“Summerhill” School has a lot of enemies and a lot of well-wishers. Founded in 1921, it has gone through a lot and is said to have “so far ahead of its time”. BBC shot a feature film about the school that left a few to impress. What are the principles of this school?
“The purpose of the child is to live his/her own life. Not the one about the dream of his/her troubled parents, and not the one that a teacher offers while he/she thinks that knows better”. These are the words of Alexander Sutherland Neill, the founder of the “Summerhill” School, the school based on democracy and freedom.
Democracy here means exactly what it should – the “power of the people”. All decisions are made at the weekly meeting of the general vote. So the rules are accepted as well condemn the offenders, so everything is solved. Voting is attended by children, teachers, director, and their voices are equal.
Here children themselves choose what they will be taught to all. Take classes or not is the choice of the child. If he decided to play – this is his right. The game is very important, and it is recognized by all. Needless to say, that there is no system of evaluation in “Summerhill”.
Of course, at first glance, this seems unlikely. Yes, there certainly are empty classes. Will they receive knowledge? Do children know what to learn? How can they make important decisions? And, finally, do they know what is best for them?
The “Summerhill” believes that yes, they know.
Children are curious. In the “Summerhill”, they go to class and, in addition, achieve very good results. Just because they are interested in subjects. Remember, we are all much better, easier and more fun to do something that we like.
There is a difference between those who studied there from the beginning and who switched later. If the first immediately learn with pleasure, the second required some time to get used to this. In the old school they were forced to go to class and study sickened. But with time they also choose subjects and visit them with interest.
Let us turn to the absence of marks. Think how much more now based on the uncertainty of person in him, in his complexes. Many prefer not to begin to do something, fearing imminent, in their opinion, criticism. Everything comes from childhood. And this can be avoided by not criticizing or comparing children. After all, every child is unique. Marks are good; they show the level of knowledge. But is it necessary for children?
But what about meetings? Entrust all children … Experience shows that voting does not lead to disaster. It is very rare that any important rule is canceled. And it makes children accountable naturally.
Alexander Neill believed that all children are good and right, it’s innate qualities of any child. And no one will solve anything better than them . If somewhere children have lost these qualities, then with mutual respect and freedom prevailing in “Summerhill”, they will return. Kids can do what they see fit, but here the golden rule is observed – “the freedom of one ends where the freedom of another begins”. You may not go to school, but preventing others is forbidden in any case.
Neill was convinced that Summerhill is the happiest school in the world. Proof of this is the lack of those strongly homesick, fights rarely occur. The reason for it is seen primarily in the fact that free children do not hate their surroundings, as is often the case in authoritarian schools. After all, hatred breeds hatred, and love – love. For Neill the love of a child – it’s full acceptance of him/her. You cannot be on the child’s side, if you punish him and do not trust him. At Summerhill children know that they are accepted for who they are.
In addition, Neill averted to Summerhill a therapeutic function in relation to the children who came to his school as a little “spoiled”, full of complexes of hatred and aggression, which was the result of the negative impact of family and school. In such cases, he set himself the task of educators to surround these children with special care so that they feel safe, they understood that it was safe, that they are accepted and loved. For many years, Neill provided personalized “treatment in Summerhill ”, but eventually realized that children can do without it. Long-term observations of children’s behavior had convinced him that the very situation of freedom in Summerhill had a therapeutic effect.
Freedom is the main thing. This is something that is valued and protected here. There is no pressure on children, and they grow as those whom they should be. They become people who know what they want, know themselves. People are capable of doing what they love, what is important and useful for them and for others. People who believe in themselves and their abilities. Free people. Happy people. It is difficult to believe all this and try to apply in practice. It is a matter of faith. And not the idea of Neill, but children. Just assume that they know what to do. Remember that we all were children…