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A. S. Neill’s radical approach to child rearing is as controversial today as it was in 1960. Neill’s “code of freedom” emphasized the principles of freedom, love, and positive discipline in the care and education of children. These ideals continue to evoke admiration by many who have found them key to not only raising healthy, happy children but also to stemming the tide of violence in our schools and society. Others dismiss these same principles for being idealistic at best and harmful at worst.
In this wonderful account, Bill Ayers speaks as a parent and an educator who has spent years in the classroom experimenting with Neill’s progressive approach. While Ayers admits to being a long-time fan of Neill’s, he also admits that Neill’s techniques sometimes “seemed more than a little loony” when they first appeared. It is Ayers’ honest, straightforward approach that makes his treatment of Neill so valuable and relevant to how we treat and raise our children today.
This vital and unique volume is a great read for parents, teachers, and anyone considering alternative visions for raising children and overcoming violence in today’s society. It also features key sections from the original text of Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing that Ayers identifies as critical to understanding Neill’s philosophy.
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William Ayers is a social justice activist, a leader in school reform, and Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has authored numerous books including Fugitive Days (2001), To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher (2001), A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court (1998), and Teaching for Social Justice (1998) .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
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