Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Respecting childhood autonomy

I explained yesterday that one of the most beloved figures in British home education was a raving lunatic who publicly advocated small children being able to work down coal mines, drive cars on public roads and have sex with any adult they cared to. I pointed out that these views made him very popular with the more thoughtful type of paedophile; the kind of man who seeks justification for his depravity. As a result of this, I was told by one person commenting that I had sunk to a new low! The most curious comment was by Elizabeth, who felt that my post was ‘beyond the pale’. She went on to say that ‘It would not be taking a child seriously to stand by and watch while they make a bad choice‘. In other words, if her child makes a sensible and wholesome choice, she allows it. If the choice is bad, she will seek to prevent the child from exercising this choice. How this differs in any way from conventional parenting, I have no idea.

At any rate, the general view seemed to be that no parent would follow Holt‘s advice on matters relating to sex. Let us assume for the moment that this is true. If parents who advocate childhood autonomy would not go as far as to allow their child to choose to go to bed with an adult, how far would they be prepared to go down the road of childhood autonomy? An apparently innocuous example which several parents have mentioned on this blog is the question of teeth cleaning. I have seen this topic crop up elsewhere on home education blogs, forums and lists. Let us then take it that some home educating parents who allow their children autonomy do not compel them to clean their teeth. This is of course not in the same league as allowing them to have sex with adults, is it? Indeed it is not; it can be worse.

Like most adults, I was forced to clean my teeth twice a day as a child. I did not always want to, but this made no difference. Many children, particularly two and three year-olds dislike teeth cleaning and parents almost invariably ride roughshod over these objections. Not some home educating parents though. They believe that children should be allowed to ‘choose’ not to undergo teeth cleaning if they are strongly opposed to the practice.

When I reach for the toothbrush last thing at night, it is not because I have been thinking about dental hygiene and the latest research on caries. It is rather a conditioned reflex. I have been trained, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, to clean my teeth before I get into bed. This is what parents generally do with their kids around teeth cleaning. They make the child get into a fixed routine of doing the thing every night until it becomes a part of the child’s innermost being. Eventually, the child will internalise the procedure and feel guilty if he fails to clean his teeth regularly. This is excellent. The results of neglecting teeth cleaning can extend far beyond a few cavities in the baby teeth. Only recently, a piece of research was published which suggested that regular teeth cleaning is associated with enhanced female fertility:

http://acovi.com/bad-dental-hygiene-can-affect-fertility/226077/


There is also a well established link between heart disease and poor oral hygiene. This is quite apart from the obvious danger that decayed teeth can lead to abscesses in the gums and below teeth. This can bring about blood poisoning and every year, people in this country die from such things.

A three year-old child is quite unable to make an informed choice about the long term implications of failing to maintain healthy teeth and gums. He is unlikely to be concerned about fertility or heart disease. All he cares about is the momentary irritation of the sensation of the tooth brush tickling his gums. Establishing a routine of dental hygiene is vital in early childhood and must become second nature to the child. Only then will he be sure to maintain the practice into adult life. It must become a conditioned reflex, a Pavlovian response to getting ready for bed at night.

Failure to instil the teeth cleaning habit in small children, while being done on the grounds of respecting their ‘rights’ and autonomy, runs the risk of shortening their lives and impairing their fertility. This is dangerously irresponsible. This is one example of respecting the autonomy of the child which we all know is currently practiced by some home educators. There are others, equally damaging to their child’s future physical and mental heath. The failure to set the developing child’s body clock correctly for a diurnal life, caused by not insisting on regular bedtimes, for example. Under the guise of being liberal and right-on, these parents are harming their children and laying up problems for their future. Holt’s ideas about all this are monstrously wrong and following any of his advice is likely to harm children. Chuck out How Children fail and destroy any copies you come across of Escape from Childhood! The man was a dangerous crank.

46 comments:

  1. 'At any rate, the general view seemed to be that no parent would follow Holt‘s advice on matters relating to sex'

    Where does Holt give advice on matters relating to sex? In which book or article. Rather than take your word for it, I'd like to read the proof.

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  2. Where does Holt give advice on matters relating to sex? In which book or article. Rather than take your word for it, I'd like to read the proof.'

