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International Socialism, Autumn 1967


Alan Woodward

The Men from the Boys


From International Socialism, No.30 (1st series), Autumn 1967, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Public Schools and the Future
J.C. Dancy
Faber, 25s.

The Public Schools & Guide to Comprehensive Education
Socialist Educational Association.

Talking of Summerhill
A.S. Neill
Gollancz, 25s.

Mr Dancy is a man of our times, believing strongly in the value of tradition but recognising the need to modernise. He uses some curious arguments. Single-sex boarding schools, for example, make boys into real men by the pressures or identification with their own sex.

Nevertheless change must come and the Public Schools Commissioners, including the author, are planning ‘integration.’ Some system of eliciting Government grants, with as loose a form as possible, must be expected. This book presses a well-backed favourite and the PSC need not be disturbed that the Conservatives turned down a very similar scheme, £15 million subsidy and all, in 1961.

The SEA booklet outlines its evidence to the PSC. It also amasses pages of facts to show exactly the extent of privileges in Public Schools and demolishes the ‘Direct Grant’ system much favoured by Mr Dancy. This is a tolerably radical document, though with plans to negotiate for the acquisition of public schools and retain Church schools, it has obvious limitations.

Guide to Comprehensive Education is concerned mainly with the organisation of the schools. It is straightforward and factual though containing little on unstreamed classes or de-streaming schools.

A.S. Neill’s early efforts to break traditional pedagogic philosophy are well known and this latest book is a restatement of his liberalism. He says virtually nothing about applying his ideas today. Comprehensives are very briefly discussed and criticised solely for being too big. Even the Risinghill episode gets only ten lines. Experiments in social services are often important as blue prints for national welfare schemes, as exemplified in early medical services.

Self-governing schools and similar ventures have been singularly unsuccessful in this respect. They have become a cheaper and more acceptable alternative, within the same private sector, to the public schools. Today the relevance of pioneer Neill is less than ever.

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Last updated on 31.12.2007