Free and Democratic Education

My son has just turned six months old and already we constantly are asked about his schooling. Will we be sending him to pre-school? Will we have him in public or private education? What social activities will he be involved in? Will we teach him to read before school?

My husband and I have always been drawn to democratic or free schooling and visited Summerhill School while we were living in England. The basic concept is that (gasp!) children learn what they choose to learn.  The founder, A.S. Neill, believed that children learned just as much from play as from school (if not more), and that they could grow up to be intelligent, responsible and discerning adults even without state standardized exams and compulsory curriculum. He founded the school in 1921 and it still stands today with a rich history of successful graduates.  Students are not required to attend classes (that’s the “free” part), and all rules are created and abolished based on a majority vote (the “democratic” part).

The result is, as we witnessed firsthand, kids attending classes that they enjoyed and that were taught by teachers who could focus on just teaching. And, students actually attend the same amount of classes that those in public school attend. But, unlike their public school counterparts, they are actively engaged in the class. The school actually has about 200 rules because kids learn quickly that chaos is not beneficial and a pleasant society is one where rules exist and are reasonable and are changeable when required, and, importantly, are upheld. It seems also that these students grow up to respect the law, except when it makes no sense. And, in those cases, they question authority. This is something many might find troubling, but I find exciting. We don’t need more sheep, such as is turned out by our public school system. We need leaders who question the way things are done and push to find the best paths. I want my son to be among those leaders.

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One Comment on "Free and Democratic Education"

  1. josh
    17/10/2009 at 12:27 am Permalink

    First!! 🙂

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