    I'm not asking anybody to take my word for it. Read Escape from Childhood (Dutton, 1974).
    Simon.

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  3. As regards sex with children, Holt called for the complete abolition of the age of consent. he also did not see why men who have sex with children should be punished. He says in Escape from Childhood:

    'still believe and need to believe that children are ‘innocent’ and ‘pure’, that is, asexual, untainted by sexual thoughts, feelings or urges. There is increasing evidence that this is not true even of very young children, and it is certainly not true of children much past the age of ten or eleven.'

    He goes on to say, of those who have sex with children:

    'For the state to deprive someone of liberty by putting him in prison is a most serious act. It can only be justified by the most weighty cause, that the prisoner did real harm to others. But to make the act of sex, the mutual giving and receiving of pleasure, the excuse for putting someone in prison seems both mistaken and morally wrong.'

    Perhaps you can see now why he is so popular with paedophiles and child molesters? No age of consent, children free to have sex with adults and no penalty for men who take little girls to bed.
    Simon.

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  4. I'm not particularly interesting in reading it as I'm not an AE'er or particularly interested in his ideas about 'children's rights'. And if it really is a paedophile's charter, I don't want to order it.

    However, I'm baffled by the fact that a quick google search of the book turns up no warning articles about paedophilia. Sandra Dodd's article commending the ideas expressed in it mentions nothing about sex. The Amazon reviews mention nothing and the Wikipedia entry mentions nothing.

    I'll keep looking.

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  5. 'Perhaps you can see now why he is so popular with paedophiles and child molesters? No age of consent, children free to have sex with adults and no penalty for men who take little girls to bed.'

    Ah, okay, so that second quote is directly from Escape From Childhood? I'm surprised that it's still in print.

    I'm even more surprised that HE'ers who have all Holt's works haven't been repulsed by this.

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  6. 'However, I'm baffled by the fact that a quick google search of the book turns up no warning articles about paedophilia. '

    I am really not going to start posting links on here connected to child abuse! However, for a reference to the book in connection with paedophilia, you might try the link below. Scroll down to the bit on Commentators and it gives a brief summary of Holt's views on the age of consent and so on.

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:iGvfU13s-EkJ:www.thefullwiki.org/Paedophile_activism+%22escape+from+childhood%22+paedophilia&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&source=www.google.co.uk

    Simon.

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  7. Well this is interesting as teeth cleaning is a contentious issue in our house. Oldest DS with Aspergers struggled to clean his teeth and would often not. In the scheme of things it was a small battle and I let it go. At 16 he cleans his teeth with fair regularity. Oldest dd cleaned religiously and STILL has the worst teeth of all my kids. Youngest dd and ds both went through a phase of non cleaning and whilst I took them to the bathroom to persuade cleaning and cleaned my teeth also, they wouldnt be swayed for a long while. But both began when their mouths were big enough for adult size brushes.
    I am not a follower of childhood autonomy as such but have let them choose not to brush when the battle isn't worth it. They all clean their teeth each day now, sometimes twice.

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  8. 'However, I'm baffled by the fact that a quick google search of the book turns up no warning articles about paedophilia. Sandra Dodd's article commending the ideas expressed in it mentions nothing about sex.'

    I am well awrae that high profile home educators recommend this book and claim to agree with the sentiments expressed in it. Does Sandra Dodd also wish to abolish the age of consent and remove all legal penalties for grown men who have sex with children? I don't know, but this is certainly a fruitful area for discussion. I am not going to name names, but quite a few home educators claim to have read all Holt's works and approve of his views. I have never heard one object to what he says about child sex. Why would that be?
    Simon.

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  9. 'Youngest dd and ds both went through a phase of non cleaning and whilst I took them to the bathroom to persuade cleaning and cleaned my teeth also, they wouldnt be swayed for a long while.'

    I hope you don't imagine C, that I was suggesting that there were never any battles here about teeth cleaning! I could tell some hair raising anecdotes about this myself.

    Simon.

