the history of education and childhood 


Radical Educators in New York City, 1909-1915

by Reid Friedson

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Reid Friedson is Professor of History, Culture, and Society at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States of America. He formerly served as a Public Educator for the American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Headquarters in Washington, D. C. and as a Visiting Scholar at Exeter College, Oxford University. Email address:



Introduction: Modern School Movement to Ferrer

Ferrer's Execution Launches International Movement

New York City's Modern School, 1909-1915: An Artistic and Intellectual Community Center

Emma Goldman and Modern School Administrators

The World War Against Capitalism: Attack and Retreat

Conclusion: Art, Intellect, and Education for the Masses

Related sources on the Web
Primary sources
Secondary sources


Radical educators in New York City from 1909-1915 carried on an international movement which celebrated freedom of thought and action. The movement drew teachers from the amazing array of artists and intellectuals living or meeting in avant-garde Harlem and Greenwich Village. Together, they opened a bohemian school for educating both adults and children, the Ferrer Modern School. The school idealized the immigrant poor, the working class, and children. It encouraged independent thinking and promoted liberty and natural, universal humanitarianism unless of course you were the state or corporate monopolies. Then, you were the enemy. The Modern School leaders' ideology of class-consciousness led them to accept violence, terrorism, and murder or "propaganda by the deed" against capitalists. This forced these radical educators to the country to pursue their utopian social visions. This essay begs the question: Is terrorism, or revolution, necessary to stop the oppression of the poor? This question has not yet been settled. It is our duty as educators to consider it.

Introduction: Modern School Movement to Ferrer

When teacher Francisco Ferrer, founder of the Escuela Moderna (Modern School) in Barcelona, was executed by the Spanish government in 1909, he became an international symbol of revolt against educational indoctrination. When independent thinking American socialists, anarchists, and libertarians founded the Ferrer Modern School in his memory in New York City in 1910, they were also expressing the influences of late nineteenth and early twentieth century American and European radical theorists and activists who preceded the martyred Ferrer. These New York City radicals were seeking through education to mold a new national culture from the modern technological revolution that was occurring simultaneously in Europe and America. Of course these men and women were nurtured by New York City's bohemian subculture which was centered in Greenwich Village from 1909-1915. Yet, the Ferrer Modern School of New York City, from where they based this effort at cultural transformation, stood as more than just an avant-garde school for children; it was a local libertarian meeting center for world-class intellectuals and a facility where adult workers from the city could read and discuss radical new ideas in the evenings. Yet, the Modern School movement was driven from New York City in its formative stage of development in 1915 by its association with bombers willing to kill innocent people to make a statement against their enemies: the church, the state, and capitalist monopolies.
This turn-of-the-century similarity to anti-government philosophy today is striking. The educational techniques of the Modern School movement in New York City from 1909-1915 empowered students to think for themselves, experiment, create, and do. Reviving the spirit of these New York City radicals for the new immigrants will bring progress to every village, city, or rural school it touches. The Modern School was a community school in every sense of the word. Financiers, urban planners, school administrators, professors, scholars, and teachers may notice it is again time for a revolution in education. The modern school movement carried by Rousseau into the eighteenth century died early in the twentieth century. It should be revived again. Educating students to be independent, progressive thinkers ensures a society will flourish.
The international Modern School Movement celebrated independent thinking. The movement itself began in France even before Ferrer was executed. Much of the late nineteenth century thinking on it seems to come from Rousseau's mid-eighteenth century emphasis on the experiential techniques he explained in his Emile. Ferrer's Escuela Moderna, which he established in Barcelona in 1901, was actually based on French models. Louise Michel, who was "on the front ranks whenever the people of Paris rebelled against some wrong," in the nineteenth century, established a school at Montmartre as an alternative to the "soul-destroying educational institutions" of the bourgeois which she believed were the originator of all social evils. [2]
Following Michel's model, Paul Robin established his Modern School at Cempuis in 1880 refusing the conventional belief that "the child must suffer for the sins of the fathers, that it must continue in poverty, and filth, that it must grow up a drunkard or criminal, just because its parents left no other legacy." [3] Robin "took his children from the street, the hovels, the orphan and founding asylums, the reformatories, from all those gray and hideous places where a benevolent society hides its victims in order to pacify its guilty conscience." [4] Although Cempuis was closed by the French government on charges of coeducation, which at the time was prohibited under law, other similar educational attempts were undertaken in France by Madeleine Vernet and Sebastian Faure. Faure developed in the children a love of study by awakening "the child's interest in his surroundings by mak(ing) him or her realize the importance of observation, investigation, and reflection" and by teaching the student to never accept anything on blind faith. [5] Ferrer followed these precedents in developing his child-centered theories of education.
Ferrer outlined the principles upon which a Modern School should be based. He proclaimed at the opening of his Escuela Moderna in 1901: "I am not a speaker, not a propagandist, not a fighter. I am a teacher; I love children above everything. I think I understand them. I want my contribution to the cause of liberty to be a young generation ready to meet a new era." [6] Ferrer knew that "the real educator is he who can best appeal to the child's own energies." [7]


