"The function of the child is to live his or her own life - not the lifethat his or her anxious parents think he or she should live, nor a lifeaccording to the purpose of the educator who thinks he or she knows what isbest. All this interference and guidance on the part of adults only produces ageneration of robots. You cannot make children learn music or anything elsewithout some degree converting them into will-less adults." -- A.S.Neill (1960)
LESSON and CLASS ORGANIZATION at SUMMERHILL: (excerpted from Neill's bookSummerhill (1960).
1. Lessons are optional. Children can go to them or stay away from them.There is a timetable, but only for teachers. Strangers to this idea of freedomwill be wondering what sort of madhouse it is where children play all day ifthey want to. Many adults say, "If I had been sent to a school like that,I'd never have done a thing." While others argue, "Such children willfeel themselves heavily handicapped when they have to compete against childrenwho have been made to learn." Neill argues that neither of these are validarguments. Instead, Neill said that when given the choice to learn or not tolearn, children will choose to learn.
2. Children usually have classes according to their age, but sometimesaccording to their interests.
3. There are no new methods of teaching, because teaching, in and ofitself, is not all that matters. Neill argues that the child who wants to learnlong division will learn it no matter how it is taught.
4. Neill said Summerhill is the happiest school in the world. There are notruants and seldom a case of homesickness. There are rarely fights or quarrels.Children have extreme self-discipline. "I seldom hear a child cry, becausechildren when free have much less hate to express than children who aredowntrodden. Hate breeds hate. Love breeds love. Love means approving ofchildren, and that is essential in any school. Summerhill is a school in whichthe child knows that he is approved of" (Neill, 1960).
5. In Summerhill, everyone has equal rights. "No one is allowed towalk on my grand piano, and I am not allowed to borrow a boy's cycle without hispermission. At a General School Meeting, the vote of a child of six counts foras much as my vote does" (Neill, 1960).
"But says the knowing one, in practice of course the voices of grownupscount. Doesn't the child of six wait to see how you vote before he or she raiseshis or her hand? I wish he or she sometimes would, for too many proposals arebeaten. Free children are not easily influenced; the absence of fear accountsfor this phenomenon. Indeed, the absence of fear is the fines thing that canhappen to a child I emphasize the importance of this absence of fear ofadults. A child of nine will come and tell me he has broken a window with aball. He tells me, because he isn't afraid of arousing wrath or moralindignation. He may have to pay for the window, but he don't have to fear beinglectured or being punished This also applies to the classroom. If studentsdo not fear the teachers wrath, they will be more inclined and motivated tolearn" (Neill, 1960).
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