At the core of “Free School” is democracy, a topic that we uniquely explore through the everyday lens of K-12 students at a “democratic school” in Brooklyn, and in juxtaposition with politically charged events of larger society in 2017.
Two societal forces in particular come together and create an unprecedented backdrop for “Free School”. First and foremost, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States against unlikely odds, sparking a chain reaction of conflict, sensationalism, and even second thoughts about democracy itself. At the same time, the Internet Age has continued to fuel a growing movement behind self-directed education, alternative forms of learning, insofar as suggesting a complete redesign of K-12 education.
In this moment of history, we step into the modest five-story brownstone microcosm that is Brooklyn Free School and ask ourselves with heightened meaning: Given the freedom, how will youths govern their own education and one another? What can we learn from them?
In response, “Free School” is a transformative experience for those who feel disconnected from democracy or fatigued from political news, seeking a return to a familiar starting point of sorts, such as early education. By immersing viewers into the diverse perspective of K-12 youths who practice democracy on a daily basis, “Free School” serves as a more accessible, personal, and rejuvenating means to understanding democratic issues in the film that affect us all – freedom, individuality, collectivism, racism, sexism, violence, social justice, media, and technology.
The key questions that "Free School" will explore include the following:
- What is the everyday life and culture like at a “democratic school”?
- What are the basic rules or structures that make a “democratic school” unique?
- How do students go about governing their education and one another?
- How do students approach those who don’t follow or violate the rules?
- What is the role of teachers and their relationship with students?
- What types of students thrive? What types of students are challenged?
- What does it mean for a community when its older members don’t participate?
- What roles do media and technology uniquely play in this “free” environment?
- What does it mean to be free as an individual and as a collective?