Francisco Ferrer, c. 1900

Before his execution in 1909, Ferrer claimed he was wrongly accused of taking part in at least two conspiracies to overthrow the Spanish government. In 1906, he was charged with being implicated in a plan to kill King Alfonso and in 1909 of leading an anti-military uprising in which peace and order prevailed while the people had control of the city. [8] From his prison cell, Ferrer wrote on October 4, 1909 that he was being accused of being the leader of the world's anarchists because of his visits to London and Paris and that "with such infamous lies they are trying to kill me." [9] The indictment against him did not even accuse him of participation in the uprising which provided an opportunity to arrest him; instead it alleged that he was guilty of "having organized godless schools and godless literature." [10] He was a danger to Catholicism and to the Spanish government because he wanted education removed from the yoke of the church and the state. Ferrer stated that "power is based almost entirely on the school and they [government officials] therefore insist on retaining their monopoly on it." [11]
Ferrer's real affront to the Spanish government was his effective organization of education to free people from governmentally imposed religious and political propaganda. Between 1901 and 1909, Ferrer organized 109 Modern Schools and induced the liberals of his country to organize 308 other such schools. [12] He also equipped a modern printing plant and produced 150,000 copies of modern scientific and sociologic books and rationalistic texts. [13] Ferrer was a danger to state control of education, of what people learned to think for the rest of their lives.

