Response to a Response

A few weeks ago, I and others were interviewed for an article in the Park Slope Food Coop’s Linewaiters Gazette. I had pushed them to do this article, because, initially, the school was formed at the PSFC. The Brooklyn based food coop has some 16,000 members. The article was mostly positive and supportive and focused mainly on our acquisition of the new building.

The interviewer showed up on the day we were doing the Tanzania Talent show and fundraiser. The article appeared in the gazette about 3 weeks later.

Recently it was brought to my attention that there was a response to the article which I am sharing with you here. I am also posting my still unpublished response. to download issues of the Gazette. May 6th, 2010 : Volume EE, Number 9


HI – I was very interested in your article “A Home of Their Own.” My college had a whole class on the Summerhill School in England. We were all fascinated by the amazing freedom those kids had. However, it is interesting that the whole concept was later considered a social failure. A follow-up on students later in life revealed that none was ever able to fit in society; could not hold a job, or take responsibility of the kids they had, suffered from depression, some apparently committed suicide, etc. They were totally unprepared for the daily rigor and demands of basic life. I like the emphasis the Brooklyn school placed on play. How do they prepare kids to face the fact that living in society is about respecting rules and people’s boundaries?


Responding to: ON “A HOME OF

Dear J.
As a founding parent in this school, as well as one of those quoted, I would like to respond.

I am not sure of which Summerhill study you are siting, but to say the least, its findings seem extremely negative and slanted. It makes me think that whoever conducted this study, had an agenda.

One of the key differences that BFS has from Sumerhill is that it is not a boarding school, as none of our sister schools in other boroughs and cities are. Children go home to their families each day. To respond to your other point about respecting rules and such, my observations of the school show that our children learn to respect each other MORE so than in other schools. The democratic meetings, which are mandatory, serve to build self esteem, community, mutual respect for every ones point of view and a growing understanding on how to self-manage conflict.

Public schools have descended deeper and deeper into focusing only on test preparation, and saddle children with pressures unnecessary to develop problem solving skills in later life. This, on top of the all ready established fact that public schools are not learning institutions, but places to create obedience and build division among class and race.

My tepid research into what happens to alumni of free schools shows that many go onto careers involving humane issues (social work, teaching) or creative work of some kind. I guess that would support your assertion that “they do not fit into society.” It was found at Summerhill that they produced just about every kind of career with the absolute exception that NONE went on to be lawyers or politicians. I find the Brooklyn Free School not only a healthy environment, but one that also develops humane individuals. I have seen miracles with children who would have been drugged or marginalized in a public system


4 Comments on “Response to a Response”

  1. Wow. I am shocked that a professor was allowed to teach a course on Summerhill and use completely false information. I would be interested to know who taught the course so I could send them factual information to pass on to their students. Thanks for clearing some of this up Bruce. For information on graduates of democratic schools, there’s currently no better book than Lives of Passion, School of Hope by Rick Posner (

    • bzeines says:

      People always have a way of remembering the worst part of anything. That usually goes hand in hand with having an agenda to their argument. “of course Summerhill is good in spirit, but look at this marginal report that says otherwise”

      I checked with Dana Bennis (IDEA) and he said he has never seen any report expressing any such views, and he has read hundreds. My internet search came up empty. My reply will be printed in a future edition of the PSFC Linewaiters Gazette. The original article was celebrating our achievement of getting our own building and the fact that BFS was started as a result of a letter Alan wrote in the Gazette some 7 years ago. Regards.

  2. I forgot to sign that comment. -Isaac Graves

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