We Recap Week 1 of Clubhouse Democracy 

What is a transitional model?

1.A demonstration for people who don’t know about democratic free schools, specifically parents, teachers, funding bodies, politicians, departments of education, universities. To show that democratic free school education is a valuable, realistic, even preferable education for children in a Democratic Nation.

2. Something that is not Summerhill. Summerhill is a boarding school, an independent school and of a certain size.  These schools will be day schools and they will be bigger.  Take the Summerhill model and transition it into a different context.  You lose and gain, but you want to keep a strong core of Summerhill essentials.

There should be a variety of transitional school models that could be studied and ‘cribbed from’ by mainstream schools.

What is Progressive Junk ?

This comes from a freak out, fear:

Summerhill is a very special model with a unique ambience; totally optional lessons and tons of free time. If you transfer that to a state school or a day school, you have free time in a very constricted context and you will probably be unsure what to do with it. 

Summerhill also follows the National Curriculum, which we suggest in a reduced format. When democratic free schools think “How am I going to fill lesson time ?” and add “ I want to get rid of the National Curriculum” they have even more looming ‘emptiness.’ 

The emptiness and resulting adult panic can lead to grabbing off the shelf ‘over- arching’ philosophy driven Curriculums. People start grabbing at things like Agile Learning, Multiple Intelligences, Harvard Models, Maker Curriculums and other Progressive Junk ( There’s no end to the private Progressive Junk for sale from the USA.)

Summerhill’s over-arching principle is freedom of action in democratic community. There is NO pedagogy. Students get offered the straightforward National Curriculum in an honest, no nonsense, optional way. 

There may, indeed, be positive components to progressive curriculum ‘Kit Thinking’ but as a philosophical model for a democratic free school it’s totally wrong.

What is a Clubhouse?

This started with Leonard’s State School work.  After two or three years in a traditional 30 student classroom Leonard thought he should be able to transition some stuff from his own democratic free day school.  He had to come up with a model to allow him to authority-share. 

The age group 11-12 was appropriate for Clubhouse Democracy since at that age students like being in charge of Treehouses and Clubhouses, their own spaces. The general list was:

Offer to share authority

Free time for the kids

Habitat change: mess around with furniture and areas to make a living/doing space

Cut back curriculum

Democratic meetings

When students came into the classroom it was run in a different way from the rest of the school. The children were proud of that.

School of 240 kids.  Eventually the upper floor of five classrooms of 25-30 students were following Leonard’s model … Clubhouse Democracy.

The behaviour at the state school was so bad that when Leonard’s model transformed that behaviour principals, superintendents didn’t really care what he was doing.  He called it business/corporate ‘Team based’. Later on he told the staff, principal about Summerhill.

Clubhouse Democracy works best from about 10-13 years of age: these are Veteran Children. Their Professional Child skill base is at its peak. They like to have a place that they can run.  They make rules and regulations for themselves, are good organisers, value independence, consider adults good working partners, understand authority sharing and the meta-dynamics of a state school if it’s deconstructed for them. Adults can leave them alone to get on with running things.

So the basic ideas from Leonard’s own democratic day school were transitioned to the state school and then from there transitioned again to re-structure Summerhill’s Class 2 program.

The steps to the model:

  1. Setting up the room
  2. The meetings
  3. Free time
  4. Free choice
  5. Share authority
  6. Chop down the curriculum

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