Ferrer's Execution Launches International Movement

Ferrer's execution on October 13, 1909 started an international Modern School Movement. Modern Schools were quickly established in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, China, Japan, and the United States. In America, Modern Schools would open in 1910 and spread to various parts of the country until they died out in 1961 because of financial distress. The Modern Schools of America were first established in New York City in 1910, and then in Chicago and Philadelphia in the same year, and in Detroit, Seattle, Portland, and Salt Lake City as well by 1915. There was a reason this educational counter-culture moved across America from 1910-1915 had to do with the residual European and American libertarian traditions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
America had its own tradition of thought regarding utopian communities that placed child-centered education at the heart of its pursuits. Englishman Robert Owen, who founded the New Harmony community of Indiana in 1825, believed that "the individuality of the child must be sacred" and that the relations between a teacher and a pupil must be based on and controlled by love." [14] Jo Anne Wheeler, a teacher at the Stelton Modern School (1915-53) and the Mohegan Modern School (1912-41), believed that Bronson Alcott's Temple School established in Boston in 1834 was a strong influence on the movement. The Concord Transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, set up models for revolt against the oppressive nature of authoritative education in America. Emerson said: "Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude." [15] Thoreau walked out of teaching in part because he was being pressured against his will to inflict corporal punishment on his students, which he would not do.
But, as the recommended reading lists of the Modern School Magazine (1912-22) demonstrated, it was a combination of European and American educational theories that were at the center of its libertarian philosophy of education. The Modern School Magazine reading lists suggested books by mostly nineteenth century American and European educational theorists such as Rousseau, Stirner, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Fourier, Owen, Alcott, Emerson, Spenser, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoi, Dewey, A. S. Neill, and Bertrand Russell.
John Dewey of Columbia University was one of the earliest proponents of the Modern School movement in America. Dewey "almost singlehanded, accomplished one of the significant cultural revolutions of his time." [16] Dewey successfully argued for scientific and experimental educational theories which many American and European libertarian educators had been advocating throughout the nineteenth century but which were largely ignored by the educational establishment. Dewey made it clear to conventional society that modern science meant nothing unless people could be taught use their individual talents to build cooperative relationships with themselves and the world. [17] Libertarians associated with the Modern School in New York City, including Emma Goldman, were well aware of the importance of Dewey's theories and thus invited him to come to visit the school, which he did many times.
Dewey opened his Laboratory School in Chicago in 1896, thirteen years before Ferrer's execution, to investigate educational propositions for a democracy. The school's philosophy was centered around teaching the young to be independent and useful, not impulsive. Children would learn by doing at the Chicago Lab School, as it was affectionately called. Dewey's Lab School teachers strived to teach their students to build up and solve their own problems and to openly exchange ideas and give mutual respect, friendship and love. He also sought to "train [the] power of re-adaptation to changing conditions so that future workers would not become blindly subject to a fate imposed upon them." [18]
A global sense of quickening multiplicity, despair, and needed renewal permeated European and American societies in the early twentieth century. The Education of Henry Adams (1918) demonstrated that in Europe and America the whirling dynamo of modern technological revolution and "anarchy was a momentary stage toward order and unity" which "accelerated progress, concentrated energy, accumulated power and multiplied the intensity of force-reduc(ing) friction, increas(ing) friction, increasing velocity, and magnify(ing) momentum." [19] American culture in particular had been undergoing fragmentation, professionalization, increased specialization, complexity, and atomization in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. [20] This time of revolutionary technological and cultural change was reflected in New York City from 1909-1915 and in the life of the Modern School movement there during that time.

