f 'democracy,' 'student direction,' and 'student control,' interrogate h o w that language translates into practice; the use o f space is fundamental to that consideration. Who can leave, stay, shape, or speak in that space? What are the limits? W h y do they exist? H o w may they be transformed? A s k how the space can be used most democratically?  o  Recommendation: Those interested i n anti-oppressive pedagogy ought to look to free democratic school practice for important lessons about shaping collaborative space.  o  Recommendation: A t every stage o f education, teaching, study, and administration, the question must be asked how can greater autonomy for all participants be supported.  177  Windsor House stands as testimony to the strategic negotiation, contradiction and compromise that is the hard practical work o f making change.  It is a demonstration o f how  change happens and what it means to live that change. Windsor House inspires questions about policing and risk taking for schooling that transgresses standard practices. The risks o f being shut down or co-opted at the hands o f regulatory bodies permeate all work on free schools. The question must be asked about why deviations from common educational praxis are so readily seen as a threat. o  Recommendation: Advocate for non-standardized schools and educational spaces.  Windsor House's raises questions about what it means for a deschooling school to occupy a typical school building. If it occupied a different type o f space, it would make more tangible the paradox o f a deschooling school. Windsor House as a symbol draws from its location in a school building to obscure the question o f whether or not it is, or ought to be, a school. Its existence is buttressed by schooling's monopoly on education. o  Recommendation: Advocate for non-school educational spaces.  A next step is to look at how endeavors such as Windsor House may be better supported. Part of this must be an emphasis on de-standardization of schooling. Not as a liberal everybody for them self approach, which ignores economic limitation and political oppression and uses the idea of better economic choice as the path to liberation. But instead by considering de-standardization as a path to foster relationships and communication between schools that occur as negotiations between autonomous entities in relationship with one another.  o  Recommendation: Dramatically enhance structural process for trustees, districts and ministries to be accountable to the people in the educational system.  178  o  Recommendation: The task before radical educators is how to simultaneously diminish a dependant and paternalistic relationship to the state, while embracing systems o f accountability that keep in check inequitable claims on power and access to funding.  For Imagining Space Freedom matures in negotiation with other  freedoms.  This means that building one's own  freedom is dependant on respecting another's. The place to start from is respecting both one's own and other's authority over self. The lessons from looking at how Windsor House organizes its structure and negotiates authority transcend the specifics o f school space and serve as a symbol that a change is possible. L o o k i n g closely at Windsor House inspires thinking about creative use o f space and resources at hand beyond what is common. The space and the story o f Windsor house are important because they have the ability to expand what may be imagined as possible with the resources at hand.  179  Bibliography Alcoff, L . (1991). The problem o f speaking for others. Cultural Critique, 5(32), 5-32. Appleton, Matthew (2000) A Free Range Childhood: Self Regulation at Summerhill School. Foundation for Educational Renewal, Solomon Press; Brandon V T . 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