Unease with schooling is not new. Bertrand Russell writing in 1926 noted that, “We are faced by the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought”. (From 'On Education' p.28) In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a variety of those concerned with education – Edmond Holmes, A.S.Neill, Rudolf Steiner, Margaret McMillan, Charlotte Mason, Susan Isaacs and Bertrand Russell were critical of schooling and went on to suggest more personalised, democratic and humane forms of education as alternatives.
However, in the 1960s and 1970s, a period of social and cultural upheaval in the West and political change caused by decolonisation in many developing countries, a number of writers again began to question and critique the relevance and benevolence of schooling. This book examines the main ideas in a dozen or so key texts on schooling produced roughly during the period 1960 to 1980. For reasons of space, a selection had to be but there were other important books produced during the period that are not considered here. The writers selected are Edward Blishen, Paulo Freire, Paul Goodman, James Hemming, John Holt, Ivan Illich, Philip Jackson, George Leonard, Soren Hansen and Jasper Jensen, Julius Nyerere, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Everett Reimer, and Carl Rogers. This book then examines the extent, if any, to which these critiques had an effect on changing and improving the nature of schooling provided today and how in many ways the situation is now actually worse because their insights were ignored or dismissed. All schools of the compulsion model are toxic, but some are more toxic than others? The book concludes with what needs to be done to reverse the toxic effects of schooling.
Dr. Clive Harber is Professor of International Education at the University of Birmingham.