Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] interest in England? (/Scotland?)

From: Scott David Gray <sgray_at_sudval.org>
Date: Thu Sep 30 11:13:00 2004

When I was 14, and a student at SVS, I read Summerhill.
Funny, I felt almost betrayed by A.S. Neil -- that he was
not operating a school that was only somewhat free, and was
not at all democratic by any reasnable modern use of the
word.

I've written elsewhere (you can find the original messages,
and the context in which they were written, at by searching
at http://www.sudval.org/search.html):

     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 himself 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 sovereign (Neill or Henry
Tudor). Some things are deemed by the _sovereign_ beyond the
"reach" of the democratic body (hiring/firing staff, setting
tuition, budgeting, 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 sovereign 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
sovereign.

     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 attend.

     There is no question that Summerhill was a book which
greatly influenced and inspired the founding staff at
Sudbury Valley. But the differences are huge.

There are several differences, that I can see. The most
significant, is that Summerhill is organized around Freudian
psychology, and the premise that children need parental
figures taking charge of them.

This has led to several things in Summerhill that one would
not see at Sudbury Valley, and vice versa.

1) There is no pretense of equality before the law between
staff and students at Summerhill. A. S. Neill hired and
fired staff himself, with no vote, and certainly saw himself
as above the law (eg running around and breaking windows
with a student). Neill tried to take the role of counselor,
and certainly wrote about himself and his wife as parents
and counselors to the kids.

2) Summerhill is a boarding school, in part from a tradition
that children need to be _protected_ from their parents.
Sudbury Valley doesn't see itself that way. While Summerhill
is concerned to protect kids from things that can cause
psychological stress, Sudbury Valley assumes that kids are
naturally strong enough to be able to deal with what they
are likely to encounter in their daily lives, and makes no
before to "protect" them.

3) Rule of law is considered less important at Summerhill
than it is at Sudbury Valley, in part because the law in the
UK prevents the school from being self-governed without a
headmaster, and in part because of the Freudian background
of Neill. Summerhill was _owned_ by Neill (is it now owned
by Zoe?), whereas Sudbury Valley is owned by the Assembly --
each student parent and staff member being an equal partner
legally.

     My general feeling, when I read the book "Summerhill"
20 years ago, was that if a candidate ran for staff at SVS
with a philosophy at all like Neill's, the candidate would
be loudly laughed at and rejected by the students. I still
hold to that opinion.

On Thu, 30 Sep 2004, Jennifer Blair wrote:

> I did not say, nor intend to imply, that Summerhill is a Sudbury school. There are similarities and it is the democratic model founded in England, where the original poster is located, so I thought it might be of interest to her. If one is to start a democratic school, it just makes sense to find out about the local democratic model that already exists. IMHO
> Jennifer
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Vera Wagemans<mailto:vera-wagemans_at_tiscalinet.be>
> To: discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org<mailto:discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org>
> Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 5:12 AM
> Subject: RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] interest in England? (/Scotland?)
>
>
> Hi Jennifer,
>
> I would not say that Summerhill is a Sudbury School! Maybe they were the first but they are not the same in my opinion.
>
> greetz,
> Vera (in Belgium)
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-sudbury-model-admin_at_sudval.org<mailto:discuss-sudbury-model-admin_at_sudval.org> [mailto:discuss-sudbury-model-admin_at_sudval.org]On Behalf Of Jennifer Blair
> Sent: woensdag 29 september 2004 22:02
> To: discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org
> Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] interest in England? (/Scotland?)
>
>
> Hi Corrina,
>
> You should check out Summerhill, I believe the school is in Leiston in Soffolk. The school that really started it all. http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/indexgo.html<http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/indexgo.html> if there was an earlier school, I would love to hear about it.
>
> Take care,
> Jennifer
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Regina Leeb<mailto:RichLeeb_at_web.de>
> To: discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org<mailto:discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org>
> Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2004 1:04 PM
> Subject: [Discuss-sudbury-model] interest in England? (/Scotland?)
>
>
> discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org<mailto:discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org> schrieb am 29.09.04 18:11:38:
>
> Hi to all
>
> Are any of you based in England and/or wanting to set up a Sudbury-based
> model here?
>
> I'm teaching in the English state system now and my heart is in the Sudbury
> model. I'm interested in either setting up a one-off school or just going
> the whole hog and Sudburyifying the English system. Where are all you
> English people who have this same yearning and the energy to start kicking
> some ass!?? Surely better late than never.... ;0)
>
> Love to all,
> Corrina
>
>
>
>
> Hey Corrina,
>
>
>
> I am not really an 'English person', but based in the UK for the moment anyway (Scotland, that is). I've spent a year at the Australian Sudbury! School, but am originally from Germany. At the moment I am studying conservation biology at the university of Aberdeen. I just wanted you to have my email adress in case you do get some people to meet sometime and want to invite me along ;-) No seriously, it might be interesting for any of us and I just love getting in touch with other Sudbury people!
>
> Good luck to you,
>
>
>
> Greetz,
>
>
>
> Regina =)
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Mit WEB.DE FreePhone mit hoechster Qualitaet ab 0 Ct./Min.
> weltweit telefonieren! http://freephone.web.de/?mc=021201<http://freephone.web.de/?mc=021201>
> _______________________________________________ Discuss-sudbury-model mailing list Discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org http://www.sudval.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/discuss-sudbury-model
>

-- 
 
--Scott David Gray
reply to: sgray_at_sudval.org
http://www.unseelie.org/
============================================================
 To know that you do not know is the best.
 To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.
-- Lao Tzu
============================================================
Received on Thu Sep 30 2004 - 09:49:57 EDT

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