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On the Side of the Child: Summerhill Revisited (Between Teacher and Text, 2) Hardcover – November 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Between Teacher and Text, 2
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Teachers College Press (November 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080774400X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807744000
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,577,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ayers, a social activist and educator, takes a new look at the controversial Summerhill experiment of the last century that emphasized freedom and democracy in education to the point that students set the tone and pace of their schooling, eschewing the structured curriculum and activities of most schools. As part of a series exploring innovative approaches to education, with current educators engaging in imaginary dialogues with education luminaries, Ayers speaks to A. S. Neill, Summerhill's founder. Ayers recalls his own experiences of the 1960s with the Children's Community in Detroit, an experiment that emphasized racial integration and personal freedom. He explores the concepts of Summerhill in light of current emphasis on structuring children's behavior, diagnosing and stigmatizing children with ADD and other learning disabilities. Ayers underscores the importance of reciprocity in teaching--that both student and teacher should be engaged in a mutual dialogue. Readers interested in imaginative approaches to education will appreciate this look at the thoughts and experiences of both Neill and Ayers. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

William Ayers is a school reform activist and Distinguished Professor and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Format: Paperback
This slight work has a long essay by William Ayers put together with some excerpts from A.S. Neill's work. Since Ayers talks about teaching in U.S. public schools, he has a challenging task to try and implement some Summerhillian respect for children with the prevailing ambience of authoritarianism and no respect for kids. It is this challenge that makes the Ayers essay quite interesting and in places touching.

"One of my favorite teachers gathers the fifth graders on the first day and tells them there are three classroom rules: (1) you CAN chew gum in class, but not in the larger school where it's outlawed, (2) you CAN wear hats in class ('I can read and do my work wearing a hat, so I assume you can, too') but not in the school where "NO HATS!" is fiercely enforced, and (3) because this is a learning community, we all have to learn to live together with respect. The rest of the morning is a wide-ranging conversation that begins to fill in the meanings in rule number three."

"The failure of some schools and some children in Chicago, say, is not due to a failure of the system. . . [O]ur society is one of privilege and oppression, inequality, class divisions, and racial and gender stratifications [so] we might view the shools as doing an adequate job both of sorting youngsters for various roles in society and convicing them that they and they alone deserve their various privileges and failures. Sorting students may be the single, brutal, and abominable accomplishment of U.S. schools."

"People too often operate schools as if children's sole function in life is to serve the needs of others, ultimately of large impersonal corporations and the military, as if the only role anyone will ever play in life is functionary, follower, consumer.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. DeMeo on December 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A.S. Neill, who created the non-compulsory Summerhill School for children, which is something like Home Schooling but in a regular classroom where kids set the agendas for their own self-education (and yes it works far better than the typical rigid doctrinaire schools pushing obedience and bullying). Summerhill is about as oppositional to Soviet Communist style of Big Brother authoritarian education as one could imagine.
So how it is that Bill Ayres, a radical Red revolutionary came to write something favorable which contains chapter sections written by Neilll? I say, it is for propaganda reasons, as he never reformed one bit. For those who don't know or forget:
Ayres provided a published endorsement of Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Bobby Kennedy. He listed that killer in the preface of his book "Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism: Political Statement of the Weather Underground" which, oops, Ayers didn't bother to republish THAT one! His list of endorsements included quite a few world-class butchers and head-shooters. Suggest to also read "Bringing Down America: An FBI Informer With the Weathermen" by Larry Grathwohl, who died only a few years ago. Grathwohl was at meetings of the W.U. when intellectual professor types declared they would have to "get rid of" (murder) around 25 million American citizens (and their children?) if their "socialism" (read Red Communism) was going to work. Neither of these alarming facts, and a whole lot of other similar ones, appear in Ayer's cleansed "confessions". Heck, he never apologized for anything. Right after 911, he did an interview where he made that plain, and it appeared with a photo of him wiping his feet on the American flag, in the mud.
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