Contributed by David Gribble, co-founder of Sands School in Devon - National Democracy Week - July 2018


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This is the next in our series of articles for National Democracy Week 2018 contributed by David Gribble, co-founder of Sands School in Devon. For more articles in the National Democracy Week series, see our campaign page here. We’ll be publishing new articles every day this week, so keep a look out for more takes on this important topic.




How many practioners of democratic education can you think of? My list includes Tolstoy, Dora Russell, A. S. Neill, Bill Curry, Jenifer Smith, John Holt, Dan Greenberg and Yakov Hecht. And Janusz Korczak, and Keiko Okuchi, and Pat Edwards, Rita Panicker, Helen Hughes and Kageki Asakura, and Amukta Mahapatra and Rashini Dongchai and Rebeka Wild. That list was just off the top of my head, but it is worth pointing out that more than half of them are women. And how many of your favourite educators have I missed out, and how many of the people in my list are completely unknown to you?


My guess is that you have probably never heard of most of them, and I think part of the reason for this is that democratic educators are all so deeply involved in the work that they do with young people that they have no time to publicise what they are doing. And a second reason is that many democratic educators are so sure their particular method is the only correct one, that they distance themselves from each other. I am particularly interested in rules and the absence of rules, and punishment and the absence of punishment, which means that I have reservations about the Sudbury approach, while Sudbury has reservations about Sands School because of the existence of a timetable.


The many annual conferences that have taken place over the last twenty years or so, the IDECs and the EUDECS and APDECS have demonstrated that there is a huge area of agreement. This is what we need to stress.


David Gribble


David was part of the founding team at Sands School, a democratic school in Devon which opened in 1987. He coordinated IDEN (International Democratic Education Network) and is editor of the Lib Ed Collective You can find out more about his work and access his numerous books, articles and videos on education at his website here.


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