New York City's Modern School, 1909-1915: An Artistic and Intellectual Community Center

The need for cultural renewal during revolutionary technological change was acutely observable in New York City, particularly in its bohemian epicenter, Greenwich Village, from 1909-1915. New York City intellectuals were looking for new combinations of thought to establish a new revolutionary order. Leslie Fishbein, in Rebels in Bohemia: The Radicals of the Masses, 1911-1917 (1982) astutely observed that European and American ideas were intricately fashioned in New York City's Greenwich Village before America's entry into the Great War in 1917. Fishbein noted that pre-World War I radicals were searching for ways to attack oppressive social institutions, such as schools, and the general "tyranny of convention." [21]
Writers gathering in New York City, particularly Greenwich Village, from 1909-1915 were part of what Hemingway in 1930 called the "Lost Generation" These writers were middle class; the children of lawyers, doctors, and teachers, "yet they had the illusion of belonging to a great classless society." [22] They felt akin to the misunderstood Romantic reformers whose good intentions got them crucified. [23]
A "New Paganism" celebrating personal sensuality arose at the turn of the century to defy the Puritanism which had extinguished the pursuit of passions in America. Experiments with drugs and the Black culture of Harlem were undertaken by some radicals from Greenwich Village in defiance of the Victorian-American "genteel tradition." Mabel Dodge, a patroness of radicalism and the arts who made her home at 23 Fifth Avenue into a salon, agreed with German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that God was within each person and that each should develop as he or she saw fit.
The city of New York's unique search for cultural renewal can be seen in its surge of political radicalism from 1909 to 1915. [24] The Modern School's presence there attracted many intellectuals from Greenwich Village and the Rand School of Social Science. Interaction between cultural theorists and educators were quite common during this period. The Rand School of Social Science, then on East Nineteenth Street, stood as a center of socialist light and learning." [25] Radicals met at Polly's Restaurant on MacDougal Street and the Hotel Brevcourt as well. The Modern School could only flourish in such a colorful turn-of-the-century urban intellectual climate.
The preeminent American scholar of anarchism, Paul Avrich, has called the Modern School's adult Ferrer Center the "Academy Humane" for its gathering of counter-culture rebels and artists. Harry Kelly recalled that "those who gathered at the center formed the most dynamic group of men and women of its kind ever brought together in this country." [26] Sadakichi Hartmann, who fried eggs and discussed poetry with Walt Whitman and corresponded with Ezra Pound met other radicals there. Carlos Tresca, an Italian militant who attended many of the talks, noted that there were all shades of radicals, from pacifists to terrorists, in attendance. People young and old gathered from 1910-1915 to here Jack London, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Clarence Darrow, Hutchins Hapgood, Hippolyte Havel, Eugene O'Neill, Theodore Dreiser, Max Eastman, Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger speak on the need for libertarian cultural transformations. The topics of economics, politics, sex, literature, art, law, psychology, psychoanalysis, socialism, anarchism, and syndicalism were all discussed. The ideas were exciting and relevant to the controversial issues of the day and were attractive to plain working men as well as avant-garde intellectuals. The Ferrer Center was simply aiming toward the "reconstruction of society upon the basis of freedom and justice." [27]
The Modern School and Ferrer Center of New York City developed out of this local, national, and international movement for counter-culture. The movement grew out of the Francisco Ferrer Association of America, which was formed at the offices of the Harlem Liberal Alliance located at West 116th Street in New York City, in 1910 in response to Ferrer's execution. Harry Kelly, Jamie Vidal, Leonard Abbot, and Alexander Berkman, editor of Emma Goldman's radical newspaper Mother Earth and the man who tried to assassinate Andrew Carnegie, organized the first Modern Sunday School in the United States in New York that year. Lucy Parsons, whose husband Albert was executed as a Haymarket (Chicago) anarchist in 1887, spoke there on that topic and Will Durant spoke about literature and philosophy. But, the early days were rough. Financial crises always loomed.

