The Hedge Press
It is clear from his diary that something Anthony Ryle particularly disliked about school life was the lack of friends with whom he could share his strongly developing interest in politics. He began to overcome this feeling when he started attending conferences organised for schools by the Council for Education in World Citizenship—an offshoot of the League of Nations Union, founded immediately before the war to interest young people in international affairs and especially the settlement of international conflicts. CEWC stressed co-
The kind of political representation which could effectively deliver reform was a topic which necessarily arose in these discussions. For Anthony, it chimed with his own annoyance at the way school life was organised and discipline administered, especially in boarding schools' segregation from the outside world, and from the opposite sex. After evacuation to Newquay, Gresham's School became neighbour to Benenden girls' school, also evacuated. The conjunction led to struggles with the authorities in both schools which Anthony records in his diary. The CEWC conferences were attended by pupils from all kinds of schools, girls' and boys', and provided a welcome opportunity to mix freely amongst young people with interests and enthusiasms like his own.
education for life in a democratic state must entail to some extent the practice of democracy, while the existing forms of school government are essentially authoritarian. Nobody will deny that discipline is essential for the proper running of any community, but I contend that the essence of democracy is that this discipline should be, to the greatest possible extent, self-
His second article, written in reply to criticism of the first, was published in the Spring of 1944 as 'School democratisation: the thin end of the wedge'. Here is the text of that article:
In the last Phoenix I wrote an article under the title "Training for Democracy" calling for the granting of self-
In answering, I would say firstly that nobody can tell whether school-
No; what I suggest as a first move is a practical proposition; that public opinion in schools be made articulate by the formation of school newspapers, published three or four times a term, entirely by the pupils themselves. Briefly, the paper I visualise would contain: (a) Articles expressing views and giving news about general educational topics; (b) A section discussing the school's constitution, that is, discussing possible additions or amendments to existing school rules; (c) A section corresponding to Questions to Ministers in Parliament, where grievances and grumbles might be aired with emphasis on constructive suggestions, and with explanations (if any) from the authorities concerned; (d) A section giving statistical evidence of school opinion on controversial school issues. The paper might well include a literary section and a section for school societies, but these are outside the scope of this article.
Such a paper would arouse a very real and useful interest in the affairs of the school, and it would provide a much needed outlet for the thousand grumbles and criticisms of ordinary school life.
I think that the establishment of such a paper would in itself be a great advance, but in addition the paper might well prove to be only the thin end of the democratic wedge, for once people get interested in the government of their community, they begin to demand that they take a part in it. The satisfaction of this demand would result in the gradual democratisation of school life.
Through papers of this kind public interest would be aroused, public opinion both expressed and formed and a sense of social rights and duties would be awakened. I believe that the first step, an essentially practical one, which any school might take today, is the establishment of " pupils papers." Give us these, and we will soon show how much school democracy we want, and of how much we are worthy. Whether we'll get it remains to be seen.