Married; wife's name Betsy; children: two daughters. Religion: Presbyterian.
Home—Albany, NY. Office—Albany Free School, 8 Elm St., Albany, NY 12202. E-mail—[email protected]
Albany Free School, Albany, NY, teacher, 1973—, codirector, 1985-2007; Encounter, columnist; Journal for Living, coeditor; contributor to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio's "Ideas"; serves as a deacon for the Presbyterian Church.
National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools, advisory board member.
Making It Up as We Go Along: The Story of the Albany Free School, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1998.
Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2003.
How to Grow a School: Starting and Sustaining Schools That Work, Oxford Village Press (New York, NY), 2006.
In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2007.
Contributor to various periodicals, including Encounter, Journal for Living, Friends Review, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Albany Times Union, Yes!, Paths of Learning, Communities, and Mothering; contributor to anthologies, including Deschooling Our Lives, New Society Press, 1996; and Creating Learning Communities, Foundation for Educational Renewal, 2000.
Chris Mercogliano is a writer and an educator. He first joined the staff of the Albany Free School in Albany, New York, in 1973, as a teacher. In 1985, he added codirector of the school to his list of duties. He is an advocate for noncontrolling educational practices and childrearing, and is a frequent speaker at schools and educational organizations on the subject. Mercogliano is an accomplished writer who has contributed to a number of anthologies, as well as to radio programs, including National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio's "Ideas." He also writes a regular column for the magazine Encounter. Mercogliano has written several books on schools and education for younger children, including Making It Up as We Go Along: The Story of the Albany Free School, Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed, How to Grow a School: Starting and Sustaining Schools That Work, and In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness.
In Teaching the Restless, Mercogliano speaks from the experience of three decades teaching in a school where fully half of the students come to him having been considered problem students during their previous educational experiences, and often have the drug prescriptions to calming agents such as Ritalin to prove it. At the Free School, drugs are not considered the answer to behavioral issues. Instead, the teachers adhere to the stance that each child is special and different, with their own educational needs, and it is important to consider each child that way when determining the best way to help them to learn. They give their students an extraordinary amount of freedom and control over their own learning process, including allowing them to make decisions regarding what they are going to study when, and where they are going to spend their time at school. The idea is to foster a sense of self-motivation, and to show the kids that learning can be their choice, and something they want to do. This is particularly important for children who have constantly been opposed. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that this system "may be hard for some parents to accept, but Mercogliano makes a strong case against medicating these children into submission." Writing for Booklist, David Pitt noted that drug proponents will not agree with Mercogliano's approach, but concluded: "For readers who question the ever-increasing prevalence of ADHD diagnoses, the book will come as a validation." Ari Sigal, reviewing for Library Journal, called Mercogliano's work "an encouraging success story that demonstrates an alternative to the ever-growing use of drugs for everyounger children."
In Defense of Childhood argues that every human being is born with an innate sense of spirit, of freedom, that is often frowned upon and has been slowly eroded by society's need to tame children and structure their lives in preparation for adulthood. By doing this, we stultify a child's creativity and imagination, tame their spirit, and bottle up part of that energy that needs to escape as part of the process of learning and growing. Mercogliano's book discusses this phenomenon, which he pairs with the stretching out of adolescence, a phase of growth that did not exist several hundred years ago, when children passed into adulthood without a separate, intermediate phase so carefully delineated. He proposes that these artificial constructs, combined with the increased usage of technology in lieu of more creative recreation, has served to turn children into domesticated miniadults instead of allowing them to be what they were meant to be—slightly wild. Maryse Breton, reviewing for Library Journal, found Mercogliano somewhat biased in his views toward standard education models, but concluded that "this book will ultimately provoke discussion among parents about what is taken for granted in children's lives today."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Adbusters, July 1, 2005, "Reading, Writing, Revolution."
Booklist, December 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed, p. 710; December 15, 2003, review of Teaching the Restless, p. 710.
Library Journal, January, 2004, Ari Sigal, review of Teaching the Restless, p. 129; May 15, 2007, Maryse Breton, review of In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness, p. 107.
Publishers Weekly, November 10, 2003, review of Teaching the Restless, p. 51.
Albany Free School Web site,http://www.albanyfreeschool.com/ (March 19, 2008), faculty profile.
Babble Web site,http://www.babble.com/ (March 19, 2008), Miriam Axel-Lute, "5-Minute Time Out: Chris Mercogliano."
Chris Mercogliano Home Page,http://www.chrismercogliano.com (March 19, 2008).
Newspages,http://newspages.com/ (March 19, 2008), Danielle LaVaque-Manty, review of Teaching the Restless.