Working for Love, etc.

Scott David Gray (
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 19:18:32 -0400 (EDT)

Albert sent this to me, instead of the list, by mistake.

--Scott David Gray
reply to:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 17:46:53 -0400
From: Albert Lamb <>
To: discuss-sudbury-model <>
Subject: Working for Love, etc.

I agree with Alan that the differences between Sudbury model schools and
Summerhill are not that great. I've visited lots of free or democratic
schools over the years and you don't have to spend long in a place to tell
a lot about the nature of relations between kids and adults or about how
much self-determination the kids have. If the kids are empowered in their
school environment it is pretty obvious.

Summerhill kids and staff do not have as much democratic power over their
lives as Sudbury communities. On the other hand the democratic systems that
are in place at Summerhill are very potent and real and have an immediacy
that means a lot to Summerhill kids. You can make and change laws very
quickly. This makes for some instability (for instance sometimes the kids
have thrown out a set of laws, like bedtimes laws, all at once) but because
of the community being residential it is self-correcting most of the time.
In a few weeks things are usually back to normal.

Sudbury schools sound a bit more rational. But then again the Summerhill
meeting format is very strong, almost all the kids attend every meeting,
and the sense of community power sits there in the room as this presence
right in front of everyone. I can't go along with people who say it is not
a real democracy just because the kids don't have committees for hiring or
firing staff. To the extent that it is real it is not just real, it is raw.

But it doesn't have all the power invested in the community. The
headmistress, Zoe, makes decisions to do with finances, hiring and firing
staff, admitting kids and throwing them out, domestic arrangements and
food, educational provision - lots of things. I guess it is a somewhat
different system, born in an earlier age. And perhaps Neill had slightly
different aims.