Monday, January 28, 2008

Summerhill and Lord of the Flies

When Nick Clegg announced his new Free Schools policy he inspired Jo Anglezarke to write in praise of the "experimental" school Summerhill.

Yesterday Dare to Know drew attention to a CBBC series on Summerhill and quoted this comment on William Golding's Lord of the Flies:
"That single book did more than anything else to damage people's faith in the essential decency of children," says Jon East, head of drama at CBBC and director of Summerhill. If repressed public schoolboys who are used to being caned are suddenly left unrestricted on a desert island, it's not surprising that these terrible instincts are unleashed.
In fact, Golding makes it clear that he is writing about younger boys than East seems to imagine. But there is something to his argument: see my own discussion of the book and its influence in Reading Lord of the Flies today.


Alex Wilcock said...

The whole series was shown as a feature-length compilation on BBC4 tonight, and it was rather inspiring! Well worth looking out for the episodic version.

A terrific set of actors, and some great use of the kids’ imaginations delivered direct to screen, too. Splendid to see a mostly true story of Labour’s control-freakery coming so badly unstuck, and free will triumphing.

Anonymous said...

The problem with these arguments about Lord of the Flies is that modern school playgrounds still resemble jungles and, left unfettered, bullies will still establish their domains. It's generally accepted that adult intervention of some kind is the only answer - nowadays a better awareness of bullying means the intervention may be aimed at encouraging children in constructive play rather than gang warfare and picking on the weak.

I went to a 60s prep school and most of the time we were pretty good at looking after ourselves and creating fun activities involving most kids. However sometimes it got out of hand and bullies emerged and when that happened they weren't dealt with, unless we did it ourselves.

Anonymous said...


IIRC the state campaign against Summerhill actually began under the Conservatives. I don't think it was actually a case of government attacking them so much as the bureaucracy running amok.

I did think that the programme was a very important contribution to the education debate, and it is a pity it hasn't received more attention.