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Childhood trauma and its consequences
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 Post subject: Imagine a School
PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 7:08 pm 
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I haven't been so turned on or keyed up about anything since For Your Own Good. I'm so keyed I'll even do something I've never done: use "garner" and "bode" in a sentence, and the same one at that: It bodes well for everybody that Summerhill has garnered so much recent attention.

Even though some residents have described it as "heaven", it's obviously "only" very, very sane. It's not utopia. It's "only" very, very good. And it's very, very real, not some untested hypothesis or some "novel approach" without a track record. It's no cult, either. There's no life-long commitment to any sort of fairy-tale belief system. People come through those years as individual and unique as when they entered, and are at the same time as "regular" as anyone else out here, maybe the main difference just being that they know from their personal experience that it ain't necessarily so that "you can't be too careful who you trust"--that treated with respect and given the chance to be themselves, human beings are capable of being some pretty okay people.

And I didn't notice any mention of "therapy" or "therapists" in this film. I think this is huge. I don't know if Zoe Redhead has any special training in psychology or not but I'd bet a box of doughnuts she has none. To me, the whole point of Miller (not that she'd necessarily agree) is that anybody--and without "special training"can treat kids decently, and that that's the whole solution to just one HECKuva lot, in a nutshell.

"Okay that's great for them and the coming generations, but what about us poor, already-screwed-up adult wretches living isolated out here, trying to survive in a pathological, uncaring culture? It sucks to be us! We need therapy! We know we do!" Oh yeah? Well there's sure plenty of it around, if you've got the bucks. There are somewhere between I'd guess about fifty and a zillion "schools" of it, too, offering plenty of choices, just like religions and maybe like political philosophies as well. Pain does suck. Absolutely--there's just no doubt and there's definitely too much of it. But don't the overwhelming majority of Summerhill people leave that place carrying much less pain than when they entered without having been influenced or 'guided' or 'healed' by anyone other than essentially themselves and each other? In a diseased culture it only stands to reason that no one is entirely healthy. This would include therapists. Going one-on-one (or even hoping for safety within a "group") with a sicko for prolonged periods--even one who is trying to honestly find their own answers--sounds risky to me! Conversely, with few exceptions very few of the human beings I have personally ever known are thoroughly diseased, either. I believe politicians as a group, for instance, "suffer" greatly from "anti-social personality disorder" ("The good look good, the bad look bad, the very bad look....good!"). Still, I think it would be ridiculous to accuse any politician (or at least the majority of the garden-variety type) of being "thoroughly evil". They're not. In my strongly held opinion, individual politicians (and lawyers, and educators, and pharmaceutical conglomerates) are on average only maybe about 80% evil. Maybe 85. My strong suspicion is that at Summerhill the roots of that kind of bullshit is peer-exposed--there's nowhere for it to run and hide; the "sufferer" eventually has no choice but to admit he or she is full of shit, cut the crap and just start having fun and living again like a regular kid. But my point is that lived carefully enough and following the Summerhill example, we might try just looking for and interacting with that 20% that's still undamaged in most of us--avoiding outright abusive relationships at all costs (we know what that is, don't need further "instruction"!) I mean that simply maintaining faith in ourselves and the notion that if nothing else Mother Nature wouldn't have put us here without having provided some innate healing mechanism--same as she did for broken bones, burnt fingers and stubbed toes--and maintaining faith in the healthy parts of those ("normal, regular" people) around us as well--works not just "as well" but even better than any artificial scheme for recovery from trauma that has yet been concocted. Nobody's better than anybody else. Nobody has "the answer". Everybody's completely equal. Everybody's shit stinks. Ask any Summerhill kid. Oh wait they got plenty of toilets now...

The four-part series I can't comment on. It came through with audio only. No video. Didn't watch.



Steve


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 Post subject: Re: Imagine a School
PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 6:41 pm 
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Glad to see that the Summerhill documentary made an impact on you, Steve. A.S. Neill's classic book Summerhill - A Radical Approach to Education (1962) is on the shelves of a lot of teachers. http://www.teachers.tv had put the book in their top 10 of all time best educational books. It reminds me of all those psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers who have Alice Miller's first book in their collection. Apparently what people read and how it effects them and how to use the information to change things fundamentally, has a big gap. Summerhill shows painstakingly what's wrong with conventional schooling. A school that has been around for 70+ years, which gets some of the most troubled kids of the country and abroad (!), should have been accepted as the standard way to 'school' children. Imagine if normal schools were like this, what huge impact that would have on society.

Ironically, those in power rely on an authoritarian system and will defend that with all they have. No government will subsidize these type of schools, and many times new schools working according Neill's principle of letting the child be in charge of their own lives, vanish within the year because it cannot survive on the donations of a handful parents. Summerhill is not a perfect school, because these kids don't have perfect parents, but these kids are happier when they come out. And seeing it, in a documentary, is different, than reading about it. Alice Miller's critique is that Neill's anti-authoritarian ideology is also an ideology and cannot be imposed on children. Fair enough, but experiencing this as a child - as opposed to an adult who's reading about it - is quite different and wonderful to see. You cannot teach this, it comes through your won experience, which A.S. Neill had done, how to deal with free children. Unfortunately too many adults tried to start schools like this and failed miserably because they weren't able to trust the children's ability to make the right choices. In his autobiography, Neill, Neill, Orange Peel (1972), he wrote that he was worried if Summerhill would continue to exist, because his daughter Zoe was not interested. Thankfully, she must have changed her mind some point in time, and continued the struggle to defend the most threatened school in the world. Politicians hate spontaneity, and they must hate to see that flourish in the Summerhill children. Interesting to see that the world's most democratic school, isn't like at all by politicians in democratic countries.

Steve wrote:
Okay that's great for them and the coming generations, but what about us poor, already-screwed-up adult wretches living isolated out here, trying to survive in a pathological, uncaring culture?


We meet hesitantly in the corners of the Internet, learning to scream louder and demanding our lives back with everything that was taken away from us by uncaring people.

Dennis

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Everything I write here is my opinion, not absolute truths but I don't want to start every sentence with in my opinion...


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