The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, October 13, 1971, Image 1

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I. . i
Photot by Bill Ganzl
The world of school and
education can include bubble
gum - if you're free.
&m :.
' v
Floors and paper and
fingers (above and left) are
sometimes more important
than books.
Open schools try to revamp system
By Jacquin Sanders
Newsweek Feature Service
Every September, the U.S. school system produces
a melancholy miracle. It takes millions of eager,
excited children into its classrooms and transforms
them into bored, apathetic-and not very
well-educated-little prisoners grimly serving out their
daily six-hour sentences.
But this year, as in the past two or three, some
hopeful changes are being made. In hundreds of
schools across the country, in suburbs and ghettoes,
in rural areas and in plush private institutions, a new
form of elementary education has appeared.
It is called the "open schooF'-a bold and
bewildering melange of the new and the old,
combining the latest (and not completely tested)
educational theories with what in a way amounts to a
return to the one-room schoolhouse of earlier times.
FOR MOST children, the open school (also called
"informal education," "open classrooms" or "free
school") is a delightful innovation. For their parents,
however, the concept takes a good deal of getting
used to.
Open schools vary almost as much as the children
who study in them. Some school systems are
instituting them gradually. They may have one or two
open classrooms for selected pupils while the balance
of the student population remains in traditional
schoolrooms. In other cases, entire schools have been
Nationally, more than half of all new elementary
school construction is for open schools. And virtually
all new California elementary schools conform to the
new pattern although they do not conform with one
SOME OF THE NEW open schools are tradional in
appearance from the outside. Only the interiors are
different, with large unwalled "learning centers,"
rather than a multiplicity of classrooms.
But other new schools really look new. The
Rincon School in Livcrmore, Calif., for example, is
shaped roughly like an angelfood cake pan. The
round library is at the center and pie-shaped
classrooms open from the library.
Usually, the transformation from the old to the
new system in existing buildings begins with the
The revolution is spreading to Nebraska.
As explained by Jacquin Sanders of the
Newsweek Feature Service in today's Daily
Nebraskan the revolution is a nation-wide one
in elementary classrooms.
Square rooms filled with straight rows of
bored, quiet children are being replaced by
"active" classrooms, where children sit on the
floor to read, or pound, or build, or
play bedlam to the outside observer, but
calculated, individualized learning to
elementary educators of the new breed.
In Lincoln, reporter Steve Kadel looks at
the latest open classroom experiment, the
Lincoln Free School. He also takes a look at
UNL's Training Teachers of Teachers
program, perhaps the first program to push
active classrooms in Lincoln.
Included is an interview with UNL's new
Teachers College Dean Robert Egbert, who
has taken the helm of a college which in the
past has shown some hostility to activist
projects like TTT's.
knocking down ot walls between two or three
old-style schoolrooms. Teachers then come together
as a team and the classes contain pupils from not one
but several grades.
THOUGH THE open-school system has been
sifting into U.S. education since the mid-1960s, it is
still available to only a fraction of the country's 32
million elementary-school pupils. But it has been
spreading rapidly, especially in the past two years,
and seems certain to dominate U.S. schools by the
end of the decade just as it already dominates British
Of course, the open schools have their detractors.
Many parents equate a quiet school with a good
school. Others confuse the new methods with
discredited theories of permissive education. And
conservative political groups, including the John
Birch Society, have organized against, and in some
cases succeeded in stopping, proposed open-school
BUT THE DETRACTORS seem doomed to failure
principally because their opposition must entail some
support of the status quo which, in the case of most
U.S. elementary education, is difficult to defend.
Indeed, open schools are in a very real sense a
product not so much of progress as of desperation.
For many years, "the crisis in educaion" was
thought to consist primarily of the troubles in ghetto
schools. But lately, it has become uncomfortably
clear that the crisis is all-pervading; that if slum
schools are impossible, the once-vaunted smalltown
and suburban school systems are almost as bad and
getting worse.
In his celebrated book, "Crisis in the Classroom,"
journalist and former Columbia University professor
Charles Silberman was, after all, only stating what
most educators and concerned parents already knew,
when he wrote:
"IT IS NOT possible to spend any prolonged
period visiting public-school classrooms without being
appalled by the mutilation visible
tverywhere-mutilation of spontaneity, of joy in
learning, of pleasure in creating, of sense of self. . .
.Because adults take the schools so much for granted,
they fail to appreciate what grim, joyless places most
American schools are."
It is this bleak picture that the open schools seek
to change.
Lincoln Free School - totally different concept
bv Steve Kadei
Walk through the doors of
the Lincoln Free School and
you enter a totally different
concept of education.
At first glance it looks like
one big messy room. Chairs are
overturned, crayons, papers
begins Oct. 18
Pre-registration for the
second semester begins Oct.
Pre-registration packets will
be distributed in the Nebraska
Union, living units and the
information counter in the
Administration building
beginning Oct. 13.
and magazines cover the floor,
and a small black cat wanders
lazily amidst it all -leaving its
unmistakable odor in the air.
From a cheap record player
in the back of the room you
hear the familiar sound of
Carol King's "Tapestry" and
start wondering if you've
stepped into the wrong
building. Then you see the
children - and your doubts
They sit on cushions on the
floor, on benches, and stand
against the wall, talking in
pairs. There are no straight
rows of desks pointing toward
an authoritarian teacher in the
Instead, each student sits
where he wants, and, more
importantly, does what he
wants. That's the philosophy
behind the Lincoln Free
Bob Frangenberg, a
2 5 -year-old graduate of the
University of Nebraska
Teachers College, started the
school, which opened its doors
for the first time Sept. 9. He
said he did it to provide an
alternative to public schools.
"Sometimes public schools
are very traumatic places for
certain children," he said.
"They are impersonal in
dealing with people and don't
take into account
psychological growth at all."
No two open classrooms are
alike, but all are based on the
belief that children learn best
by studying what they want
and doing it at their own pace.
Frangenberg wears his hair
moderately long and looks out
at the world through wire-rim
glasses, causing some educators
to dismiss him and his
philosophies as idealistic pipe
dreams. But looking at the
children of the Lincoln Free
School for awhile you get the
impression they're serious
about learning and have found
a way to make it a pleasant
The 14 students currently
attending the Free School
range in age from 3 to 21 and
only pay what tuition they can
afford. Frangenberg says this
usually comes to a total of
$400 a month, which
constitutes the school's entire
budget unless it is lucky
enough to receive a donation
from someone.
Unlike the structured public
schools, the Lincoln Free
School lets each child
determine his interests and
pursue them in his own way.
Students tell Frangenberg what
they want to learn and he find
books for them, or arranges
part-time teachers to come and
On one wall of the school is
a sheet of paper which students
can sign and list the courses
they want to study. Guitar,
flute, geometry, trigonometry,
typing, biology, ancient
Turn to page 3.