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(A.S. Neill). Concepts behind Neill's experimental school.
Summerhill, by A. S. Neill, is a book on the education of the young that many readers will approach with scepticism only to find, when they have finished it, that the author has convinced them on a good many points. Neill, the headmaster of an experimental educational school in England, differs from most educators in his beliefs that the majority of children are inherently good and that education is not a means to power but a road to happiness. He runs his school like a democracy, consulting his pupils about the curriculum and about everything pertaining to their social behavior. He does not think that they should be made to study unless they want to, which most of them end up doing. As Neill says, school should provide an "environment in which the emotions can be lived out and expressed." Neill doesn't like to force his pupils to do
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Summerhill, A Radical Approach to Child Rearing. He encouragesself-regulation, the development of individual responsibility, whichnecessarily demands freedom for the individual, the elimination of fear,freedom in sex play, and the substitution of love and understanding for thebirch rod. . In short, we in this country are training youth to becomewalking robots with no human desire to experience as an individual orexpress oneself as an individual, and this is about as inhumane as one canimagine. So few people really do." What appears to be the chief weakness of the school, and the realreason why its lessons have not been applied more often, is that only asuperlative team of teachers in ideal conditions could work it. . As Neill says, school shouldprovide an "environment in which the emotions can be lived out andexpressed." Neill doesn't like to force his pupils to do anything thatthey do not make up their own mind to pursue, and he in fact never doesforce them. Thus, he need not goto French lessons if he would rather play the record player, but he may notplay the record player in the room where the French lesson is being taught. Don't teach him, don't lecture him. . In curing the neurotic child of his thieving, I see no otherpossible method than that of approval." What seems to happen is that thechild receives an assurance that he is valued and wanted and respected inspite of the theft, which is implicitly demoted to the status of a symptom,while the gains are made to look slightly ridiculous by receiving theaddition of a gift. . I hesitateto say it . Neill treats stealing by making gifts to thethief or collaborating in theft or suggesting further methods of stealing. S. How can happiness be bestowed? It is possible for a parent to have strongintellectual opinions that genital play is good and healthy, and at thesame time, by the tone of their voice or look in their eyes convey to thechild that emotionally, he has not accepted the child's right to his owngenital satisfaction. The education of our countryis so stringent, with strong emphasis on grades and achievement. Neill, is a book on the education of the youngthat many readers will approach with scepticism only to find, when theyhave finished it, that the author has convinced them on a good many points. It is the prohibition that fixes the interestof the child." Once again, the theme of freedom plays an integral part inNeill's philosophy. Don't elevate him. Wherethe strong parent condemns the act and the child, too, the weak parentimplicitly condones the act. The Summerhill child cando as he pleases in the things that affect him alone. Onemay not agree with Neill in everything (he is a fiery crusader whoattributes most of the ills of the world to education or the abuse of thesame conventional schools), but there is no doubt about his deepunderstanding of children or about the benign influence he has on thoseentrusted to his care. Many people will criticize Neill for the apparent state ofanarchy that exists at Summerhill. with healthy people, love may not last forever, butwhile it does last, it is true, loyal and happy." The beneficial aspects of Summerhill are truly abounding, andpossibly as a practical way of educating the masses, it will never become areality; nevertheless, the ideas inherent in Neill's framework of educationhave proven many hard-core stringent educators who search for nothing butpower and suppression of the students entrusted to them are in fact notneeded and probably do more harm than not. Neill, the headmaster of an experimental educational school in England,differs from most educators in his beliefs that the majority of childrenare inherently good and that education is not a means to power but a roadto happiness. Let the child be himself. How manyteachers would have the time, patience and personality to apply Neill'sprinciples not just to those who steal but even to average children whosimply do not want to go to geometry class? . Neill mentions in his bookmasturbation, pornography, promiscuity, love and hate, among other things.About masturbation, he says, "I find that suppressed masturbation is at theroot of many delinquencies . This seems to work, and, according to Neill, the reason is that the thief"feels that I am his friend, his approver, one who gives him love insteadof hate . Children