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In this essay the discourse will be on progressive education, some of the old and the recent progressive educators will be mentioned. Free schooling and the type of education rendered in Summerhill School will be analysed. The philosophy of Neill, the founder of the Summerhill School will be discussed as well as the impact Summerhill education has on the lives of its graduates, especially their ability to adapt to the outside world on leaving Summerhill School. Summerhill School is an independent progressive and free school founded by Neill Summerhill in 1921.
The school was originally set up as a community for delinquent children but other children without behavioural problems were later admitted to benefit from the application of the psychoanalytical theory. Progressive Education Progressive education movement started in Europe and United States around the 19th century to reintroduce freedom in the area of learning as a reaction to what was assumed to be the very narrow and too formal nature of traditional education. The progressive education proponents believe in growing a new type of children that will not match to the orthodox structure and ethos of public schools.
As an objective, the progressive education thinkers aimed to educate “the whole child” i. e. having to address his/her physical, emotional and intellectual growth; and to encourage the child to participate in learning. The progressive education thinkers propound that “a child learns best by actually performing tasks associated with learning” (Britanica, Vol 9:722, 1995). One other progressive educational philosophy is that children must be untied from inflexible educational structures like making pupil to obtain a particular knowledge whether they enjoy it or not.
This movement led to the proliferation of experimental progressive schools in both Europe and the United States. In Italy for example the Montessori schools were established, in England Cecil Reddie established the Abbotsholme in 1889 and A. S. Neills founded the Summerhill in 1921. In America, Dewey founded the Laboratory Schools at the University of Chicago in 1896. However, the progressive education movement attracted sharp criticisms from all kinds of quarters and the society saw them as radicals and non-conformists.