Martin Brickman (Teachers College Press, 2003) has written a wonderful history of the alternative vision of a lineage of American thinkers who challenged conventional education to be more than sitting down and taking tests. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, John Dewey, John Holt, and George Dennsion, are among those featured. From the book:
Edgar Friedenberg makes the crucial point that engagement with specifics and greater freedom to learn are actually more thought provoking and sustaining than are traditional methods: "Our insistence that concrete experience form the basis for education opened Romantic critics to the charge of being anti-intellectual, which was frequently and vituperatively made. Conventional schooling, I would argue, is far more weakly rooted in the intellect than alternative schooling, since it depends so heavily on conventional wisdom and officially certified facts.