Bringing Unschooling to School – A Conversation with Free Student Press founder Damon Krane


By Alex Walker


Alex Walker

My son is simply three years previous, but even before he was born I was decided to increase him in a less typical method. I knew homeschooling – or extra specifically, unschooling – would in all probability be part of that design.  My unconventional view of schooling is sure up with my attraction to a much less mainstream, off-grid way of life. So, naturally, a part of me longs to activate my heel, depart all the worldly nonsense I detest about society within the mud whereas on the similar time maintaining my son out of the miserable suggestions loop of the 19th century factory-style schooling system.  As my son becomes an adult, I would like him to have an expertise that is itself vital, and never a contrived coaching for what is predicted of him as an adult. I would like him to have the steerage and assets out there to turn out to be an independently minded one that can make empowered selections for himself.

Yet I face an ethical impasse. To surrender the society you’re born into comes with a worth, and I find myself in a very privileged state of affairs to even be considering homeschooling my son. As a white, center class, college-educated American, I have both financial and social freedom to make relatively daring selections in my life. And but I’m coming to acknowledge that the privilege I maintain exists because of the very system I would like to reject.

Furthermore, caring about my son means caring concerning the bigger world he’ll stay in and the society he’ll have to negotiate. Being an off-grid unschooler gained’t make that world go away. Whatever protecting buffers I create for my household, we’ll all the time be umbilically linked to the bigger world, populated and sustained by people whose experiences might have been curtailed by public faculties; flawed institutions which might be symbiotically crucial to our current social framework.

Whereas struggling with these issues, I used to be contacted by an previous acquaintance, Damon Krane, who has been an activist, journalist, and grassroots social justice organizer for the higher part of 20 years. His initiative, Free Student Press, amounts to an utter infiltration of unbiased thought inside high faculties, giving students the facility to problem norms, confront authoritarianism, and have interaction in constructive dialogue, whereas discovering and exercising their First Modification rights to distribute independently produced publications which might be typically illegally inhibited by faculties officers. By creating self-confidence and learning to work together, he believes that college students can grow to be empowered to construct a greater world.

Lately, Krane launched a Kickstarter marketing campaign to revive and dramatically increase Free Student Press. Already, his imaginative and prescient has been lauded by such outstanding educators, authors and activists as Ira Shor, Noam Chomsky, Bill Ayers, and Dawson Barrett.

I lately spoke with Krane about Free Student Press and the relevance it may need to these all for homeschooling and unschooling.

So what is Free Student Press (FSP) and why is it relevant to individuals inquisitive about homseschooling and unschooling?

Damon Krane. Photograph by Ece Ucoluk Krane

Homeschooling and unschooling have a whole lot of attraction to mother and father who consider youngsters and adolescents deserve extra freedom to pursue their very own curiosities and artistic impulses than typical faculties permit. FSP is predicated on the identical conviction. But as an alternative of in search of to create totally separate options to our public faculties, or making an attempt to reform nationwide faculty coverage from the top-down, FSP takes unschooling to faculty.

What precisely do you mean by that?

FSP starts from the idea that youngsters don’t need anybody else telling them what to do. What they need are more significant opportunities to categorical themselves, to make sense of their world, and to have an impact on that world. So FSP provides teenagers some very sensible instruments. The first device is the information faculties sometimes cover from college students about their First Modification rights to distribute unbiased scholar publications at college.

More commonly often known as underground newspapers or zines, these publications are produced by college students, outdoors of faculty, and with out using faculty assets. But then college students can convey these publications to faculty and move them out to their classmates on faculty grounds, during faculty hours. School officials can’t management the content material, they will’t punish students for writing things faculty officers don’t like, and within the overwhelming majority of instances faculty officers can’t legally forestall students from distributing unbiased scholar publications at college.

Within one among these publications, students can create for themselves a singular discussion board for public dialogue among their friends that is anchored to their experiences as college students inside their faculties, and as younger individuals within their communities. From my experience with these publications, I’ve discovered that whatever disagreements college students might have with each other, they have a tendency to all need a place to talk about what they care about. So college students find out how to handle this discussion board, as a result of they’re dedicated to maintaining it. They find out how to communicate themselves higher, because that’s needed to change minds and have an impact. They study their friends and others’ perspectives, and the state of affairs forces them to contend with others’ arguments. Finally, if faculty officers attempt to illegally censor a publication – as they typically do – students get to find out how to defeat corrupt individuals in positions of power and authority by way of grassroots organizing.

