Alexander Sutherland Neill (17 October 1883 – 23 September 1973) was a Scottish progressive educator, author and founder of Summerhill school, which remains open and continues to follow his educational philosophy to this day. He is best known as an advocate of personal freedom for children. Contents * 1 Life and personal background * 2 Educational philosophy * 3 Life at Summerhill * 4 Influences on Neill's thought * 5 Criticisms of Neill * 6 Neill's educational legacy * 7 Works * 8 Published Correspondence * 9 Portrait bust of A.S. Neill * 10 References * 11 External links
| Life and personal background
Neill was born in Forfar in the Scottish Lowlands, one of thirteen children. Both parents were schoolteachers. After acting as a pupil-teacher for his father, he studied at the University of Edinburgh and obtained an M.A. degree in 1912. In 1914 he became headmaster of the Gretna Green School in Scotland. During this period, his growing discontent could be traced in notes which he later published. In these notes, he described himself as "just enough of a Nietzschian to protest against teaching children to be meek and lowly" and wrote (in A Dominie's Log) that he was "trying to form minds that will question and destroy and rebuild". Neill worked with Homer Lane, a US educator then living in England and founder of the Little Commonwealth school in Dorset, and later at King Alfred School in Hampstead, a school founded by a group and parents in 1898 and led by John Russell from 1901 to 1920. Maria Montessori was also an influence, and so were Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich. In 1921 Neill left England for the Continent. In Hellerau near Dresden he visited Lilian Neustätter, whom he had met at King Alfred School and who later became his wife. In Hellerau, Neill, Lilian Neustätter and Christine Bear, who had studied with Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, founded the International School. Jacques-Dalcroze, a Swiss composer and music educator, had founded a school in Hellerau in 1910 that closed in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I. The International School in Hellerau gave Neill the first opportunity to lead a school based on his own principles. Summerhill School arose out of the International School in Hellerau. It later moved to Sonntagberg in Austria, and in 1923 to Lyme Regis in England, where it acquired the name Summerhill. In 1927 it moved to its present site in Leiston, Suffolk. After Neill's death in 1973, the school was run by his wife Ena until 1985, then by his daughter Zoë Neill Readhead. Educational philosophy
Neill believed that the happiness of the child should be the paramount consideration in decisions about the child's upbringing, and that this happiness grew from a sense of personal freedom. He felt that deprivation of this sense of freedom during childhood, and the consequent unhappiness experienced by the repressed child, was responsible for many of the psychological disorders of adulthood. Neill's ideas, which tried to help children achieve self-determination and encouraged critical thinking rather than blind obedience, were seen as backward, radical, or at best, controversial. Many of Neill's ideas are widely accepted today, although there are still many more "traditional" thinkers within the educational establishment who regard Neill's ideas as threatening the existing social order, and are therefore controversial. In 1921 Neill founded Summerhill School to demonstrate his educational theories in practice. These included a belief that children learn better when they are not compelled to attend lessons. The school is also managed democratically, with regular meetings to determine school rules. Pupils have equal voting rights with school staff. Neill's Summerhill School experience demonstrated that, free from the coercion of traditional schools, students tended to respond by developing self-motivation, rather than self-indulgence. Externally imposed discipline, Neill felt, prevented...
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