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A Free Range Childhood
Summerhill and the Principle of Self-Regulation

Matthew Appleton

Catalog Number 4170, $18.95

It is time to revisit the lessons of the Summerhill School. A.S. Neill's account of his alternative, radically student-centered boarding school in Leiston, England, published in 1960, inspired many thousands of readers to discover that a truly free education was possible and could actually work in practice. For decades, Summerhill has represented a symbol of freedom, participatory democracy, and trust in the human urge for healing, growth and learning. Yet today, such principles, and Summerhill itself, are threatened by a consuming global economic system that values standardization, competition, and central management. Matthew Appleton's book reminds us what we stand to lose if we surrender to this system.

Appleton has worked at Summerhill for several years. He knows the place and its people intimately, and invites the reader into the daily life of this unusual community. Unlike Neill, Appleton does not resort to overheated rhetoric to persuade the reader of the value of freedom to the development of personality, but demonstrates in his lively accounts what a Summerhill education means to real children as well as the adults who live and play and learn with them.

"Self-regulation" is the goal and the result of an environment that trusts human growth and supports it with a caring community. Summerhill is still governed by all-school meetings, and individuals are held to rules and policies that they themselves create for the good of the whole. Such a system allows room for experimentation, mistakes and second chances. In contrast to the "zero tolerance" discipline and "high stakes" testing that are coming to dominate contemporary schooling, here is a way of being with young people that gives them encouragement, safety, and a sense that their concerns and their lives actually matter.


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