Right of Reply: Zoe Readhead

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The Independent Culture
The head teacher of Summerhill school responds to a recent article by Mary Braid

WE HAVE heard all this before.;isn't it time to change the record? Why didn't Mary Braid simply write "Naked children slay rabbits in Suffolk school", thus expressing her prejudices right from the start. Instead she hides behind historical references which belie the fact that she has no knowledge of the issues at stake.

Whilst I love being called "wacko", I find it odd that educationalists from all over the world, representing governments, ministries and universities, hold Summerhill in such high esteem - could they all be "wacko". too? Perhaps all forms of education which respect the individual should be called "wacko". Perhaps democracy is "wacko".

Summerhill School is one of the most important educational experiments of our time. Not only does it provide a balanced, broad-spectrum education for its pupils; it also challenges traditional concepts of childhood and child rearing. Less than 100 years ago women were not considered intelligent or strong enough to be able to vote. By turning conventional child-rearing practice on its head, Summerhill invokes mistrust and, in some cases, anger from the public in general and from journalists!

The school ethos is about freedom for the individual. Children are treated as individuals who have a right to be heard and who take a responsible part in the running of their community. These are not disadvantaged children; they are strong, happy individuals with a great sense of self-worth. They understand their responsiblities as citizens in their own community. I think it is time that a modern democratic society begins to understand the value of tolerance and responsiblity, which are the requirements of living in self-regulated communities such as Summerhill.