Real Education: Varieties of Freedom
by David Gribble
reviewed by Robin Martin

We've imported this book from the UK because there's nothing quite like it in North America. David Gribble, who taught for thirty years in a British free school, Dartington Hall, and then founded another, Sands, reports on seventeen exemplary democratic schools in nine countries around the world. He has visited most of them and interviewed many of the people involved, and describes in intimate detail how these schools got started, how they work, and how students and teachers experience these free environments. Although they reflect diverse cultures and, as the subtitle suggests, different ways of thinking about freedom in education, they share many common principles, such as a commitment to participatory decision making and honest relationships between adults and children.

Real Education examines some schools that readers will recognize, such as Summerhill in the UK and the Sudbury Valley School in the US, as well as little known schools in Ecuador, Israel, India and other places that have much to teach us about the possibilities of education when it is freed from the constraints of standardized curricula and top-down management. These educators have grappled with numerous challenges in their quest to provide meaningful and responsive learning environments, and their groundbreaking efforts invite us to carry on this vital endeavor.

Bottom line: Freedom works. Just as previous reports of alternative schools have documented, Gribble demonstrates that such genuine communities of learning are healing and nourishing environments. They are based on a profound trust in innate human capacities. Says Gribble, "Just as natural laws lead to the successful growth of plants and animals, so will they also lead to the successful growth of children in their physical, intellectual, social and spiritual selves."

You may order this book from Down-to-Earth Books
or by writing
OR by contacting Great Ideas in Education
Box 328, Brandon, VT 05733-0328