A Conversation About Happiness: The Story of a Lost Childhood

Helen E Lees


I wanted to read this book because I thought that it would give me insights from a “pupil’s” perspective into the radically democratic Summerhill School, based since 1927 in Leiston, Suffolk, UK. I had also heard intimations on BBC Radio Four that it contained details of child abuse at Summerhill. In the light of work by Ian Stronach and Heather Piper on Summerhill as a community where such things would be hard to perpetrate given the open forum of the Meeting (see Stronach & Piper, 2008) and the overall democratic atmosphere where abusive behaviour would struggle to hide, I wanted to see what that claim was all about.

With regard to the details of Summerhill as school, they were few. My hope for insights was occasionally met in small ways but always accompanied by rather bitter psychological...


Educational alternatives; progressive education; alternative education; difference; educational theory; educational philosophy; home education; education policy

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Stronach, I., & Piper, H. (2008). The case of “relational touch” at Summerhill School. Can liberal education make a comeback? American Educational Research Journal, 45(1), 6-37.

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