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  10. LOL. No, I can certainly imagine. It seems to be in the nature of children to not like to clean teeth.
    I found interesting what you said about how we train children though, and was remarking how I didn't feel like I had been been super efficient in this but still had teeth cleaning kids now.
    Its one of those questions linked to autonomy- did they clean teeth because they chose to freely? Or did they see me doing it and commenting I wanted to have nice teeth so felt they should?

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  11. "I am not going to name names, but quite a few home educators claim to have read all Holt's works and approve of his views. I have never heard one object to what he says about child sex. Why would that be?"


    There is a well known phenomena whereby people block out things that are uncomfortable to them. It is a type of bias. I saw a very good example of this in breastfeeding circles when lactational porn was mentioned. One person became very offended and said that it couldn't have existed and that is shouldn't be discussed and no breastfeeding book would talk about it.

    Someone had to gently point out the book, chapter and page where it was found. Embarrassingly, it was a book that this person had not only read but had also written a review of! But lactational porn was so far out of her comfort zone that she had blocked that out.

    I suspect that a similar thing goes on when people read Holt. They take away what confirms their world view, and discard the rest.

    From someone who hasn't read Holt but might have to now!

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  12. ' Embarrassingly, it was a book that this person had not only read but had also written a review of! '

    That is absolutely fascinating and might very possible be what is happening here. Thanks for that.

    Simon.

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  13. This is interesting because I wonder if I've blocked out what I read. I know I have read at least parts of that book. I had a vague sense in my mind that Holt had said something 'dodgy' about children's sexuality but I don't remember it as that extreme. Given that the quote you gave makes my skin crawl I can't really believe I read it before and didn't remember it. But maybe I did. Not something to be proud of.

    For me, it would never be a question of whether or not to 'allow' a child to have sex with an adult because the activity is inherently abusive to the child. Adults manipulate, coerce and otherwise use children to get what they want from the situation and this damages the child in many ways - not least in the development of a healthy adult sexuality. It is like wondering whether or not to 'allow' a child to lie in the path of a juggernaut. Children do not seek to do this unless they are already damaged and/or desperate.

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  14. Simon wrote,
    "I am well awrae that high profile home educators recommend this book and claim to agree with the sentiments expressed in it."

    You need to consider the times when reading anything though. According to Wikpedia, sociologist Matthew Waites, author of The age of Consent – Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship, observed that:

    “By the mid-1970s the case for a lower minimum age for all was finding wider support, with questions being posed concerning the merits of lowering the legal age for male/female sexual behaviour – not only within grassroots sexual movements, but also within religious organisations and liberal intellectual circles.

    In 1972, the Quakers suggested lowering the age of consent to 14. In 1976, Liberty would have preferred abolition of the age of consent, but proposed a prohibition upon sex below the age of 14 “as a compromise with public attitudes”. Does this mean that we should bin civil liberties and human rights since they also stood for those?

    Does anyone say, I agree with Liberty, apart from their 1976 views on the age of consent? Or, I'm a Quaker, but I want to make it clear that I disagree with their suggestion to lower the age of consent to 14 in 1972?

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  15. "Like most adults, I was forced to clean my teeth twice a day as a child. I did not always want to, but this made no difference."

    I was never forced to brush my teeth. I was occasionally reminded to brush them but can't actually remember how often I did. Certainly I have quite a few fillings so I suspect I didn't do it that often. However, I had a good friend who was forced to brush their teeth. Their parent's would often check by smelling their breath or checking their toothbrush had been used. So my friend used to wet her brush and rub a little toothpaste over her front teeth with her finger.

    So for myself and my friend, being forced to clean teeth or being given a free choice without information both failed. With my children, we discussed why people should care for their teeth and tried different types of toothbrush and different toothpastes. They occasionally went through phases of not brushing, but overall they brushed more often than not and have needed very few dental treatments between them. Autonomy worked for my children where laissez faire and strictness failed.

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  16. I agree with you, Jane - to a degree. I said the other day that I think that you do need to understand writing as a product of its time.

    But there is a bit of a difference between the line taken by NCCI or the Quakers and something written by Holt. This is because in the case of an organisation the line will have developed out of discussion between a number of people. I'm sure there were also people in both organisations at the time who did not agree. It's a messier scenario all round and yes, I suspect that people don't feel the need to disassociate themselves from decisions made by other people in their organisation several decades ago.

