My first encounter with Summerhill came while
I was exploring Buxton School's eccentric and limited library.
It was an old, charming, dog-eared book with a red
cloth cover and faded gold lettering:
"Summerhill: A Radical Approach in Child Rearing". I glanced at its
binding, laughed with scorn, and moved on.
More recently, I was asking the director at Buxton for
evidence that the progressive education movement that Buxton is
claimed to come from existed. He directed me to the book
Summerhill that the progressive
educator A.S. Neill wrote about his school from the more radical
part of the movement. He reminded me to take it with a grain of salt,
though — the school was founded in that different world that
was England in 1921 as a school mostly for
"problem" children, and though he claimed to be
showing that a school could run without authority figures,
Mr. Neill, an imposing man at about 6'2", had implicit authority.
Within days of starting to read it, though, I found myself
convinced by its philosophy. I reminded myself
that the stream of improbabilities the book and school
presented could be self-delusions, coincidences,
or otherwise explainable without changing my current worldview,
but something in my brain wanted to agree. So I do.
The book I carried with me for the next three weeks
was an American
publication around 1965 of a collection of Neill's works, edited
for coherence and for the change in audience. It was an
average length book divided into seven sections:
RELIGION AND MORALS,
and QUESTIONS AND
It fit in the pockets in my jacket for warming hands, and with
a stenographer's pad in my inside pocket to record important
quotes, this was an ideal situation.
Says Two Sheds : The book you carried was published in 1960 by Hart Publishing Company and was edited by Harold H. Hart. Neill was apparently dissatisfied with the result, and the British-published books from which it was compiled seem a bit meatier.