Its a fabulous book on the author, A.S.Neill's, school in Suffolk, UK. The only rules that the adults in the school make are those that concern the physical safety of the kids. All other rules are made in a democratic manner by voting. The principal has one vote and so does a 7 year old. The children go to classes if they like, learn what they like and play when they like. Any contravention of the rules is also dealt in a democratic manner.
Instinctively we might expect anarchy as there are no rules. But, the author reports, something totally counter to this intuition. Children, he reports, are remarkably sensible to others' requirements and given this freedom to be who they are, develop into the most gentle and sensible adults. Most parents impose their morals, preferences, life choices, idea of a good life etc on kids and prevent them from expressing what comes naturally to them. This leads to individuals who are disturbed in one way or the other. As I read this book, I could see how some of these forces have shaped me and how those repressions in childhood still continue to haunt me.
This is an absolute must read for anyone who plans to have a child in their house anytime in the future :).
In many ways I agree with the philosophy of giving total freedom and this resulting in producing non-neurotic humans. When kids are suppressed from expressing anything in their childhood, they have a non-natural and unhealthy obsession towards it leading to a complicated adult.
But there are a few things that I do not totally agree with. In many aspects, I feel he has made the right start but does not go the complete distance. Especially regarding the issues of neurotic people, there is a lot more to be said and done. But, he stops with providing freedom in childhood. In addition, there seems to be an excessive influence of Freud on him. Almost everything is connected to sexual repression in childhood. For e.g., if a child is interested in a pen, then it is being connected to his penis which he was thwarted from playing with as a child. This could be true in some cases, but he connects almost everything with this.
All in a all, i think he was a fabulous human to have recognized the need for freedom. I personally feel that freedom is the most important thing for any human in his/her life. He has done a fabulous experiment in this regard. I just couldnt put the book down. Read it non stop to finish!