    When it comes to the writing of an individual it is slightly different. We know that this is what Holt thought - he wrote it. For all we know, he continued to hold this opinion - unless someone can come up with something where he retracts it. Then we are left with the tricky question of how much this discredits his writing on other matters.

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  17. Allie wrote,
    "Then we are left with the tricky question of how much this discredits his writing on other matters."

    Why should it? Unless people just blindly follow his words, I'm not sure why it should be an issue. I don't know how much Holt's writings influenced me, I read widely when my children were young. However, in all books by all authors there are invariably aspects I disagreed with. I don't just blindly believe everything in a book just because it appears in print. I judged any writings against my own experiences and the experiences of others I'm close to, as well as the writings of other writers and researchers. I analyse what I read and accept bits that ring true and reject those that don't. And of course, latter readings and experiences may result in the rejection of previously accepted bits.

    I remember reading the child sex bits in Holt's books at the time and choosing to discard those bits (and others of a less controversial nature, such as his justifications for coercion 'for the good of the child', or to put it another way, to produce the desired 'product'). I suppose I also bore those parts in mind when reading the rest of his writings and I suppose my knowledge of some of his ideas may have made me more cautious when reading other passages, it's hard to tell. But I still can't see how this knowledge would have changed my response to his descriptions of how children learn.

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  18. "The man was a dangerous crank."

    The only dangerous crank around here is you, Simon.

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  19. Jane said...
    "Allie wrote,
    "Then we are left with the tricky question of how much this discredits his writing on other matters."

    Why should it? Unless people just blindly follow his words, I'm not sure why it should be an issue."

    Well, I think it's tricky. Here's an example to explain why. If I read something by a writer who says that babies are born with sin and then goes on to give parenting tips, I won't take them. This is because I think that the view of babies is so flawed that any tips offered for the care of babies will be useless. If that same writer offered tips on canning peaches or rustling up a pair of long knickers then I might take those tips, because they are unrelated to the author's views about babies and sin.

    If Holt had such mistaken views about this aspect of children, how seriously should I take his words about other aspects of children? I don't know. I suppose you could say that children's learning is a separate subject and so we can still learn from him about this. But equally you could say that the holistic view that Holt has of learning must be coloured by his whole view of children. I don't know.

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  20. "If Holt had such mistaken views about this aspect of children, how seriously should I take his words about other aspects of children? I don't know."

    I know what you mean, but I think we can make judgements about each individual piece of advice/information or theory based on our pre-existing body of knowledge. I don't actually think I took much away from Holt's books, but I don't think this was specifically down to his child sex views (as far as I can tell, I suppose it could well have coloured my experience of his words after reading that bit). As I've already mentioned, I disliked other sections such as his justifications for coercion. Maybe there's a link between the manipulation of children he describes in relation to education and the manipulation of a child so that they think they want sex with an adult?

    I suppose I aught to take a look at one of his books to get some idea of how much I actually agree with these days. An actual example of a piece of advice or information that seems OK until you know his views about child sex would be useful too if anyone can think of one. If Wikipedia is to be believed, these ideas were more common than we would expect, so I wonder how many other authors we should be reading with new eyes if this is actually necessary?

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  21. Really interesting post. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy finding such an useful information over the internet. Technologies go bigger and bigger and now everybody asks search engines for help and through such posts people find what they need. House Cleaning Services.

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  22. You have taken part of my comment and quoted it out of context, I'd have thought it was clear that "not standing by" meant guiding and persuading within the context of having children who seek and take adult advice. I think I also made it clear that such parenting is not so different to conventional parenting, but the means to achieve safe sensible behaviour is different.

    For some reason you seek to continue to attack this parental philosophy even though you have no evidence, not even anecdotal, that your propositions about these dangers have any substance.

    I do have a copy of Escape from Childhood and have read a bit of it, the chapter titles focus mainly on rights, including the right to guaranteed income, have put me off reading it properly though. This is quite unlike his other books which I have found I've wanted to read. There are few books where I find I agree with every word, there is none that I take and apply without thought to my own life. I find it strange that you seek to repeat this thought that that's what HEers who have found John Holt's writing useful are doing.

