"What I think is happening is that as the system becomes ever more standardized, with more control at the top from government, corporations, another grassroots movement is coming," said Miller. "What you're seeing now with Brooklyn Free School and others is families and educators wanting to get out from under the thumb of this standardization agenda."
"So many kids going to these alternative schools have really thrived," Miller said. "Because they've been freed from the rat race. They follow their own path. They're happy. And that's what this is about: not having to be successful in conventional terms."
Isaac Graves, a former Albany Free School school student who now writes and researches free school programs extensively, said he took from his experience a startling, "legitimate passion to learn," and appreciated how few constraints there were on what he was allowed to study. He remembers being 13 and reading about acid rain, how it was killing all these fish in the Adirondacks, so he and a group of students decided to try and stop it. They became so passionate that they contacted Eliot Spitzer, who was attorney general and "fighting coal plants" at the time, and asked him to speak to students. They also brought in a government biologist.
"Nobody told us to learn about these things," Graves said. "We wanted to."