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Matt Hern

Deschooling, Democratic Education, and Social Change

Recorded At: Nelson Municipal Library, Nelson, British Columbia
Recorded By: Zoe Creighton, Canadian Voices

Topic Background

Matt Hern suggests that we need a lot less schooling in our lives, not more.

In his most recent book, Field Day: Getting Society Out of School, he contends that our educational structures need to be radically reconfigured, both politically and pedagogically, and he argues for a locally-controlled, directly democratic fabric of alternatives- to- school, free schools, alternative schools, homeschooling and much else.

Matt Hern has insisted that the question must be “ How can our kids THRIVE?”, and not “ How can we effectively warehouse our kids?” He contends that this question can only be answered by children themselves, families, and communities, and not by state bureaucrats. He believes that local communities are in the best position to decide what kind of schooling their children need, and that if school is fun and useful, people will actually want to go. In suggesting ways that we can leave the traditional school model behind, he sketches a future in which personal autonomy and social change go hand in hand.

According to Hern, there is no one answer to how kids can best learn, but myriad answers, and it is up to each individual, family, and community to discover their own. “ More than anything , we do not need mass answers, we need a mass of answers, “ he writes in Field Day, ”What we have in front of us is a society more than capable of defining, understanding, communicating, and realising alternatives to school that answer to local needs”. The trick, says Hern, is taking control of education away from state bureaucrats and bringing it back to a local level.

For Hern, transforming schools is essentially about social change. “ Building alternatives to school cannot just be a different lifestyle, but must be an explicit argument for a different world.”

Speaker Biography

Matt Hern lives in East Vancouver with his partner and daughters. He runs the Purple Thistle Centre, an alternative-to-school community institution for youth in Vancouver, a youth exchange project, and edits and publishes Crank magazine, a literary magazine infused with a dose of radical politics. He holds a PhD. in Urban Studies, is on faculty at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont, and writes and lectures widely. He edited the collection Deschooling Our Lives, with a forward by Ivan Illich, in 1996, and his newest book is Field Day: Getting Society Out of School, published in 2003.

For more information about Matt Hern visit

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