    Elizabeth

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  23. Simon, please check your "spam" filter. I posted a great comment (I think) about this and it's disappeared. I know it's not your policy to delete comments just because someone disagrees with you, so I can only imagine (since I posted the same comment to both your posts about John Holt) that I was "filtered". Thanks!

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  24. Simon, yesterday we were over at a friend's house and I asked her if she had a copy of Escape from Childhood... and she did! I flipped through the pages, looking at each chapter heading, looking for the section you are referring to... and I found it right at the back of the book. And yes, it has the word "sex" in the title: "The Law, The Young and Sex".

    So, I looked for the sections that advocated for children having sex with adults, as you infer. What I read, instead, was a thoughtful essay about whether or not children, once they have the same rights as adults as per the rest of the book, will be given the right to be in charge of their own bodies and their own urges. Also, he very thoughtfully explained that adults' refusal to see children as sexual beings messed up many children later in life and posited that if adults were more honest with children about sexuality, then sex and shame wouldn't be linked. Remember, this book was published in 1974 when sex and shame often still went hand in hand and sex ed wasn't yet taught in schools (or at home). Society has come a long way in the almost 40 years since this was written. At the time, certain sexual behaviour was considered deviant and there were laws in place (in North America, for certain) to attempt to control people's actions in the bedroom.

    Holt asks more questions in this section than he provides answers for: even if children have the same rights as adults in other areas of their lives, but they are still living as dependents, should they control their own sex lives, too? Or should their guardians have a say? Should the law?

    Holt is very clear that a sexual act is a responsible (vs. a casual) act and that there are both emotional and physical consequences.

    (to be continued...)

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  25. ... con't


    John Holt is not really advocating for children to be able to have sex with adults at all. Instead, he is advocating for sex to carry less of a stigma in society: the ubiquitous Pandora's box of the 1970's. And he is examining and raising questions about what if children had the same rights as adults when it comes to sexual matters.

    What John Holt doesn't take into account is that the power differential between adults and children (due to size, earning potential, care taking, and cognitive development) does render children more vulnerable when it comes to sexual matters. He does address it a little bit: "Some people have voiced to me the fear that if it were legal for an adult to have sex with a consenting child, many young people would be exploited by unscrupulous older ones." But goes on to talk about social stereotypes i.e. dirty old men without worry about skanky older women who would prey on young boys... and he's clearly not thinking about same-sex paedophiles because that doesn't come up at all in this rather frank discussion (for 1974) on the topic.

    Anyway, I urge others to read this for themselves. You can find it online at Escape from Childhood.

    I do think that John Holt is dangerously trusting of adults in this chapter, but it's important to realise that he wrote it in the context of a society that had given children all the previous rights in the book; thus, I think it's more naive than anything. We live in a culture of adultism (which is one of the reasons why paedophilia happens in the first place) and the egalitarian utopia Holt is imagining is a long way off in the distant future, if it will ever exist at all.

    (Simon, if these are still here when you check the spam folder, just ignore my request... perhaps I was just too verbose for it to all fit into one comment!)

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  26. (And please delete any duplicates of the same post. Blogger is being a pain in the arse today.)

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  27. '(And please delete any duplicates of the same post. Blogger is being a pain in the arse today.) '

    Isn't that the truth. Sorry I don't check the spam folder as regularly as I might.
    Simon.

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  28. Thanks anonymous, a very interesting read.

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  29. Yes thank-you, maybe I 'll go and read my copy, I am still rather put off by the titles but I'll move it up the priority reading list.

    elizabeth

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  30. One last comment about John Holt: he was never a parent. His experience with children was one of an uncle or a visitor -- never a guardian or a caretaker. Sometimes I find his writing unrealistic, even though well-intended. For example, I remember reading in one of his books about a situation where the single mother wanted her child to learn at home, but the mother needed to work and it seemed like her job wasn't open to having her daughter there with her. So John suggested that the parent leave the child by herself in the home. And the child was six! I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who actually had John Holt over for dinner when her oldest children were quite young (and she was very impressed), and she laughed and laughed. She said, any parent would know that this wasn't likely to be a good solution for the child... but John was an idealist. And, most importantly, he wasn't a parent. That doesn't make him a crank... just naive (as I mentioned in an earlier comment).

