Neill Read preview Excerpt In psychology, no man knows very much. The inner forces of human life are still largely hidden from us. Fifty years hence, psychologists will very likely smile at our ignorance of today. Since I left education and took up child psychology, I have had all sorts of children to deal with--incendiaries, thieves, liars, bed-wetters, and bad-tempered children. Years of intensive work in child training has convinced me that I know comparatively little of the forces that motivate life.

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Neill Summerhill: a radical approach to education London: Victor Gollancz originally published Summerhill: a radical approach to child rearing New York: Hart Born between August Aichhorn and Anton Makarenko and beginning his experiment in education at around the same time, A.

Neill was the only one of the three to survive into the second half of the 20th century and to be associated with the same establishment for over 50 years. A teacher, he grew frustrated with conventional approaches to teaching and, falling under the influence of Homer Lane, he began his experimental work in Germany and Austria in the early s before moving first to Summerhill House, Lyme Regis and then to Leiston, Suffolk where he retained the name Summerhill for the school.

Key Ideas — Fit the school to the child, not the other way round. Contents Summerhill is a collection of extracts from That dreadful school Neill, and other papers produced by Neill as he was always known. He argues that education should produce people who are both individual and community persons and wonders why mankind does so much evil and why people thwart love. In A word of introduction he argues that all crime can be reduced to unhappiness and that at Summerhill children are reared to happiness.

In Chapter 1 Summerhill School he describes how the school, founded in in Austria, eventually moved to Leiston, Suffolk where it retained the name Summerhill from the hotel in Lyme Regis where it had briefly been based. It has around 25 boys 20 girls of all ages up to 16 divided into three groups, the youngest, the intermediates and the oldest. Each group has a housemother and the children are mostly in rooms of three to four. The idea is to make the school fit the child, so there is a timetable for the teachers but children decide whether they attend.

Children, other than the kindergartens, avoid lessons for on average three months, the longest being three years. When he suggested a punishment of being banned from lessons, the children argued he was being too harsh. Children who want to can be taught to university standard. The normal routine is breakfast at 8. The afternoon is free; tea is at 4. He outlines how conflicts are handled, noting that there is little aggression, because only young people full of hate need to fight.

They take the normal precautions to keep pupils safe. There are no favourites and the staff room is happy. Bullying occurs when children take out on others what they cannot take out on staff. The children accept Summerhill justice, which normally involves reparation for thefts and fines for anti-social behaviour. Though younger children will participate in the General School Meetings, they are not old enough to run it.

Occasionally there have been children that Summerhill could not help or had to get rid of because of their effect on other children and the only problem they had with co-education was when two similar-aged teenagers arrived together; he spoke to them about the situation and there were no problems. At one time everyone over 12 had to do two hours a week work on the grounds or pay a fine; the younger children identified work with being grown up whereas the older ones needed a reason for themselves.

They have dancing and music, sports and games and give prizes for sports though there are none for lessons. In Chapter 2 Child rearing, he argues that the unfree child is hypocritical, ignorant and repressed and that there are no problem children, only problem parents or problem humanity. He argues for self-regulation, by which he means the freedom to live freely which does not mean doing anything.

The key is sincerity, the aim is happiness and the enemy of freedom is fear. Criminals have lost the desire for approval from society and seek it instead from their peers. He offers some advice for fathers and then discusses the impact of fear, in particular fear of punishment, inferiority and fantasy. Destructiveness is often unconscious, as illustrated through his experiences with the tools in his workshop which is now locked, as are the lab, pottery, theatre, etc.

He discusses lying and the impact of adults lying, which he once did to protect a girl, and warns about the dangers of family secrets. He discusses responsibility, obedience and discipline arguing that a loving environment will take care of most of the troubles of childhood. He discusses rewards and punishments and the importance of consequences rather than punishments. He criticises the fashion for timetabled breast-feeding and argues that children will choose all the right things to eat if the are given freedom of choice.

He discusses health and sleep, cleanliness and clothing, toys, noise, manners, money and humour. However, he argues that prohibiting masturbation causes problems for children and that, if children are allowed to discuss sexual matters openly, pornography, homosexuality and promiscuity do not arise; he condemns hypocritical attitudes to illegitimacy and abortion.

He argues that attitudes to swearing are based on prejudice against old English words and in favour of Latin and condemns censorship. He then looks at issues such as spoiling the child, power and authority and jealousy before exploring the impact divorce and parental anxiety can have on parent-child relationships. The key to all these problems, he says, is parental awareness.

In Chapter 7 Questions and answers, he reprints a range of answers that he has given at various times under the headings: in general, about Summerhill, about child-rearing, about sex, about religion, about psychology and about learning which largely repeat points he has made, sometimes less directly, earlier in the book.

His ideology is fairly simple — treat children with respect and let them make their own decisions and they will respond positively — and he demonstrates over more than 50 years that such an ideology can be a satisfactory basis for caring for many children.

Accordingly, there is little discussion of theory or method, and Neill ostensibly rejects most of the philosophies and theories which animate other writers; yet he is more in tune with their ideas than he appears to accept.

He also appears to relish the fact that he never obtained official approval, which he maintains has avoided interference with this methods.

Yet Mr Lyward Burn, was able to take state-funded pupils without having to compromise on his principles or methods of work. Finally, he does not appear to have been able to encourage the sort of development in girls which Homer Lane was able to Bazeley, and which Mary Carpenter believed was possible.

Social work 14 1 , Reprinted in Martin Wolins Ed.


Summerhill 2: The Day School

So I decided to read Summerhill and found very little to recommend it. The beginning section, in which Neill describes his unique boarding school Summerhill was interesting and informative. But the rest of the book, in which Neill explains his philosophy toward children, felt very dated and way off-base to me. Neill turns out to be a Freudian this book was written around , and he believes that most problems children have stem either from not knowing where babies come from having that knowledge withheld from them by well-meaning adults or from not being allowed to touch themselves and feeling shame about sexual impulses. Apparently, all it takes is a little talk with Neill for the children to have any difficulty, academic or emotional, cleared up.


Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing

Foreword to A. For permission ask The Literary Executor Dr. The basic principle of such self-determination was the replacement of authority by freedom, to teach the child without the use of force by appealing to his curiosity and spontaneous needs, and thus to get him interested in the world around him. This attitude marked the beginning of progressive education and was an important step in human development. But the results of this new method were often disappointing.

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