There is no need to be in a hurry to grow up!

Teachers know more about their subjects but children know more about what it is like to be a child.


 Children naturally want to succeed

Why do so many teachers treat them as if they wanted to fail?


In conventional schools children are literally prisoners: the law keeps them in

Learning according to inclination is not an option; children's inclinations are not considered relevant; adults tell them what they must learn

They make the best of it and enjoy themselves as much as they can, but they are always under someone else's authority, unable to conduct themselves as they would wish, unable to follow up their own interests. School seems to be designed to destroy their individuality, to turn them all, as the Swiss teacher, Jürg Jegge says, into cogwheels that will fit smoothly into the machinery of society...


Education for Freedom

education for freedomAll over the Western world education is being reduced to forcing as many children as possible to take as many exams as possible ...

No wonder many children resist such attempts at control by creating classroom disturbance.


Unhappy at School?

A boy unhappy at school

When children are unhappy at school it is the schools that need to change, not the children.

It is a rational reaction to be unhappy when you have no power to change the situation you find yourself in...



David GribbleDemocratic Education is a growing movement, it is now being offered by over 200 places in more than 30 countries. I have given talks on the subject in France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Poland and Spain as well as Germany, Austria and the UK.


All the books listed except Considering Children can be bought from
the Lib Ed website, Considering Children can be
downloaded here, or bought second-hand through Abe Books or Amazon.

Auf Deutsch

Przekład polski

Real Education by Daivid GribbleReal Education: Varieties of Freedom

When I retired from teaching I had time to visit other schools around the world where children were treated with a proper respect. They differed widely. In this book there are descriptions of eighteen schools in eight different countries, often largely (and in the case of Summerhill entirely) in the words of pupils or ex-pupils.

Libertarian Education, 1998, £8.95
ISBN 0-9513997-1-3

Real Education was a book of the week in the Times Educational Supplement

Lifelines by David GribbleLifelines

A common objection to freedom in education is, “Of course it works with the children of wealthy, middle-class parents, but it would never work with the underprivileged.” Lifelines gives accounts of its success with children as far from the wealthy middle class as it is possible to go.

Libertarian Education, 2004, £8.95
ISBN 0-9513997-9-9

Lifelines was a book of the week in the Times Educational Supplement

Worlds Apart

Worlds Apart by David GribbleThe two worlds in question are the worlds of traditional education on the one hand, and Summerhill and Sands School on the other. They are described first in the words of their own prospectuses, and then in the words of their pupils, with matching topics on facing pages.

Libertarian Education, 2006, £8.95
ISBN 978-0-9551647-0-5

Worlds Apart was a book of the week in the Times Educational Supplement

A Really Good School by David GribbleA Really Good School

This is a satirical novel about an impossibly bad school, where every fault of traditional education is gleefully exaggerated. It is also murder story, with appropriate red herrings and suspense.

Seven-ply Yarns, 2001, £7.99
ISBN 0-9538797-1-2

That’s All, Folks: Dartington Hall School Remembered

This anthology includes at least one contribution by a pupil from every year of the history of Dartington Hall School, from 1929 - 1987. It is not a eulogy, and contains some emphatic criticism.

West Aish Publishing, 1987, £3.95
ISBN 0 9512735 0 7


Children don't Start Wars

Children don't Start WarsThe theme of this book is that altruism is a natural human characteristic which is eroded by social conditioning and the dominance of impersonal institutions.

"I am floored by the blazing honesty, insight, scholarship and truthfulness that shines from every page. . . . For me, it's the book we've all been waiting for."

Mary Leue, founder of Albany Free School and editor of SKOLE, The Journal of Alternative Education.

Peace News, 2010, £9
ISBN 978-0-946409-14-13,


Download the first two chapters here:  40kb
Children Don't Start Wars .doc  98kb



Downloadable Books (Free)

Considering Children by David GribbleConsidering Children: A parents’ guide to progressive education

I wrote it because I had so often been asked, “What is progressive education?” and I had found that I needed a whole book to answer the question.

Dorling Kindersley,1985, £8.95
ISBN 0 -86318-081-7 and 0-86318-0802-5

Download the book here:
Considering  1,174kb
Considering Children.doc  1.5MB


Escape from Tradition

Escape from TraditionThis is an autobiography of education. It travels from Nanny via Eton and Cambridge to Dartington Hall School, Sands School and beyond, to some of the most deprived children in the world.

Download the book here:
Escape from Tradition.doc  0.5MB


A Visitor from Erewhon

A Visitor from ErewhonIn Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited Samuel Butler delighted in attacking the complacency and hypocrisy of Victorian manners and religion. In A Visitor from Erewhon I attempt to do the same for the customs and beliefs of our early twenty-first century.

Download the book here:
A Visitor from Erewhon  635KB


Authoritarian Schooling

Authoritarian SchoolingThis is strictly speaking a website rather than a book, but it started out as a book. I had written a lot about places of education that I admired, but apart from one satirical novel, A Really Good School, I had not written anything much about what I disapproved of. Even when I started I intended to describe it as a catalogue rather than a book - A Catalogue of Damage was to be the title. I pictured it as a coffee-table book with a great many illustrations, but I found that I wanted too much text for that format, and I suddenly realised that the ideal structure would be a website, where readers could dodge from one topic to another as they liked. Since 2012, when the site was first posted, there have been over 130,000 hits on individual items, so it seems to have been a good idea.

Other recommended reading about democratic education



About David Gribble

We all tend to define ourselves as what we are now, forgetting that we were just as much ourselves when we were children.

People learn as they grow older, but they also forget. They acquire new skills, but such qualities as empathy, imagination and flexibility gradually fade. We all change, but not necessarily for the better.

At eighty-five I am not the same person as I was when I was twenty, or ten, or two. Nevertheless, what I have been is just as important as what I am now.


Books by David Gribble

All the books listed except Considering Children can be bought from
the Lib Ed website, Considering Children can be
downloaded here, or bought second-hand through Abe Books or Amazon.

crossword 20a


One of the things I do in my spare time is compile crosswords.

In the Saturday edition of The Times there is a special place for what is called The Listener Crossword.

The puzzles that appear there are supposed to be the world’s most difficult crosswords.

Compilers always have pseudonyms – mine is Waterloo.