Schooling for Troubled Kids, from the Libertarian Tradition

The Freeman has an
interesting account of a specialized school for troubled
 called “Freedom Mountain Academy,” written by Ross

While the story doesn’t stress this, the school’s operator Kevin
Culliane started as a chosen successor to early libertarian guru
Robert LeFevre who ran the mid-60s all-libertarian Freedom School,
later known as Rampart College. (LeFevre’s story is told in my book

Radicals for Capitalism

You might or might not agree with the specific tenets and
techniques of the school. They involve:

students start with few privileges but gain more and more as
they demonstrate commitment and personal responsibility. That
little twist from entitlement and punishment to earning and
reinforcement rekindles motivation in FMA’s students. The
curriculum reinforces this approach by rewarding students’
efforts….When students first arrive, they forfeit their
electronic devices….


The first book they read is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s
Search for Meaning
, which chronicles Frankl’s struggle to find
purpose in his life as an Auschwitz prisoner. Students discuss the
book’s theme of suffering and how it relates to their own feelings.
At this point they go on their first expedition into the
wilderness, where they live off the land for 10 days, learning to
work with and rely on one another.

“When you’re out in the wilderness you really can see how we’re
all connected to each other,” said former FMA student Travis
Ackerman. “They teach you how to grow up and take care of yourself.
They don’t just teach you to memorize facts but they push you to
think of new ways to solve problems,” he said…..

The level of regimentation they put the kids through isn’t
something I’d be comfortable with, but then again I don’t have
“troubled kids” (or any). The students also work on the farm
connected to the school, which provides most of their own food. The
article gives at least some anecdotal evidence that the structure
helps some kids who needed self-discipline.

The quality of the education itself is libertarian-flavored,
even if the relationship between the school and its students is

“We don’t teach political history,” Kevin Cullinane said.
“Instead we teach the history of human progress….” 

“The classes don’t just teach you what a public school would
teach you. He teaches the truth about things the government might
conceal,” [one student] said, noting that class discussions about
the Waco siege and the confrontation in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, opened
up her mind. But rather than just take his word for it, Mr. Kevin
instructs students to do their own research, she said.

Benes draws the lesson that, whether or not the FMA methods are
good for everyone, its existence is:

an example of how independent philosophies can be more effective
in helping troubled young people than any uniform system or
standardized regime. If Cullinane had to follow rules from a higher
district or board, he would not have been able to create his unique
program. And his students would likely not have found a program
that worked for them.

from Hit & Run

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