Re: DSM: Interest increasing?

Scott Gray (
Fri, 5 Jan 2001 21:47:30 -0500 (EST)

     When I was 14, I read Summerhill, and I was stunned (and frankly
disappointed) by how undemocratic Summerhill seemed to be in Neill's _own_
words. He disbanded the School Meeting, only _allowed_ them to consider
issues that _he_ allowed them to consider, and he ihimself disobeyed the
law of the School Meeting in order to indulge his own form of pedagogy
(the story about taking the kid around the school and breaking windows
with him).

     In my opinion, Summerhill School Meeting is exactly as democratic at
the English Parliament under King Henry VIII. Many members (the
Summerhill staff and the House of Lords) are not voted on by any body.
The body only gets to vote on things presented to it by the sovreign
(Neill or Henry Tudor). Some things are deemed by the _sovreign_ beyond
the "reach" of the democratic body (hiring/firing staff, setting tuition,
budgetting, etc.).
     Neill went very far, and he has my respect. Like Henry VIII, he gave
_more_ power to the democratic body than any of his/her predecessors
(earlier Kings and/or headmasters). In fact, each was the first sovreign
to give any _real_ legal identity _to_ the democratic body. But in the
modern era, we have an understanding that democracy can (and should) have
no limitations placed on it by any hereditary sovreign.

     Beyond that, Summerhill believes in "guiding" students while Sudbury
model schools do _not_. There is a great deal of (to use the less
pleasant term) coercion in Summerhill. Their literature takes pride in
how children are guided into certain activities, and how many classes the
children end up taking. It is an interesting place, with a concrete
philosophy, but it is not (in my opinion) the Sudbury philosophy, nor is
it a place that I would like to work or want any children of mine to

On Fri, 5 Jan 2001 wrote:

> In a message dated 1/5/01 3:02:37 PM Pacific Standard Time,
> writes:
> <<
> However I would ask, is Summerhill then not a democratic school insofar as
> the students don't have full authority to run the school?
> >>
> Summerhill students run that school. When a child can say in a letter home
> to his parents, "I've met this really nice chap here." (meaning A.S. Neil),
> means that Neil didn't exercise his potential authority.

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.

-- Gloria Steinem

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