In 2003 I published a book called Field Day – in part because I wanted to say something specific about schools and kids and education, but largely because I was frustrated with the apolitical nature of most radical writing about schools.
I started with two basic questions: Is institutionalizing our children for six hours a day, five days a week, for twelve years really the best we can do? And : How did we get to this point where we assume that’s a defensible idea?
From there I argued that there are alternatives to school as we know it and that local communities are in the best position to decide what kind of upbringing their children need. I offered a narrative about the history and construction of compulsory state schooling – and resistance to it – and tried to place compulsory schooling as clearly an effort explicitly based on social reproduction. To mind the argument that mandatory schooling is our best hope for egalitarianism is absurd on the face of it, and I want to puncture some of the reflexive cliches about ‘public’ schooling.
My argument is that we can do a lot better than this, that schools can be reimagined as commonly-held, democratic institutions that are genuinely supportive of kids, families and communities. I also argue that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel – there are answers and possibilities all around us.