Re: Working for love

Tim Kyng (
Mon, 13 Apr 1998 12:56:16 +1000 (EST)

Dear Dale,

At Summerhill the staff were certainly NOT chosen by the students (and still
are not, so far as I know). I don't know what the practice is at the
majority of progressive schools. I know that at Sudbury the staff are
chosen democratically by all pupils and staff. But I don't think this is at
all the rule among progressive schools - unfortunately.

The point I make is simple. The staff at ANY school, progressive or
otherwise, should be fully professional, and to ensure this professional
rates must be paid.

Of course I am not saying I was ripped off in terms of time or money. What
I said was straightforward. If you don't pay professional rates and if you
don't have enough money to provide a full range of subjects, the kids will

I did introduce another theme: does encouragement equal compulsion? This
is particularly important when it comes to literacy. At Summerhill many
kids suffered from poor literacy when they left. The question is, do you
stick to your theories and not intervene when a child is obviously not
learning to read and write? Or do you use encouragement and persuasion?
Is it right to stand back and simply do nothing and let a child go out into
the world ill-equipped to lead a decent, satisfying life? I think not. I
don't think the movement for freedom and self-government in education has
ever really faced up to this problem. There is a tendancy to take refuge in
myth and assertion. For example, it is said that kids who do not learn to
read and write well at such schools soon catch up later and do extremely
well. No one ever seems to challenge this statement, and I have never seen
any follow-up surveys of how kids get on after they leave (I understand
Sudbury has done some, but I wouldn't be certain). As far as my knowledge
goes, this statement is highly dubious. In general, there is far too much
ideology about when it comes to progressive education and far too little
examining of the facts.

There tends to be an atmosphere of cult surrounding the whole movement, and
an intolerance of criticism.


>Peter wrote:
><snip> but a great deal of the problem was caused by sub-standard
>> staff.
>Peter, I have been led to believe that in progressive schools the staff
>is chosen by the students. So are you saying that at Summerhill the
>students voted to hire a math teacher but there was not enough money in
>the budget to hire a competent one?
>You are bringing up so many meaty subjects I am having a difficult time
>focusing on what you want us to learn from your experiences. What are
>you really trying to tell us Peter? Did you get ripped off in terms of
>money and time or what? Do you think many/most students at progressive
>schools would be better off somewhere else?
>If so where else?
>Or are you trying to tell us that the progressive school you will send
>your children to will have different ground rules than the present
>ones? What different ground rules? Twice the tuition? Encourage big
>buck donations from the alumni and the Packard Foundation?
>Don't let me put words in your mouth. But I obviously have much to
>learn about progessive schools.
>Peter, another couple things you did not learn enough about at
>Summerhill are morality and economics.
>But it could be worse.
>You could of attended an American grtf(government run tax funded) school
>and not be still seeking the truth at all. It sounds like you are not
>completely turned off of thinking about the important issues of life and
>that is something to be thankful for. Dale
>$ Seattle, Washington U.S.A. $