    So, no. I wouldn't take John Holt's advice on very many parenting issues. However, when it comes to children's learning the man was bang on. This is something he knew about because he taught and he thoughtfully observed and he saw what worked and what didn't. I am an educator and a counsellor by trade, and the ideas I've read in John Holt's books dovetail very nicely into other educational and psychological philosophies.

    He's one voice of many when it comes to a child-centered approach to learning and living. It just happens that he gave up on the school system (unlike many) and started to be a proponent for home learning... (this didn't happen until he wrote the book "Instead of Education" in 1976 when he was contacted by homeschooling families who said "hey, we're already doing this and it's called homeschooling!".

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  31. Replying to Anon above:

    "So, no. I wouldn't take John Holt's advice on very many parenting issues. However, when it comes to children's learning the man was bang on. This is something he knew about because he taught and he thoughtfully observed and he saw what worked and what didn't. I am an educator and a counsellor by trade, and the ideas I've read in John Holt's books dovetail very nicely into other educational and psychological philosophies.

    He's one voice of many when it comes to a child-centered approach to learning and living."

    Indeed for me it's been his thoughts on learning that have been influential and exciting, after reading his writing about children learning from typewriters I was determined to get an old one out the depths of MILs attic then it became obvious that a computer was even more exciting and useful as a literacy tool. John Holt would have loved our world!

    You are right that Holt is only one of many writers on child centred learning. Simon's slandering of AS Neil was missing the point in a similar way.

    A little light reading:

    Herbert Spencer:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16510

    Bertrand Russell:
    http://books.google.com/books/about/On_Education.html?id=puY_55fBtJgC

    Pam Leo:
    http://www.atlc.org/Resources/PamLeo/

    Alfie John:
    http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.php
    interesting series of podcasts here with commentary on his book Unconditional Parenting
    http://completeliberty.com/magazine/read/episode-137---unconditional-parenting-part-one_143.html

    We won't all agree with everything in the above writing and speaking but much of it is useful.

    still more:

    This is practical and up to date:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Winning-Parent-Child-Parenting-Everybody/dp/0954943309

    This is a big field but worth a look:
    Self Determination Theory and the work of Deci and Ryan,
    http://www.psych.rochester.edu/SDT/

    Useful for those who use school as well as HEers:
    http://www.amazon.com/Guerrilla-Learning-Education-Without-School/dp/0471349607

    Gosh I nearly forgot this!
    http://www.amazon.com/Deschooling-Society-Open-Forum-Illich/dp/0714508799/ref=pd_sim_b_20

    which reminds me of this:

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Pedagogy_of_hope.html?id=wVXNl2s915cC

    This infed website is great:

    http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-illic.htm
    there's this too:
    http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-good.htm
    and many more

    I could go on....

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  32. ' Simon's slandering of AS Neil was missing the point in a similar way.'

    I have The New Summerhill right in front of me, as I write. I said abour Neill:

    'Two of the big influences on British home education are AS Neill, who ran Summerhill school and John Holt, an American teacher. Both had strange ideas about children and sex. Neill believed that children should be free to have sex whenever they wanted to and without restriction. This was part of his school’s ethos and probably a reaction to his Scottish upbringing during the late 19th Century.'

    I would be happy for anybody to explain how this is slandering the man; it is all taken directly from his own writings.
    Simon.

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  33. As regards slandering AS Neill, let's see what I said and why I said it. I wrote that his attitude to sex was:

    'probably a reaction to his Scottish upbringing during the late 19th Century.'

    He himself said:

    'I am quite willing to believe that my unconscious attitude towards sex is the Calvinistic attitude a Scottish village imposed on me in my first years of life'

    Slander? I wrote:

    ' Neill believed that children should be free to have sex whenever they wanted to and without restriction.'

    Neil himself said in The New Summerhill:

    'A girl or boy should be free to have a sex life when he or she wants it'

    I do wish people would familiarise themselves with this subject before accusing me of 'slander'; it simply makes them appear foolish.

    Simon.

