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Avant-Garde Schools Allow Students Vote On How They Are Taught

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British students are in trouble as it is, and Greater Manchester Co-Op schools are going to allow students a say in how the schools are run? Liberals have done more to ruin schools, than any reason in history. No wonder that more than 250,000 qualified teachers in Great Britain refuse to teach in a British classroom.

Co-op executives hope it will be the first of several to adopt a formula under which every pupil will have a say in a democratic forum designed to come up with ideas about their school’s future.

The idea is to give pupils a glimpse of how a democratic institution should work so they can play their full part as citizens when they leave. The format recalls that of the independent Suffolk boarding school Summerhill, set up in 1921 by the educationist Alexander Sutherland Neill. All Summerhill pupils have a say in their curriculum and the running of the school.

Advisers to the former prime minister Tony Blair saw the trust scheme as an opportunity for businesses, private schools and faith groups to become involved in the running of state schools. Phil Arnold, the head of school development at Reddish Vale, said: “I think this is a real alternative for the way ‘trust’ schools operate.”

Members of Reddish Vale’s democratic forum will include pupils, parents, teachers and community representatives. “All pupils will have full voting rights,” said Mr Arnold, “as will parents/carers and all organisations we work with in the public, private and voluntary sector.

Didn’t any Manchester administrator research Neill’s success or was it a failure and completely ignored? I did research Summerhill and I found this essay on the non-merits of Summerhill and the utter libertarian attitude of Neill, a fervid fan of Freud.

Neill opened his first school in 1922 during a journey through Europe, but he founded Summerhill, near Leiston, in England, in 1924. The little school existed for decades without a change. Through some twenty books and countless articles, he related the daily life of the school, never missing an opportunity to provoke argument, repeatedly describing a place in which the adult had not imposed his will, a place for play where total disorder reigned.

A great deal of the damage done to the school was done by the children: ‘The wear and tear of materials in Summerhill is a natural process…and if a boy needs a piece of metal for a boat keel, he will use my expensive tools if one of them happens to be about the right size’. Journalists called Summerhill the ‘do-as-you-please-school’ (Hemmings, 1972, p. 140). Many of the visitors indeed saw the school as ‘a Kafkaesque universe with dilapidated and sometimes vandalized buildings’. (Vallotton, 1967, p. 9). Yet the school, with its wooden buildings, its large park and trees, seemed, especially in summer, one of the most pleasant of places, a real country school such as Ferrière dreamed of at the beginning of the century.

In this school, however, lessons were optional. The children could play all day if they so wished, or do handicrafts in the workshop. The evenings were set aside for dancing, theatre and entertainment. If it had not been for the threat of the school being closed by the authorities, Neill would have placed no ban on sexual relations.
Friday evening was set aside for the general assembly. During that meeting, which was chaired by an elected pupil, the children explained their problems and discussed them, working out their own rules. In this assembly, Neill’s vote, like that of the other adults, had no greater weight than that of a pupil. This, says Neill, was the secret of the success of an educational technique learnt through contact with Homer Lane.

The originality, the provocation and success of the founder’s books were not always sufficient to protect the school from the risk of closure. After the Second World War, there was a dangerous decrease in the number of pupils and the Summerhill Society had to be founded in order to save the school. The education authorities never really accepted it. When they went back on their decision to close the school, some, as Hemmings (1972, p. 241) noted, interpreted this not so much as a mark of recognition as a kind of tolerance of ‘a mere relic’. Yet it was this same relic which, several years later, was to prove too small to take in all the pupils and visitors.

Humans are condemned to failure if they don’t heed the lessons of the past. Children need cohesive structure and the basics of education: readin’ ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic. They do not have the experience of age, nor do they place values on lessons that they will need later in life. This school will have a plan for failure for those who want to play all day. Oh let’s teach self-esteem and self-awareness and not teach discipline. That’ll work.

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Written by smalltalkwitht

May 26, 2008 at 12:07 am

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