Emma Goldman and Modern School Administrators

It was Emma Goldman who individually did the most to keep Ferrer's ideas about education alive in America. Leonard Abbot wrote in the June 1910 and July 1911 issue of Mother Earth that "Emma Goldman has done more than anyone else to keep alive American interest in the martyred founder of the Modern Schools." [28] Arguing for more than just the French libertarian tradition which influenced Ferrer, Emma Goldman called out to Americans to recognize the social importance of the Modern School. She said: "The underlying principle of the Modern School is this: education is a process of drawing out, not of driving in; it aims at the possibility that the child should be left free to develop spontaneously, directing his own efforts and choosing the branches of knowledge which he desires to study." [29] Ferrer taught Goldman to decry restraint. He said to the budding student and to society in general, "We want men capable of evolving without stopping, whose intellectual independence will be their greatest force, who will aspire to live multiple lives in one life." [30] Ferrer and Goldman were talking about making students part of a social movement in which power would not trickle down from the government but instead would spout up as if from a fountain of youth.


Emma Goldman, c. 1905

Goldman spoke publicly about how the Modern School of New York City attempted to put its libertarian educational ideals into practice in the classroom. She noted that the "Modern School aims to teach composition through original themes on topics chosen by the pupils from experience in their own lives, and sketches are suggested by the imaginative or actual experience of the pupils." [31] In teaching history, "a panorama of dramatic periods and incidents, illustrative of the main movements and epochs of human developments" were presented. [32] History was, moreover, taught "to develop an appreciation in the child of the struggle of past generations for progress and liberty, and thereby develop a respect for every truth that aims to emancipate the human race." [33] Sex education was taught "to break down the [centuries old] wall which Puritanism has built around sex." [34]
Goldman also got Alden Freeman, ironically the son of the treasurer of the Standard Oil Company, who admired Goldman greatly, to pay two-thirds of the rent for the school's first site at 6 Saint Marks Place, where James Fennimore Cooper, author of Last of the Mohicans, lived from 1834-1836. [35] When the school ran out of money in 1911 and could not continue at 6 Saint Marks Place, it was Goldman who raised contributions and led the move to 104 East Twelfth Street.
Because of a shortage of funds, it was difficult for the Modern School in New York City to get and keep a director and teachers and to just stay in one place. According to Paul Luttinger, who taught at the school on Twelfth Street, Modern Schools often paid nothing or very little. [36] Those who did teach or direct the school were men and women who put their dedicated visions of libertarian education into practice with great sacrifice to their own economic well-being. They could barely, if at all, eke out enough of a living for their own food and rent.
As director of the Modern School's Ferrer Center at 6 Saint Marks Place, Bayard Boyesen established a tradition of alternative modes of education in the classroom. He did away with the raised desk of the teacher and the rigid rows of student seats. Boyesen said that the role of the teacher was only to see that classroom discussions of ideas did not get too far afield. The teacher was moreover supposed to "restrain himself from supplying the conclusions which the children are working out for themselves." [37]
John and Abby Coryell jointly took over the school's directorship for the 1911 and some of the 1912 school years continuing the belief that original and creative students, abhorred by the public school system, were not really bad but went unchallenged by not being allowed to exercise their individual ideas. [38] They too moved on, probably unable to survive on the meager funds provided them as salary. Unfortunately, there is no record as to why the Coryell's actually left their posts at the Modern School.
In October 1912, Will Durant took over the directorship of the Modern School when it moved to 63 East 107th Street because the facilities at Twelfth Street proved too small. This was primarily a Jewish and Italian area of the city between Madison and Park Avenues. As the Modern School's socialist director, Durant was convinced that the best school, like the best government, was the one which governed the least. [39] Although the school lacked equipment and physical accommodations, he kept the Ferrer Center's radical reading room open to the public from 4-11 p. m. and on Sunday's held lectures, picnics, and excursions. On Saturday nights, the Ferrer Dining Club socialized and ate meals together.
Initially working only as a teacher at the Modern School from 1910-1912, Will Durant found that if you do not force the child to do assignments but showed him the reason for them, he or she would usually do it and ask for more. [40] For his great compassion, the children loved him and called him Will, their friend. Durant, who started out as a substitute teacher in Newark and went on to teach French and Latin at Seton Hall was initially quite surprised by the Modern School community when he first began teaching there in 1910. Durant said: "I had been led to believe that most of these men and women were criminals, enemies of all social order, given to presenting their arguments with dynamite. I was amazed to find myself, for the most part, among philosophers and saints." [41]
Will Durant met his future wife, Ariel, teaching at the Modern School at 63 East 107th Street. He affectionately called Ariel "Puck" because of her happy spirit. Ariel explained that despite the libertarian philosophy of the school, children were not free to endanger their well-being. She said that "the child might at any time leave the room and go out into the yard and play, though he was not free to go out into the street." [42] Because of the continuing economic difficulties at the school and his fondness for Will Durant, libertarian philanthropist Alden Freeman paid Will's teaching salary and helped him pay for his doctorate in philosophy degree at Columbia University. [43]
Will Durant left the Modern School to assume a professorship at Columbia University. Cora Bennett Stephenson, a disciple of Eugene Debs, assumed the directorship of the Modern School in May, 1913. Stephenson was previously dismissed from her Illinois public school teaching position for protesting Ferrer's execution. Maurice Hollod recalled in an interview with Paul Avrich that in 1913 when he was a young boy, he was taken to the school and fell in love with it. Hollod was particularly impressed by Stephenson's unwillingness to use aggressive disciplinary measures. Hollod noted that "the third day in school I acted a little smart-alecky. She said to me: 'I don't think you are ready for class yet. I think you want play. So why don't you go out in the yard and play'. I thought to myself 'What kind of school is this where they punish you by letting you play?' 'Alfred, why don't you come back when you are ready to sit down and work with the class,' she said." [44]

