A. S. Neill was arguably the most famous child educator of the twentieth century. He was certainly the most controversial. All over the world, countless parents and teachers have been shocked, delighted or inspired by his subversive ideas about education, or by a visit to ‘that dreadful school’ which continues to this day – Summerhill.
First published in 1983, this sympathetic but critical exploration of his iconoclastic ideas and personality is the result of interviews with two hundred ex-pupils, parents and teachers about life at Summerhill, and of the practicality of Neill’s philosophy about child freedom. Jonathan Croall has also drawn on many unpublished letters and documents, which help to illuminate Neill’s personal struggles, and his analysis and friendship with Homer Lane, Wilhelm Stekel and Wilhelm Reich. The result is a fascinating and revealing portrait of a remarkable man who, in his absolute determination to be ‘on the side of the child’, remained in permanent opposition to the adult world.
Table of Contents
The Quest for Neill; Part I: The Road to Summerhill 1. The Problem Child 2. Young Teacher 3. Journey to Fleet Street 4. A Dominie in Doubt 5. Homer Lane 6. The New Era 7. The International School; Part II: Summerhill 8. A School with a View 9. Pioneers and Parents 10. One of the Gang 11. Hearts not Heads 12. Talking of Summerhill 13. The Politics of Freedom 14. Wilhelm Reich 15. Disastrous Interlude 16. New Worlds? 17. The Problem Parent 18. Friends in Need 19. Paradise Lost? 20. Summerhill USA 21. Too Much, Too Late 22. The Message of Freedom 23. The Summerhill Child 24. Ending; Acknowledgements; Sources; Bibliography and Further Reading; Index
Jonathan Croall is the author of twenty books, including All the Best, Neill: Letters from Summerhill and The Parents’ Day Schoolbook. A former features editor of the Times Educational Supplement, he is now a full-time writer and biographer specialising in theatre and film.
"It’s a pleasure to welcome a biography which is frank about faults but aware of virtues, and is always cool, unhistrionic and unaffected…I believe there’s a prize for the best biography of the year: Mr Croall should be a good runner" - Richard Hoggart, Times Educational Supplement
"This is an outstanding biography. Its balance of sympathy and detachment is just what is needed to enable us to understand the complex and contradictory nature of its subject" - John Rae, The Listener