And the perfect part of FSP’s strategy is that we don’t have to wait until we’ve modified our faculties, or until we’ve built better large-scale options. As an alternative, we actually turn public faculties into a chance for an enormous unschooling campaign – one that not solely enriches studying and improves young peoples’ lives, however which also dramatically increases People’ capability to create a freer, more simply society.

Let’s back up a bit and speak about college students’ authorized rights to do this. Are scholar press rights only a matter of the First Modification, or of courtroom selections and/or different legislation?

The First Amendment was a concession early American elites granted so as to get the Structure ratified. It actually didn’t mean something in follow till mass actions of peculiar individuals made it imply one thing – and that’s true for scholar press rights, too.

Again in the mid 1960s, a gaggle of families in Des Moines, Iowa determined to categorical their opposition to the Vietnam Warfare by sporting black armbands. A few of their youngsters wore these armbands to faculty, for which the youngsters have been threatened with violence by faculty officers and then promptly kicked out of faculty. The households and allied people and organizations fought again, and ultimately this resulted within the 1969 U.S. Supreme Courtroom ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines Unbiased Group School District. The Tinker choice did several issues. Most necessary for FSP, it established the appropriate of public highschool college students to distribute unbiased scholar publications at college.

Are there any legal limits positioned on what students can do with these publications?

Unbiased scholar publishers and journalists are still sure by the same laws as skilled journalists, publishers and everyone else when it comes to stuff like libel, invasion of privateness, obscenity, copyright infringement, and so on. But there is just one further legal restriction that applies to unbiased scholar publishers at public faculties.

School officials might solely attempt to forestall distribution of an unbiased scholar publication if they will show there is a very excessive chance that the either the contents of the publication or the way of its distribution would trigger a severe disruption of official faculty proceedings or invade the rights of others. What 46 years of case regulation following Tinker has made clear is that it is extremely troublesome for college officials to meet this normal.

If students have had this right since 1969, why am I just listening to about it now?

It’s not simply you. Practically everyone seems to be unaware of this.

For almost a half century since Tinker, illegal censorship has continued to run rampant in our faculties, as documented by groups including the Commission of Inquiry into Excessive School Journalism, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Student Press Regulation Middle. But the many reported instances of unlawful censorship are simply the tip of the iceberg. They don’t tell us about all the youngsters who have been lied to about their rights at college, or simply not informed, or students who by no means reported unlawful censorship because they didn’t realize it was unlawful.

Take me and lots of of our high school classmates. Throughout our senior yr some sophomores created somewhat zine they referred to as Disguise and Go Converse. As soon as the students passed out their first situation, they have been referred to as down to the principal’s office and advised they might not hand out a scholar publication at college until they first allowed the principal to edit its contents. Since that they had not completed so, they have been all punished with several after faculty detentions, and that was the top of Cover and Go Converse. That’s miseducation and illegal censorship, but none of us knew higher, so it was by no means reported.

So what occurred once you first put the thought of Free Student Press into follow?

Inside three weeks of our first outreach occasion, the very first group of high school college students Lisa and I worked with produced a publication referred to as Lockdown. On web page one in every of their first difficulty, Lockdown’s creators accurately defined their First Amendment press rights and the Tinker determination.

Student reading paper issue of Lock Down

And how did the varsity reply to Lockdown?

The principal threatened to droop all the students involved if “anything like this ever turns up again.” Then he knowledgeable the household of Lockdown’s lead writer, Devin Aeh Canary, that a suspension would probably forestall her from turning into class valedictorian. Later, faculty authorities falsely accused the students of selling medicine and violence by means of their publication, and local police have been referred to as upon to illegally break up a meeting concerning the paper the scholars have been making an attempt to hold at a public park. The superintendent, meanwhile, issued a press release declaring members of FSP irresponsible outdoors agitators who had made youngsters really feel unsafe at college, and he pressured officers at Ohio University (where I was an undergraduate schooling main) to encourage me to stop FSP’s work.

