Doctoral Thesis Defense: The Alternative School: A model in search Social and Environmental Justice

Last Thursday, July 5 2018, Sergio Carneros,  a GICE researcher, successfully defended his doctoral thesis entitled “The Alternative School: A model in search of Social and Environmental Justice”, supervised by F. Javier Murillo.



The planet Earth is in a critical state from the social and environmental point of view. It seems necessary and urgent to position Justice as a transversal and priority axis in all areas, including school. This is even more necessary if we see how, from the creation of educational systems, strong criticisms arise towards the prevailing school model for reproducing and legitimising inequalities and maintaining an established order. These criticisms have led, among other things, to the creation of alternative schools. The alternative school allows us to know and recognize the application of principles, methodologies, perspectives and theories which break with conventional and traditional insights. This becomes a great opportunity to carry out an analysis that makes it possible to deepen in those practices and processes that contribute to the creation of schools for Social and Environmental Justice.

This research aims to achieve two objectives: on the one hand, it seeks to describe educational practices in alternative schools which contribute to the elimination of injustices; and, on the other, to understand the educational processes that allow schools to become alternative for Social and Environmental Justice.

To achieve them, this doctoral thesis has resorted to ethnographic research as a methodological approach, selecting three alternative schools as study cases: Madrid Active School (MAS), El Dragón and Alavida. To obtain data, stages have been completed in each school and three own ethnographic research strategies have been used: participant observation, in-depth interviews and analysis of key documents. However, these have been completed with others such as semi-structured interviews and biographical-narrative interviews.

The results show the keys for conventional schools to come out of the crisis in which they find themselves. Firstly, the characteristics of these alternative schools (self-organization, absence of subjects, non-compulsory attendance, intergenerational learning, free validation of knowledge, co-government…) demonstrate how to completely eliminate the most popular shortcomings of the educational system. Secondly, the practices used in these schools eliminate traditional injustices (violence, lack of power, exclusion, cultural imperialism, exploitation and unsustainability). Thirdly, the processes of redistribution and especially of recognition and participation found show how to create fair schools. Finally, this research manifests how to train students to be agents of change from the work of self-esteem, self-concept and respect for the environment and for the rest of people and species.

Therefore, this doctoral thesis launches these alternatives to promote awareness and deep change actions. In addition, it focuses on fair practices and processes — which eliminate injustices — which can also be transferred to conventional schools and thus contribute to the transformation of society.