The World War Against Capitalism: Attack and Retreat

1913-14 was a turning point for the Ferrer Association and the Modern School movement in America. The Ferrer Association, led by Joseph Cohen, started a movement of the out-of-work, the Conference of the Unemployed. When the movement began protesting at local New York City churches, Irish police officers came crashing down on the protestors' mostly Italian and Jewish heads with nightsticks. The New York City police again committed brutalities when mass meetings to protest unemployment were held at Union Square. Moreover, when John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s Standard Oil called in the National Guard to Ludlow, Colorado to combat striking miners there, the Guardsmen massacred the workers who had committed no violent acts. In response to the Ludlow Massacre, the Ferrer Association protested in front of the Standard Oil corporate headquarters on Lexington Avenue. After the anarchist press called for revenge on Standard Oil for the Ludlow Massacre, a bomb intended for the Rockefeller Mansion unintentionally detonated in the Ferrer Center on June 22, 1914 killing three anarchists. The Ferrer Center never recovered from this wound. The center was subsequently placed under federal and local police surveillance. Becky Edelsohn, a Ferrer Center anarchist declared that "all the violence that has been committed by the labor movement since the dawn of history wouldn't equal one day of violence committed by the capitalist class in power." [45]
Robert and Delia Hutchinson jointly assumed the Modern School's directorship post in September, 1914 when Cora Bennett Stephenson resigned. By this time, police spies had infiltrated the Modern School to snuff out all of the post-Ludlow "conspirators." Because of police (and social) pressure, Alden Freeman, the financial pillar of the Modern School, pulled all of his public support. When anarchists Frank Abarno and Carmine Carbone were accused of planting bombs in St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Church of St. Alphonsus on October 13, 1914, the five year anniversary of the execution of Ferrer, anti-radical sentiment gripped the city. The Modern School radicals thus considered themselves to be safer somewhere other than New York. Therefore, on May 16, 1915 the Modern School retreated to rural Stelton, New Jersey, while the Ferrer Center perilously remained in the city until 1918 when anti-radical hysteria that followed America's entry into the war drove it out of business.
The retreat from New York City to the countryside of New Jersey in 1915 was rushed and therefore not carefully thought out. Harry Kelly noted that "we built our community around a school, something which had never been done before. Communities always come first and schools after but we reversed the order." [46] Nevertheless, the city dwellers were not prepared for starting a self-contained community that resembled the "Old Country" of Europe that they inhabited as children. Joseph Cohen admitted; "We selected a homesite without knowing anything about the requirements of soil, drainage, shade, bathing facilities," laying streets, or planting trees." [47] The children grew their own vegetable gardens. There were classes in pottery, brickmaking, and printing. Joseph Ishill, a Russian printer, printed two hundred and fifty books and pamphlets that could not be published in commercial channels. Daniel De Leon's son led star-gazing sessions with his telescope.
By 1916, the American mind was changing amid the pressures of world war. Malcolm Cowley remembered that in the winter of 1916-17 his Harvard University professors stopped talking about the republic of letters and instead started talking about patriotism. [48] The Blast and Mother Earth were banned from the mails in the interest of national security. Goldman and Berkman were imprisoned for their membership in the Non-Conscription League. Even Dewey was subsequently fired from his professorship at Columbia University for opposing the war. The Modern School of New York City was forced to retreat to the country, thereby severing its ties to Greenwich Village, the center of radical ideas in America from 1909-15. It was not as if anarchists were welcomed in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries anyway. They were so feared that as early as 1907 they were no longer allowed entry into the United States. Domestic paranoia over radical domestic elements following America's entry into World War I in 1917 only increased. In the United States from 1917-19, a heated national campaign was prosecuted by Congress and district attorneys against all vocal opponents to World War I.