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  34. "This was part of his school’s ethos"

    I am pretty certain that the schools ethos was not centred around children being free to have sex whenever they wanted.

    Both Holt and Neil were idealists, some of their ideas are intended for a utopia in which there is no coercion or dominance. Clearly we are not there yet! So we are not in a position to approach their more extreme ideas on freedom as it would simply not be safe to do so. We have no idea how such ideas would work in their utopia, it might be that children would not consider such relationships until they were truly adult and ready for them. I don't know.

    Back in the real world we protect children from harmful relationships in the same way that we protect them from double decker buses, until the time when someone invents a double decker bus that can hit a child and not harm it.

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  35. '"This was part of his school’s ethos"

    I am pretty certain that the schools ethos was not centred around children being free to have sex whenever they wanted.'

    Ypou obviously know nothing about Summerhill under AS Neill, nor about his writings on this subject. Slander, indeed.

    Simon.

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  36. From the Summerhill web site:

    21) What is the school's attitude to sex?

    Under British law it is illegal for children to have sex under the age of 16. In line with many other establishments that deal with teenagers in a real-life setting, we are supportive - providing them with information and advice wherever possible. We are proud of the fact that our children are unafraid to approach us to discuss anything. To our knowledge there has never been a pregnancy.

    31) How has the school changed since Neill was alive?

    The philosophy of the school has not changed at all. Although many exterior things have changed, it is comforting to see how the atmosphere and general feel of the place have remained the same over the years. Obviously as a living community there are constant small changes going on. Summerhill is like the sea - there is constant movement. The tides may change, but the sea remains the same.

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  37. AS Neill wrote:

    'of course adolescents at Summerhill must have slept together...How we have escaped pregnancies in all those years I do not know'

    'For many years I have advocated a sex life for adolescents'

    One only needs to read a few passages of AS Neill's writing on Summerhill to see he approved of children having sex together. He cites the case of two fifteen year-olds at the school who were having sex with his tacit approval. I really do suspect that some of those commenting here are not familiar with either Neill or Summerhill.

    Simon.

    ReplyDelete
  38. And of course, teenagers with strict parents and strict schools never have sex. 16 is the average age of first sex in the UK. It would be highly unusual for there to be no sex in a mixed residential school. Children with better education about sex are more likely to delay sex. Children who are free to ask advice are more likely to use protection. Some state schools have been known to provide condoms. Summerhill sounds to have a sound attitude to under age sex.

    ReplyDelete
  39. ' Summerhill sounds to have a sound attitude to under age sex.'

    That is another question entirely. I was accused of slandering AS Neill and I have been pointing out that I did no such thing; merey presented his views.

    Simon.

    ReplyDelete
  40. "That is another question entirely. I was accused of slandering AS Neill and I have been pointing out that I did no such thing; merey presented his views."

    So does this mean you agree or disagree with Neill/Summerhill's policy on under age sex? Your previous article suggested you thought his approach unsound (claiming he had strange ideas about under age sex and lumping him in with a discussion about paedophilia) so I don't think it is 'another question entirely'. The quote suggests that Summerhill's attitude to sex is the same as when Neill ran the school.

    If you disagree with their approach, what alternative would you suggest as an appropriate approach? If you agree, why the previous slur against Neill?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Strange blogger discrepancy. The home page says there are 43 comments, but this page says 40.

    ReplyDelete
  42. It's caught up now.

    ReplyDelete
  43. 'Strange blogger discrepancy. The home page says there are 43 comments, but this page says 40.'

    Another cospiracy theory in the making...

    Simon.

    ReplyDelete
  44. 'If you agree, why the previous slur against Neill?'

    Slander, slur... I think that the remedy is for me to make a separate post about Neill and Summerhill, which i shall do in the next few days.

    Simon.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "Another cospiracy theory in the making..."

    Hardly, I made the point that it was Blogger at fault. Another automatic assumption on your point that all home educators are conspiracy theorists...?

    "Slander, slur..."

    Either you believe that Neill/Summerhill's under age sex policy is appropriate, in which case lumping them in with talk of strange attitudes to sex and paedophiles in a slur, or you think their policy is inappropriate. Which is it? How about a straight answer for a change?

    ReplyDelete
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