Summerhill Education

SUMMERHILL EDUCATION Education is one of many elements, which create personalities of young people. We used to the fact that each school aims to teach, require and civilize. Most people think, that young do not know what is good for them, moreover, without appropriate mobilization, they cannot gain a success in future. 1. Alexander Sutherland Neill (17 October 1883 – 23 September 1973) was a Scottish progressive educator, author and founder of Summerhill school, which remains open and continues to follow his educational philosophy to this day. He is best known as an advocate of personal freedom for children.

Neill believed that the happiness of the child should be the paramount consideration in decisions about the child’s upbringing, and that this happiness grew from a sense of personal freedom. He felt that deprivation of this sense of freedom during childhood, and the consequent unhappiness experienced by the repressed child, was responsible for many of the psychological disorders of adulthood. Neill’s ideas, which tried to help children achieve self-determination and encouraged critical thinking rather than blind obedience, were seen as backward, radical, or at best, controversial.

Many of Neill’s ideas are widely accepted today, although there are still many more “traditional” thinkers within the educational establishment who regard Neill’s ideas as threatening the existing social order, and are therefore controversial. In 1921 Neill founded Summerhill School to demonstrate his educational theories in practice. These included a belief that children learn better when they are not compelled to attend lessons. The school is also managed democratically, with regular meetings to determine school rules.

Pupils have equal voting rights with school staff. Neill’s Summerhill School experience demonstrated that, free from the coercion of traditional schools, students tended to respond by developing self-motivation, rather than self-indulgence. Externally imposed discipline, Neill felt, prevented internal, self-discipline from developing. He therefore considered that children who attended Summerhill were likely to emerge with better-developed critical thinking skills and greater self-discipline than children educated in compulsion-based schools.

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These tendencies were perhaps all the more remarkable considering that the children accepted by Summerhill were often from problematic backgrounds, where parental conflict or neglect had resulted in children arriving in a particularly unhappy state of mind. The therapeutic value of Summerhill’s environment was demonstrated by the improvement of many children who had been rejected by conventional schools, yet flourished at Summerhill. Strongly influenced by the contemporary work of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich, Neill was opposed to sexual repression and the imposition of the strict Victorian values of his childhood era.

He stated clearly that to be anti-sex was to be anti-life. Naturally, these views made him unpopular with many establishment figures of the time. 2. CHARACTERISTIC Summerhill is a democratic, self-governing school providing boarding, day education and care for 78 pupils aged 5 – 17 years old. It is situated in the small market town of Leiston, within walking distance of the town centre. The school adopts an alternative philosophy to education based on the work of its founder, A S Neill. It is based on the notion that children should be free to decide for themselves how to spend their time in school.

The proprietor, who is the daughter of A S Neill, continues to uphold these principles. The daily life of the school is governed by the school meetings, held three times a week, in which everybody has an equal vote. School meetings are used to create, confirm and amend all the school laws which form the structure of expectations for the community of staff and pupils, in which the adults and children have complete parity of status. The school’s philosophy is to allow freedom for the individual, each child being able to take their own path in life and find, through experience, the things that they want to do and the person they want to be.

The school proposes that this leads to an inner selfconfidence and real acceptance of themselves as people. All of this is done within the structures of the school, through the meetings, self-government and the clear distinctions between freedom and licence, all elements which are at the very core of the school’s philosophy and the day-to-day experiences of the pupils and staff. The school is part of a regional, national and international democratic network and reflects the extent of A S Neill’s continuing influence on the world.

This is mirrored in the pupil intake. Approximately two thirds of pupils (mainly Dutch, German, Korean Japanese, and Taiwanese) speak English as an additional language. The principal and, from time to time other staff and children, go out from the school to speak to and work with other children and adults and to promote democratic education. A. S. Neill’s system is a radical approach to child rearing. In Summerhill School authority does not mask a system of manipulation. 3. THE PRINCIPLES ? Neill maintains a firm faith “in the goodness of the child. He believes that the average child is not born a cripple, a coward, or a soulless automaton, but has full potentialities to love life and to be interested in life. ? The aim of education-in fact the aim of life-is to work joyfully and to find happiness. Happiness, according to Neill, means being interested in life; or as I would put it, responding to life not just with one’s brain but with one’s whole personality. ? In education, intellectual development is not enough. Education must be both intellectual and emotional.

In modern society we find an increasing separation between intellect and feeling. The experiences of man today are mainly experiences of thought rather than an immediate grasp of what his hurt feels, his eyes see, and his ears hear. In fact, this separation between intellect and feeling has led modern man to a near schizoid state of mind in which he has become almost incapable of experiencing anything except in thought. ? Education must be geared to the psychic needs and capacities of the child. The child is not an altruist. He does not yet love in the sense of the mature love of an adult.

It is an error to expect something from a child, which he can show only in a hypocritical way. Altruism develops after childhood. ? Discipline, dogmatically imposed, and punishment create fear; and fear creates hostility. This hostility may not be conscious and overt, but it nevertheless paralyzes endeavor and authenticity of feeling. The extensive disciplining of children is harmful and thwarts sound psychic development ? Freedom does not mean license. This very important principle, emphasized by Neill, is that respect for the individual must be mutual.

A teacher does not use force against a child, nor has a child the right to use force against a teacher. A child may not intrude upon an adult just because he is a child, nor may a child use pressure in the many ways in which a child can. ? Closely related to this principle is the need for true sincerity on the part of the teacher. The author says that never in the 40 years of his work in Summerhill has he lied to a child. Anyone who reads this book will be convinced that this statement, which might sound like boasting, is the simple truth. Healthy human development makes it necessary that a child eventually cut the primary ties which connect him with his father and mother, or with later substitutes in society, and that he become truly independent. He must learn to face the world as an individual. He must learn to find his security not in any symbiotic attachment, but in his capacity to grasp the world intellectually, emotionally, and artistically. He must use all his powers to find union with the world, rather than to find security through submission or domination. ? Summerhill School does not offer religious education.

This, however, does not mean that Summerhill is not concerned with what might be loosely called the basic humanistic values. Neill puts it succinctly: “The battle is not between believers in theology and non-believers in theology; it is between believers in human freedom and believers in the suppression of human freedom. ” The author continues, “Some day a new generation will not accept the obsolete religion and myths of today. When the new religion comes, it will refute the idea of man’s being born in sin. A new religion will praise God by making men happy. ”

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