To the Editors:

Our struggle for a better world takes many forms, but none is more important than the rearing and educating of our children. We believe that children raised in wholeness and natural pride will not grow up to be slavish adults, nor agree to immoral politics and irresponsible technology.

Our present system of public education, coercive in its methods, is a symptom and major cause of our unsatisfactory way of life. It ignores the requirements of normal growth, subordinates everything to centralized administration, and undermines the very best of our democratic ideals. Perhaps this system can be changed from within. We hope so. But one thing is clear: it cannot be changed without working models of a better way, both as examples and as a competitive spur.

Such models exist. They have been described in dozens of books and hundreds of periodicals. They are known as “free schools,” and are what is meant by the recurrent phrase “alternative education.” Everywhere in our country—and now in impressive numbers—independent young adults are manning such schools. Their methods are based on the observed needs of children’s growth, and on the philosophies of Dewey, Tolstoy, Neill, and many others. The schools are kept small so that persons can have access to one another. Relationships replace arbitrary discipline. The absence of coercion makes room for morality and ethics, and these in turn foster the humane relations which alone are the proper setting for the growth of the young.

There are documented examples of brilliant success with these methods. Yet the libertarian schools have no friends in government, industry, or the foundations, and are always short of funds. There is special difficulty for the poor, whose children must be enrolled free of charge.

The function of the New Nation Seed Fund is to help new schools get started, and existing ones stay alive. (We have seen excellent schools founder for want of a small sum.) We ask you to remember this fund by thinking of it on your own birthday, and we ask you to send it a gift at that time. Since it is easier to remember small gifts than large ones, we ask you to send one dollar. If you are a parent, and do agree with us, urge your own children and young people to ally themselves with other children by sending small presents on their birthdays, fifty cents, or a quarter. We cannot solve large problems with these sums, but we can contribute to a large solution. Above all, we can keep alive one of our few working models of freedom.

The money will be used exclusively for children. It will be disbursed from the fund in consultation with reliable people in the field of education, including the sponsors named below. Priority will be given to schools enrolling significant numbers of the poor.

Contributions should be sent to: New Nation Seed Fund, Box 4026, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19118.

George Dennison

Paul Goodman

Nat Hentoff

John Holt

Jonathan Kozol

This Issue

February 11, 1971