Conclusion: Art, Intellect, and Education for the Masses

Be that as it may, it is undeniable that the Modern School movement in New York City, influenced by European and American traditions about child-centered libertarian education still remains with us. It is clear that the state will not willingly give up its monopoly over the educational system. To be effective, anti-government, freedom-loving educators will have to have financially viable schools. The directors will have to be knowledgable enough to raise sufficient funds while convincing Americans that their mission is part of the American radical tradition of independent thinking but do not condone terrorism against innocent people. The fear of anarchists as bomb throwers does not generally hold true, though it does have certain factual precedents inherent in the demise of the Modern School movement in New York City from 1913-1915. Many anarchists just believe anything but communal government is evil. The statements and actions of the teachers and directors of the Modern School in New York City during this time prove that they celebrated love, reason, and passion in teaching children and adults to learn to think for themselves, which is revolutionary to the church and state establishment in any epoch of human history. But, Americans will not tolerate terrorism against innocent people as the fall of the Modern School movement in New York City in 1915 and the bombings in Oklahoma City and Kenya teach us. Still having a place where even the most militant individuals can go to speak their minds will allow the marketplace of ideas to be truly free and most productive. The community lyceum must open again for this generation which understands the corruption in government and the greed for money as much as the radicals in New York City did ninety years ago. Great ideas never die, they just take a while to get around to everybody, at least until cyberspace changed all that.

Related sources on the Web

The complete 1913 English translation of Ferrer's The Origin and Ideals of the Modern School is online at Stuart Walling Graham's website about Francisco Ferrer and the Escuela Moderna, which also offers various materials (and links) about Ferrer.

The website of the archival Francisco Ferrer Collection 1891-1969, an inventory of primary source documents at the Mandeville Special Collections Library of the University of California at San Diego, has also a brief Ferrer biography.

Emma Goldman's 1910 essay Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School can be read online in Emma Goldman's Collected Works at the Anarchy Archives website.

More materials about Emma Goldman, including biographical info, reproductions of archival documents etc., are online at the Emma Goldman Papers Project of the Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE, at the University of California, Berkeley.

A complete online edition of Henry Adams's 1918 The Education of Henry Adams is available at the American Studies Program at the University of Virginia.

For online editions of John Dewey's publications and many more online Dewey materials, see the Dewey links section at this History of Education and Childhood Site.

Primary sources

Adams, Henry. 1973. The Education of Henry Adams. Massachussetts Historical Society. Reprint edited by Ernest Samuels. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Also available in an online edition.

Cowley, Malcolm. 1976. Exiles Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s. New York: Penguin.

Dewey, John. 1961. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: MacMillan. Also available in an online edition.

Dewey, John. 1967-72. The Early Works of John Dewey, 1882-1898. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University. 5 vols.

Dewey, John. 1976-83. The Middle Works of John Dewey, 1899-1924. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Durant, Will. 1927. Transition: A Sentimental Story of One Mind and One Era. New York: Simon and Schuste.

Durant, Will and Ariel. 1977. A Dual Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Ferrer y Guardia, Francisco. 1913. The Origin and Ideals of the Modern School. London: Watts. Also available in an online edition.

Goldman, Emma. 1910. 'Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School'. In Anarchism and Other Essays. With a Biographic Sketch by Hippolyte Havel. Port Washington, N.Y: Kennikat Press. Also available in an online edition.

Goldman, Emma. 1972. 'The Social Importance of the Modern School'. In Red Emma Speaks, edited by Alex Kates Shulman/ Random House: New York.

Library of Congress. 1995. Avrich Anarchism Collection.

Secondary sources

Avrich, Paul. 1980. The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Cremin, Lawrence. 1961. The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876-1957. New York: Alfred S. Knopf.

De Leon, David. 1978. The American as Anarchist: Reflections on Indigenous Radicalism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

Fishbein, Leslie. 1982. The Radicals of the Masses, 1911-1917. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Levine, Lawrence. 1988. Highbrow, Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Link, Arthur S. 1962. American Epoch: A History of the United States sice the 1890s. New York: Alfred S. Knopf.

Mayhew, Katherine and Anna Camp Edwards. 1966. The Dewey School. New York: Atherton Press.

Schuster, Eunice Minette. 1970. Native American Anarchism: A Study of Left Wing American Individualism. Smith College Studies in History, Vol. XVII, Nos. 1-4, 1932; New York: Da Capo Press.

Spring, Joel H. 1975. A Primer of Libertarian Education. New York: Free Life.

Westbrook, Robert B. 1991. John Dewey and American Democracy. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press.