who are self-regulated do not grind theirheels into the piano while the teacher looks on. The child doesn't feel that Neill approves of the act. Herb Snitzer, director of the Louis Wadham School and working mate ofNeill's for a number of years, summarized Summerhill this way: "It is anenvironment in and through which children will hopefully make consciousthose unconscious feelings, wishes and desires which will enable them tobreathe deeply and love life. The chief bane of any school professing progressive ideas is clearlythe misrepresentation, whether through malevolence or, more often than not,through ignorance. None of us can be neutral. We must take one side or the other; authority or freedom, discipline or self-government. At least the graduates of hisschool, many of whom started as problem children, become successful humanbeings, and a few have become successful professionals and scholars. Education makes sure that a person'swill shall be made numb and bear no relevance to day-to-day existence orfunctioning. . London: Victor Gallancz, 1964.-----------------------  New Yorker, 29 April 1961, 151.----------------------- 3 Shakespeare." These observations are definitely different from the standard idea ofeducation employed in this country. . He does not think that they should be made to study unless theywant to, which most of them end up doing. In regard to pornography, Neill says, "Being shockedimplies having an obscene interest in what shocks you." On promiscuity, hesays, "Promiscuous sex--the dirct result of repression--is always unhappyand shameful. . No half measures will do . Abolish authority. . Neill is the majorreason for the success of Summerhill, and his technique may be hard foranyone else to adapt, but this quote will sum up his intentionsunderstanding: "The battle is one with gloves off. . . S. They both accept the ordinary community's judgment on theft, but thesituation is revolutionized by this father figure's peculiar role. . He does not believe in moral instruction. His reasoning gets better throughout the book, and his 4 -someyears of experience filter through in all his observations: "I have seenquite a few bright youngsters who could recite Milton at four blossom forthas drunkards and loafers at age twenty-four." Even Neill's generalizationsdeserve some meritorious thought: "I have seen through the years that aboy who knows at seven just what he wants to be may be an inferior who willhave a conservative attitude toward life later on." Neill gives uncompromising priority to the individual's rights, asevidenced by the framework of their weekly Council meetings at which allthe members of the school participate to voice or air any and allgrievances or new ideas pertaining to the school as a whole. Neill's method sustains the child whilesubtly denying the idea of defiant achievement through theft. Don't push him around. Summerhill, by A. It is a breath of fresh air blowing through the soulto cleanse it of self-hatred and hatred of others. . . . Perhaps we should reconsider thetype of system we have set up for our youth. Discontentment among the youth oftoday in regard to their education and desire to be able to express theirfeelings and emotions about this world indicates that this man's ideasshould not be taken lightly by any means. All issuesare voted on, and every student, faculty member, and Neill himself areentitled to one vote--all persons are equal and a student's vote holds asmuch weight as a faculty member's or Neill's. In areas of everyday activity at Summerhill, Neill is definitelyFreudian in many of his interpretations and problem-solving resolutions,especially in regard to sexual situations, although by his own admissionexperience with youth has showed him discrepencies in some of Freud's basicstatements on the attitudes of children. It is, instead, strictly forthe purpose of making people willing to accept the mechanical motionsnecessary for acceptance in society. Don't force him to do anything." BibliographyNeill, A. He runs his school like a democracy, consulting his pupilsabout the curriculum and about everything pertaining to their socialbehavior. In fact, Neill does make certainrestrictions in regard to social protocol, such as no smoking, no drugs, acurfew, bedtime hours and every once in a while a punishment meted out byNeill himself. Apparently his system works. One example of his treatment of problem children can be examined inhis treatment of stealing. . Educationis not for the sake of really getting involved in a thing for the pleasureand knowledge that can be learned from it. As Neill states, "Academiclearning has little in it of intrinsic value . Neill's attitude towardeducation is markedly different from the assembly-line mass programsstudents in this country have to contend with. I am not reallyinterested in making subjects interesting by modern methods; rather am Idesirous of scrapping the useless, boring subjects." These he lists asmath, history and literature: "One can live a busy, happy life withoutever reading Proust or Lawrence or Milton or Thackeray or . . . As Neill states, and it wouldbe difficult to disprove generally, "The freedom practiced in communityliving, as in Summerhill, seems to do for many what the psychoanalyst doesfor the individual.
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