chris mercogliano

chris mercogliano bw

via link to aero site graphic below:

Chris Mercogliano was a teacher at the Albany Free School for thirty-five years and stepped down as director in June 2007 to concentrate on writing and speaking about non-controlling education and child-rearing. He is a member of AERO’s Board of Directors.

He is also the author of Making It Up As We Go Along, the Story of the Albany Free School(Heinemann 1998), Teaching the Restless, One School’s Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed (Beacon Press 2004),How to Grow a School: Starting and Sustaining Schools That Work (Oxford Village Press 2006), and In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wildness (Beacon Press 2007).

chris on aero site

community as school

Before going on, a definition is in order, because the term “community” is so loosely tossed about these days that its original meaning has been obscured by casual usage. The best attempt at articulating the essence of community can be found in M. Scott Peck’s classic treatise on the subject, The Different Drum:

“If we are going to use the word meaningfully we must restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, and to delight in each other, making the other’s condition our own.”


Find/follow him here:

chris mercogliano blog new



super read:

In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wildness (Beacon Press 2007).

Chris’ review of Rick’s Open School, and of Columbine

Which brings us to the model itself, and why nearly 90% of the responding alumni rated their Open School experience as a positive influence in their continuing education and their adult lives beyond. The centerpiece of the model, according to Posner, is the staff/student advisory system. Every student meets weekly with an advisor, whose role is to provide support with social and emotional issues as much as with academic ones. The fact that every single student in the building has a significant, trusting relationship with at least one adult cannot be overstressed. Combined with the staff mantra — “mentor first, teach second” — it means in no uncertain terms that the model fully recognizes the reality of Joseph Chilton Pearce’s classic one-line dictum, “The head will follow the heart every time.”


in defense of childhood

book links to amazon

some notes while reading:

timeline of how we got here

neocortex not threatened – via Chris’s book

our experience of color “corresponds to a specific pattern of states of activity in the nervous system which its structure determines. – – we do not see the world. we live our field of vision. — the world everyone sees is not the world but a world which we bring forth with others.” – maturana and varela

around 1980 – maturana & varela fleshing out ideas of autopoiesis (self-making) – prigogine & capra – independently coined the term – self-organization: the intrinsic means by which living systems regulate themselves and evolve while in a continuous state of flux. ie: termites building nest – there is no externally conceived plan and no leader. the nest is autopoietic; in effect, it makes itself.    p. 31

maturana – “learning is not a process of accumulating representations of the environment; it is a continuous process of transformation of behavior through continuous change in the capacity of the nervous system to synthesize it – if man changes and lives in a changing fram of reference in a world continuously created and transformed by him “- then the fixed body of knowledge we hold up as the goal of education might not even exist.

exactly – perpetual beta – ness

then it should be no surprise – that researcher have recently (book 2007) determined that 95% of all learning occurs spontaneously, through play, fantasy, and experimentation, what i (chris) – wild learning. only 5% of our knowledge – in our lifetime – is acquired through formal instruction, and of that 5%, we remember only 3-5% for any significant length of time.   p 32  – model imperative – wild learning needs to be modeled by others – anywhere, by anyone, at anytime

there is no reason why the model imperative cannot take effect in our nation’s schools. it’s just that in their current pressurized state it is difficult for teachers to be anything more than taskmasters and disciplinarians. if the structure and demands of the classroom are an immoveable impediment to the modeling process, then students should be let out in to the world beyond school and matched with adults who are doing whatever they think they might want to do when they grow up.  p. 33

indeed. spot on. in the city. as the day.

deci & ryan – children cannot be pressure into self-determination; they can only be pressured in to compliance, reactance, ego-involvement, and helplessness.

four models:

1. describing polyana school tolstoy opened  in 1862? 40 peasant children: the children are not obliged to come to school nor to remain there, nor are the required to pay attention while there.. in the first place, this disorder, or rather this free order, only appears frightful to us because we are accustomed to an entirely different system, according to which we have been educated ourselves. secondly, in this case as in many others, the use of force is founded only up on an inconsiderate and disrespectful interpretation of human nature.   – [whole account is delightful] – p. 35

2. met by littky – 1996 – super summary of the met  – 6 groups of 120 each – p. 35 – 36

3. brooklyn free school – 40 kids –  2004

4. colfax family homeschooling – then to harvard – 1990

a s  neill, summerhill – neill had ample opportunity to study kids in a naturalistic setting where they were allowed to be themselves. “i have never seen a lazy child,” wrote neil. What is called laziness is either lack of interest of lack of health. a healthy child cannot stand to be idel; he has to be doing something all day long.” p. 43

it has never been more urgent that all of us who want to play a significant role in children’s lives constantly be on the lookout for ways to support their right to their own spontaneous, authentic, and self-generated experience – which, as we shall see in the following pages, is what sustains our inner wildness and is the very essence of what makes us human.    p. 56

einstein’s vantage via Teresa Amabile  p. 66-67

more from Chris’s book on play – ch 4

more from his book on wildness – ch 5

working on – thinking about – a level timeline – ed timeline – the zoom dance – ch 7


1 hour documentary on albany free school – via Isaac (was a student) – Dana (was a teacher).

Free to Learn: A Radical Experiment in Education from Isaac Graves on Vimeo.


oct 2014 s korea:


nov 2014, for Albany’s 45 anniversary..

I’m sure if anyone had asked her, that reporter would’ve said there was no way the school’s doors would still be open in the year 2014. But she was as wrong as A.S. Neill was in the very beginning when he told Mary how “daft” she would be to try to implement the Summerhill philosophy with a bunch of inner-city children.

So why is the Albany Free School still hanging around at age 45, with well over half of its students still coming from lower-income families? The answer begins with Mary’s steadfast refusal to take “No” for an answer, and her willingness to make any sacrifice necessary to demonstrate that all children possess their own form of genius as well as the ability to take charge of their own lives.


2012 – The Self-Organizing Child: TEDxYouth@BFS

doesn’t require any extrinsic motivation…

why so much today has to little to do w/how we learn…

first 3 get plenty of air time.. somehow .. the deeply flawed scientific basis keeps flying under the radar

who am i .. a non-scientist.. to talk about scientific theory.. for 35 years i had freedom to …. experiment… then took 2 yrs pouring over research..

benefit is that i was an outsider.. scientists tend to develop languages in each field and then not talk to each other..

old model from newton – that universe came w/own set of operating instructions.. an external design template..  later life scientists plugged children into that same paradigm… babies instructions are called genes… developmental template..

a nice neat tidy box to put kids in

today – genes that influence behavior… have to be switched on by environ.. there’s no template.. controlling development… in brain.. genes determine overall number/size/shape of neurons… but it’s child’s experience that etches the connection between the neurons.. eddlemenn… babies born with twice # of neurons… only ones that are repeatedly acted upon.. brain doesn’t work like a computer… everything the brain does is on a self-organizing basis..

esther thellen and linda