The battle was pretty intense, and it lasted for almost 4 months. But with FSP’s help the students mobilized so much group help that they utterly defeated both their faculty administration and native police. The students stored publishing Lockdown, and the varsity’s principal resigned. FSP went on to work with more high school students and unbiased publications within the years that followed. Nevertheless, officials at all the five districts we labored with remained opposed to educating students their press rights, publicly refusing to embrace accurate info of their scholar handbooks after FSP audited the handbooks a couple of years after the Lockdown controversy.

Why do you assume censorship and deception about First Modification rights are so widespread in public faculties?

Public faculties are supposed to be how we train People constitutional rights important to American democracy. However the design of our faculties is at odds with that mission.

ks_memes_chomskyOur faculties are designed to carry out what Paulo Freire referred to as the banking idea of schooling. Inside the banking concept, college students are thought-about empty containers for a instructor to refill with deposits of no matter info authorities have deemed priceless.

The primary drawback with the banking idea is that from the time we’re born, we human beings have our personal curiosities and artistic impulses. We would like to work out and consciously shape both ourselves and our world. But in the banking idea, these elements of human nature are the enemy. They’ve obtained to be crushed down and suppressed so that students may be crammed up with whatever is on any given day’s lesson plan.

For the banking concept to be carried out college students have to be silenced and made powerless. In distinction, unbiased scholar publications give students a voice and a way of creating power. That’s why our faculties often oppose scholar press rights.

You labored by way of FSP from 1999 by way of 2006 with college students in Southeast Ohio. Now you’re making an attempt to launch FSP in four Southern states over the subsequent two years, after which take FSP nationwide. Inform me more about that plan.

If the Kickstarter marketing campaign reaches its aim, I’ll begin touring to several school towns in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. In every town, I’ll recruit a workforce of school scholar activist-volunteers to help me with outreach and dealing with the high school students of their areas.

Once we’ve established contact with space high school students, we’ll maintain two separate weekly meetings in every city – one for just the native FSP workforce, and one with the local FSP group and the native highschool students. At first, I’ll be leading FSP’s work with each group of high school students. However as the talents of the local group members develop into more superior, they’ll progressively take over from me, liberating me to launch FSP in further cities.

In the meantime, I’ll attempt to facilitate on-line networking between the totally different scholar publications, and I’ll assist the scholars access the extra assets of other press rights advocacy teams like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Student Press Regulation Middle.

Finally, I’ll be chronicling FSP’s work in a ebook. After this new two-year part is accomplished, I’ll get the e-book revealed and use it to attempt to persuade major funders and national organizations to broaden FSP all across the nation.

I can see this being one thing that homeschooled teenagers would take pleasure in and benefit from being part of. Do you foresee FSP collaborating with and reaching out to youngsters who aren’t educated at college, however who want to study their rights and how to manage and have interaction in a more significant dialogue inside their communities?

Homeschoolers – alongside with personal faculty students, who aren’t afforded the same press rights as public faculty college students (except by California’s Leonard Regulation) – can attend FSP meetings and connect with unbiased scholar publishers at the public excessive faculties in their space. This provides homeschoolers the opportunity to submit writing and paintings and even take part in governing scholar publications. So the experience can benefit homeschoolers and provides them an ideal alternative to interact with different young individuals.

How can individuals help this work?

The Free Student Press marketing campaign on Kickstarter wants to attain its aim by August 24, so I encourage everybody who supports this work to donate instantly and to tell all their colleagues, friends and family to do the same. This solely works if a number of us pitch in. But when this campaign succeeds, its impression can be super.


NOTE: This can be a condensed model of a longer interview. To study extra about what the digital age means for unbiased scholar publications, the state of affairs of students at personal faculties, and critiques of the banking concept of schooling, see the complete interview.



Alex Walker is a stay-at-home mother to a three-year-old son. Formerly a figurative artist and portrait painter, Alex is fascinated by sustainable structure, homeschooling, gardening, and something involving artistic design. She is following her intention of studying more about human rights and progressive values and actions, in addition to turning into a practitioner of ecological dwelling. She lives with her son and husband in Littleton, Colorado and is completely enjoying what the state has to supply.

Damon Krane is co-founder and director of Free Student Press. He has worked as a news reporter, opinion columnist, journal editor, communications director, non-profit director, grassroots organizer and activist, journalism educator, and business supervisor. Much of his writing is archived at He’s additionally a visible artist, specializing in black and white pencil portraits of individuals and pets at He lives with his wife in Atlanta, Georgia.