Starting in 1912, the school's principal was the philosopher Will Durant, who also taught there. Besides Berkman and Goldman, the Ferrer Center faculty included the Ashcan School painters Robert Henri and George Bellows, and its guest lecturers included writers and political activists such as Margaret Sanger, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair. Student Magda Schoenwetter, recalled that the school used Montessori methods and equipment, and emphasised academic freedom rather than fixed subjects, such as spelling and arithmetic.
In July 1914, radical anarchists who frequented the Ferrer Center, and loosely associated with its adult education program, plotted to bomb the mansion of tycoon industrialist John D. Rockefeller. On failing to enter the Rockefeller estate, they took the bomb back to the Lexington Avenue apartment of Louise Berger (a school habitué and a Latvian anarchist who edited Emma Goldman's Mother Earth), where it exploded, killing four people, including three of the bombers, and wounding many others, and brought political notoriety upon the Ferrer Center.
In 1933, James and Nellie Dick, who earlier had been principals of the Stelton Modern School, founded the Modern School in Lakewood, New Jersey, which survived the original Modern School, the Ferrer Center, becoming the final surviving such school, lasting until 1958.
The Modern School magazine
The Modern School magazine originally began as a newsletter for parents, when the school was in New York City, printed with the manual printing press used in teaching printing as a profession. After moving to the Stelton Colony, New Jersey, the magazine's content expanded to poetry, prose, art, and libertarian education articles; the cover emblem and interior graphics were designed by Rockwell Kent. Artists and writers, among them Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens, praised The Modern School as "the most beautifully printed magazine in existence."
^Avrich, Paul, The Modern School Movement, AK Press (2005), p.212: At the Ferrer Center, Berkman was called "The Pope", Goldman was called "The Red Queen".
^Avrich, Paul, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America, "Interview with Magda Schoenwetter", AK Press (2005), ISBN1-904859-27-5, ISBN978-1-904859-27-7, p.230: "What everybody is yowling about now -- freedom in education -- we had then, though I still can't spell or do multiplication."
^ abcAvrich, Paul, The Modern School Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press (1980); Avrich, Paul, Anarchist Portraits, Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN0-691-00609-1 (1988)
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