Books on Democratic Education
The classic on this subject is AS Neill, Summerhill: a radical approach to children’s education (1960), about the school that began in England in 1921. Other books, mainly on philosophy, and the experiences of Sudbury Valley School , Can be found on the website of the Sudbury Valley School Library. One classic that served as a manifesto for the founding of the school is The Crisis in American Education. Other popular books depicting life at school are free, The Sudbury Valley School Experience and Kingdom of Childhood.
Evidence of the educational effectiveness of democratic schools
Democratic schools do not test students because they believe that each person’s education is unique and personal, and that the very act of testing interferes with self-motivation and self-education. However, students wishing to apply to a selective college or university usually study and take the SAT or ACT as part of their application process, and postgraduate studies suggest that they have no particular difficulty in doing so. The best evidence for the educational effectiveness of democratic schools comes from the testimonies of school graduates and systematic follow-up studies of graduates. Three very rigorous follow-up studies were conducted with graduates of the Sudbury Valley School, which is the largest (and one of the oldest) democratic school in the United States. The first of these studies, conducted by Boston College researchers, was published in 1986 in the American Journal of Education and is available here. Two more studies were conducted more recently by the school itself and were published by the Southbury Valley School Press: Legacy of Trust: Life After Sudbury Valley Experience and the Pursuit of Happiness: Lives of the Students of the Sudbury Valley. Overall, studies show that school graduates have had great success in their postgraduate studies (for those who chose this route) and careers. They have gone to all walks of life that are valued in our society and declare that they are favored by a sense of personal responsibility, self control, continuity of learning and democratic values acquired in the Sudbury Valley. More evidence can be found in a series of 14 short videos titled The Lives of Alumni, based on Sudbury Valley alumni conferences as part of the 40th anniversary celebration in Variety of Past People From different backgrounds, talking about their experiences in School and their experiences since graduation. Some research studies have documented a relationship between the desirability of students’ democratic participation in school and their attitudes toward themselves and toward learning. One of them, known as the Hannam Report, based on a survey of 12 British schools by former school inspector Derry Hannam, suggests a positive effect of student participation in school governance. Self-esteem, empowerment and motivation to learn. Another relevant study has been conducted in Israel and shows that the decline in interest in science that occurs regularly in conventional schools has not occurred in democratic schools.a