[Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: [savesummerhill] Democracy according to the children

From: Nelson <nofcorrea_at_fazenda.sp.gov.br>
Date: Mon Sep 8 16:10:01 2003


But very, very, very slowly world are understanding... perhaps never!
My daugther, 12, is studying here at a privacy school, I have no option!!!
The teachers never pay really attention on what is happening with the
children... and they thing his or hers reaction is education... They don't
hear the parents, no one!
Ah, it's a long story...

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Rovner" <rovners_at_netvision.net.il>
To: "ausschools" <ausschools_at_yahoogroups.com>;
<savesummerhill_at_yahoogroups.com>; <discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org>;
<democratic-schools-israel_at_yahoogroups.com>; "Civil Society in Israel"
<civilsociety_at_barak-online.net>; "Kulanu Nahlit Organization"
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2003 7:50 AM
Subject: [savesummerhill] Democracy according to the children

      "How many children get to take on a government and win as part of
their education?"


       Caroline St John-Brooks 02/05/2003

      Democracy according to the children


      Free Range Childhood: self-regulation at Summerhill School
      By Matthew Appleton, Gale Centre Publications 14.95

      Summerhill, an independent school in deepest Suffolk, has been
described as the "oldest children's democracy in the world". Since it was
founded in 1921, it has been a source of horrified fascination to the
British media. But serious educators across the world see Summerhill as an
important test-bed for libertarian education theory.

      Founded as a "free school" by the charismatic Scottish teacher A S
Neill, and now run by his daughter, Summerhill aims to give its pupils the
freedom to explore themselves and the world. Neill believed children were
never "bad," but that wild and selfish behaviour was caused by unhappiness -
 often through brutal constraints forced by the distorted values of the
adult world.

      At a time when opposition to compulsory testing in English schools is
growing, Matthew Appleton's book offers an eloquent and persuasive
introduction to Neill's ideas, as they were lived out at Summerhill during
the nine years he was a houseparent there. He notes that new arrivals often
adopted a self-conscious "mask of insincerity" to seek adult approval. When
they realise such pretence is unnecessary, they move through a destructive
anti-social stage that tests everyone's patience - particularly that of
other students, who set and enforce the rules through the pupil council.

      But most children, says Appleton, emerge as "self-regulating" -
autonomous young people whose actions are driven not by anxiety or
resentment but by genuine self-motivation.

      Children are normally eager to learn, Appleton argues, but when we
force them into a mould, they become uncertain and defensive. "We then call
it laziness, but we have destroyed their excitement in life and learning."
At Summerhill, some children do spend years riding bikes and building dens
in the woods instead of attending lessons - but, according to Appleton, most
come back to the classroom when they feel the need, and catch up quickly.

      In 1998, 67 per cent achieved at least five good GCSEs, and most take
more exams at FE colleges - often finding their fellow students childish and

      ***** Yet in 1999, as the result of a series of negative Ofsted
reports, David Blunkett ordered Summerhill to make lessons compulsory -
knowing this would force its closure. Supported by an unexpectedly large
groundswell of public opinion, the school took the Secretary of State to the
High Court in March 2000 - and won. The unique power structure of the school
meant the final agreement between Mr Blunkett and the school, guaranteeing
its right to continue according to Neill's philosophy, had to be debated -
in court - by the pupil council.

      After the council had agreed to accept the Government's "statement of
intent", the chair of the children's meeting declared: "This is our charter
for freedomI official recognition that A S Neill's philosophy of education
provides an acceptable alternative to compulsory lessons and the tyranny of
compulsory exams." As Appleton remarks: "How many children get to take on a
government and win as part of their education?" ******

      Neill's philosophy is not widely known or understood in Britain, and
school inspectors apparently say they are not interested in it. Yet his book
on Summerhill is recommended to trainee teachers in many other countries.
Now every British teacher - and government policy-maker - has an opportunity
to read Appleton's book and enter into a mental dialogue with the ideas it
puts forward. What are we so scared of?

      Caroline St John-Brooks is a former TES editor

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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Received on Mon Sep 08 2003 - 16:06:56 EDT

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