1.   (Note 1 was replaced by the author info at the top of this page)

2.   Emma Goldman, 'Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School', in Anarchism and Other Essays (Port Washington, N.Y: Kennikat Press, 1910), 154. (Back)

3.   Ibid.,155. Emma Goldman visited Cempuis herself as early as 1900, showing her interest in libertarian education in America nine years prior to Ferrer's execution. (Back)

4.   Ibid., 156. (Back)

5.   Ibid., 158. (Back)

6.   Ibid., 161. (Back)

7.   Ibid., 169. (Back)

8.   Ibid. (Back)

9.   Ibid., 164. (Back)

10.   Ibid., 165. (Back)

11.   Francisco Ferrer y Guardia, The Origin and Ideals of the Modern School (London: Watts, 1913), 44. (Back)

12.   Ibid., 166. (Back)

13.   Ibid. (Back)

14.   Ibid., 51. (Back)

15.   Ibid. 156: cf., Howard Mumford Jones, ed. Emerson on Education (New York Teachers College Press, 1966), 216-17 and 225-26. (Back)

16.   Arthur S. Link, American Epoch: A History of the United States since the 1890s (New York: Alfred S. Knopf, 1962), 32. (Back)

17.   John Dewey, 'The Influence of Darwinism of Philosophy' (1909), in The Middle Works of John Dewey, 1899-1924 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1976-1983), 4:12-13. (Back)

18.   John Dewey, School and Society (1899), Middle Works,z 1:16. (Back)

19.   Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams. Massachussetts Historical Society, o. s., 1918 (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1978), 406-7 and 451. (Back)

20.   Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow, Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 207. (Back)

21.   Leslie Fishbein, The Radicals of the Masses, 1911-1917 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1982), 39. (Back)

22.   Malcolm Cowely, Exiles Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s (New York: Penguin, 1979), 5. (Back)

23.   Cowley, 17. (Back)

24.   Hippolyte Havel wrote in the introduction to Emma Goldman's Anarchism and Other Essays(1910), 9, that "very little is known of the important part the sons and daughters of Israel have played in the revolutionary movement." Moreover, the Library of Congress' Avrich Anarchism Collection is replete with Paul Avrich's interviews with rank and file Jewish anarchists, often from Russia, in early twentieth century New York who continued the labor struggle in America. (Back)

25.   Paul Avrich, The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1980), 131. (Back)

26.   Ibid. (Back)

27.   Ibid., 131. (Back)

28.   Ibid., 38-39. (Back)

29.   Emma Goldman, 'The Social Importance of the Modern School', in Red Emma Speaks: Selected Writings and Speeches by Emma Goldman, compiled and edited by Alex Kates Shulman (New York: Random House, 1972), 120. Ferrer's statements, repeated by Goldman, are again virtually reiterated word-for-word by Bayard Boyesen, the first director of the Ferrer Modern School, in his 'Prospectus of the Francisco Ferrer Association of New York': (1911), Avrich, 75. Unfortunately, none of the publications of the directors of the Modern School in New York City from 1909-1915, including Boyesen's 'The Modern School in New York' (1911), and Will Durant's 'Ferrer Modern School' (1912) can be found in the Avrich Anarchism Collection, nor in any department of the Library of Congress or any other Washington, D. C. area repository, but they are probably housed in the Modern School Collection at Turgers University. (Back)

30.   Ferrer, 51. (Back)

31.   Goldman, 'The Social Importance of the Modern School,' in Red Emma Speaks, 121. (Back)

32.   Ibid., 122 (Back)

33.   Ibid. (Back)

34.   Ibid., 123. (Back)

35.   Ibid., 69. (Back)

36.   Ibid., 93. (Back)

37.   Durant, Transition: A Sentimental Story of One Mind and One Era (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1927), 188. (Back)

38.   Avrich, 75. (Back)

39.   Ibid., 85. (Back)

40.   Ibid., 88. (Back)

41.   Ibid., 82, Durant, Transition, 188. (Back)

42.   Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977), 26. (Back)

43.   Avrich, 102. (Back)

44.   Ibid., 108 (Back)

45.   Ibid, 206. (Back)

46.   Ibid 222. (Back)

47.   Ibid., 220. (Back)

48.   Cowley, 36.(Back)

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