I was getting blogged down … too many ideas. A mini Book of Democratic School Essentials, More of the Design a School Project, Re-issues of The Best of the Past, especially from Jason who has always been better blogger than me. And flipping through a small cull of past writings and ideas.


So … Bits and Pieces #1: The Church of One Learning.

*Leonard’s Bits and Pieces are his opinions, and not necessarily those of Summerhill Democratics. We help you create Your School, Your Way.

Was strolling in the plaza in front of the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. The Christian Church was an early pillar of European education. With a single Holy Book and many other Approved Texts. If you believed in the fundamental teachings of the New Testament, on death you would end up at the Pearly Gates. You would sit your religious examinations. If you passed ( I’ve looked fruitlessly in the bible for the grade required) St. Peter, the Head of the Exam Board, would hand you a scroll and you would go to heaven. If you failed, it was hell. Fear played a huge part in encouraging people to believe and follow the path of the Holy Texts. Eternal Life depended upon it.

There is a disturbing similarity between that centuries old Hermetically Sealed Religious Package and modern education. Above is San Salvador. Below is Oxford University 2020.

Nation State Education is a Church and the young must worship for up to 20 years in this highly controlled One Learning environment. They must never miss a School Day Call-to-Prayer; parents are threatened and filled with fear regarding attendance. Little ones have Times Table Rosaries to kneel and mumble over.

The state sets a curriculum of Holy Texts. The education ‘Minister on High’ (Pope) approves those Holy Texts. From morning till afternoon the young worship; with extra scripture study at night. The local teacher-clergy are in close contact with the parents. ‘It’s best for the child’ they say, but actually it keeps parents in line by keeping them religiously involved. Parents are manipulated to BELIEVE. The Church of One Learning has little to do with rational thought.

We need ex soldiers in classrooms.
Let’s test in the womb.
The Whim is My Shepherd.

I won’t go into a rant about the untold whims and destructive paths of the often unqualified Ministers of Education but I refer you to a history of the Popes of Rome to get an idea of uncontrolled power. In Ontario, a spectacular example of what I’m talking about was the appointment of a Used Car Salesman as Pope of Education.

The fear and the weight of authority passes from The Holy Whim of the Minister on High ( Infallible until removed from office) to Local District to Local School to the Principal to the Teacher to the Parent to the child.

And So

If through 20 years of study the child masters the Holy Learning Texts she will have passed through Numerous Mostly Arbitrary Gates and finally attained the Heavenly Good Life of considerable stuff and considerable debt, a decent job she might like and perhaps some small kind of Happiness and Security unto Death.

If the child does not master the Holy Texts he will be doomed to Unemployment Failure and Economic Hell. Parents will be wracked with guilt remorse and failure. They will hide in shame from friends and family. Because, from the beginning they were warned by the government and the media to tow the line. But their Belief was Weak.


Your Child Without Timetables

Nowhere is there anything about freedom and democracy by the way. This is religion. The Church of Learning creates what it wants from citizens, depending on the society: obedience to authority ( corporate, military, theocratic, whatever), craving of a fulfilled consumer life, disdain of beards, dancing as evil, acceptance of a democracy that is not, on scrutiny, particularly democratic ( especially in daily life or in the work-place), acceptance of vast differences in wealth and power, of the destruction of the earth, an impotence and anxiety that too often create a susceptibility to manipulation by fear. Contentment with the status quo, of serial corruptions of the state… and much much more. 

Look back at the twentieth century. Highly educated Church of Learning Graduates created all of that horror.

Hell. Look around today.

Alarmingly, The Church/Mosque/Synagogue/or Temples of One Learning have no particular differences in educational ideology. You find the same type of Holy Educational Texts and school structures in autocracies, dictatorships as well as so-called ‘western democracies’. Because the main purpose of the One Church of Learning in all nations is CONTROL FOR PURPOSE. Control for purpose probably makes sense in dictatorships and autocracies. 

It’s damned weird to find it in nation states that are supposed to foster freedom, equality and democracy. 

(Perhaps, in an idle moment, you’ve noticed how many of the children of favoured dictatorships and autocracies slide seamlessly into the top western universities before returning to help oppress citizens in their home countries?)

Control for State Purpose is what democratic schools start poking at by regular practice in:


Authority Sharing

Democratic Meetings


Will Democratic Free Schools solve all the world’s problems? Of course not.

But societies can be better, democracy can be more meaningful, freedom in strong community can be possible. Children can be happier and learn more meaningfully and be empowered to develop personal developmental narratives beyond what the general public around the globe, with no experience but the Dictatorial Infallibility of the Church of Learning, can possibly imagine.

Let’s face it, in a modern democratic state, twenty years of hands on practice in freedom, authority sharing, democracy and community makes more sense than twenty years of living under an Educational Dictatorship. Don’t you think?

Start A School

Afterword: Leonard has great respect for state school teachers. It’s a near impossible job. He considers the 21 years he worked in an inner city school in Canada, where he developed Club House Democracy, as his most valuable teaching experience.