Summerhill without Neill

Via Education News: A.S. Neill’s Summerhill, which extols the progressive school he founded in England, is being republished — without Neill’s politically incorrect words and ideas. The Guardian reports:

The dictum that a pupil who plays with his pencil has a repressed urge to masturbate was just one of the pronouncements made by the late A.S. Neill in Summerhill, the landmark book written by the founder of Britain’s most famous progressive school.

Controversial and provocative, Neill’s explanation of Summerhill’s pioneering philosophies is still widely regarded as a bible of liberal education, yet now the book is to be republished with most of its author’s words excised.

. . . In the original text, first published in 1962 but now out of print, Neill explained his reasons for creating the independent school that became as famous for allowing its pupils to skip lessons as for the habit of staff and students to sunbathe nude.

The new edition, however, will cut Neill’s arguments in half, replacing them with a short introduction by Zoe Readhead, principal of Summerhill since 1985 and Neill’s daughter.

Neill’s beliefs were founded firmly on Freud. In one of the sections that is to be cut, he wrote that ‘Summerhill has not turned out a single homosexual… because Summerhill children do not suffer from a guilt complex about masturbation’.

I remember reading Summerhill when I was in high school. It sounded too good to be true.

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Comments

  1. Has anyone ever done a decent study of the students who graduated Sumerhill?

    I’m just wondering how the students did and have done. If it was as wonderful an environment as the book intimated, what were the results of that wonderfulness. Someone must have been curious enough to try to find out.

  2. speedwell says:

    A study will only show what the individuals doing the study define as “successful.” From all I’ve seen, graduates of Summerhill emerge as people who are able to define for themselves what they consider success, and by and large get it. It might not exactly be your idea of success, but then again who asked you? πŸ™‚

  3. Mike in Texas wrote:

    A study will only show what the individuals doing the study define as “successful.”

    And absolute ignorance, which is the current state of understanding of the phenomenon known as “Summerhill”, is preferable in what way? Besides, I didn’t use the word “success”. I just wonder if there’s any information about the school that doesn’t come under the heading of self-promotion.

    From all I’ve seen, graduates of Summerhill emerge as people who are able to define for themselves what they consider success, and by and large get it.

    From all you’ve seen? What, exactly, have you seen? And if the measure of success of Summerhill graduates is whatever they consider success then what’s the problem with sharing that insight with the rest of the world?

    It might not exactly be your idea of success, but then again who asked you? πŸ™‚

    Looks like you don’t care for heretics sniffing around one of the icons of the Kumbaya set. What’s the matter, afraid that poking at the place might uncover something other then heaven on earth?

    All I’ve ever read about Summerhill implies that the latest step in human evolution took place there. Since the school was established 80 years ago it leads one to wonder what the down-side of heaven is since there’s hardly been any copycats, or at least copycats you read about.

    Digging around on the web doesn’t yield a lot.

    http://www.cyc-net.org/today2001/today010511.html

    That article yields the tidbit of information that there are two schools, Albany Free School and Rising Hill, which are built on the ideas of A.S. Neill.

    Eigthy years and two schools.

    Why should such a wonderful idea have such a singular inability to attract emulators?

  4. speedwell says:

    “Allen?”

    Well, anyway. You appear to be making the identical mistake I identified, which is setting up a straw-man sort of “success” and deciding whether or not your talking points conform to it. I suppose you expected a “franchise” model of schooling, where Summerhill exports its “product” to several “affliate locations?” Or perhaps some sort of take-the-world-by-storm revolutionary awakening? I didn’t think I needed to point out to someone clever like you that individual success is an individual thing, but I now see I was wrong.

    I’ve been interested in Summerhill and the offshoot results (which, by the way, include more than two schools, and myriad individual experiments) for about 10 years now, and you did what? “Dig[] around on the [W]eb?” OK, expert, whatever you say.

    Just remember that Summerhill and other free-child experiences survive and flourish in spite of the opinions and prejudices of so-called “experts” not in possession of a clue.

  5. Let’s just see what my straw-man argument consists of: if it’s good, other people will want to do emulate it.

    If we subtract all your specious quotes and arch sarcasm, what we have is an attempt to justify the distinct lack of emulators.

    Why would there be so few emulators, I wonder? Typically, success attracts emulators, students and investigators. People want to duplicate the success so they study at the feet of the master, go forth and multiply. Other people want to understand the success so they study it.

    Precious little of that applies to Summerhill.

    The question practically asks itself. Why?

    My guess is that, like all of progressive education, it’s a crock of shit.

    The difference between Summerhill and whole language, for example, is that Summerhill is so obviously bullshit that it’s a virtually unsellable proposition beyond the relatively miniscule population of parents who have the financial means to pay for customized, education bullshit and the self-involvment to subject their children to a school that disdains record-keeping as a bourgeois affection.

    I’ve been interested in Summerhill and the offshoot results (which, by the way, include more than two schools, and myriad individual experiments) for about 10 years now, and you did what? “Dig[] around on the [W]eb?” OK, expert, whatever you say.

    Feel free to post links to info about these experiments and schools, expert.

    Just remember that Summerhill and other free-child experiences survive and flourish in spite of the opinions and prejudices of so-called “experts” not in possession of a clue.

    I await evidence that the flourishing exists somewhere outside your imagination.

    Finally, in the first paragraph of your last post you exhibit a practised disdain for a “franchise” model of schooling and in paragraphs two and three you imply that Summerhill has plenty of emulators. So which one is it? Do you disdain those emulators or are they to be celebrated?