There once was a time when teachers and communities were able to exercise democratic control over their schools. Now that power has been taken away, both centralised and privatised, under the guise of “reform.” There is a forgotten history of the time before reform, and within it a bright horizon is visible, reachable only if educators and society at large can learn the lessons of the past.


Robb Johnson entered the classroom as a new teacher in the 1980s and has spent a lifetime alongside his pupils encouraging both creativity and a healthy distrust of authority. This book is both memoir and polemic, a celebration of children’s innate desire to learn, share, cooperate, and play, as well as a critique of bureaucratic interference. Johnson details how we ended up with the contemporary mass education systems and why they continually fail to give children what they need. Combining practical experience as a teacher with detailed pedagogical knowledge, and a characteristic playful style, Johnson is both court chronicler and jester, imparting information and creatively admonishing the self-important figureheads of the reform agenda.


This book considers how schools and education relate to the wider society in which they are located and how they relate to the particular needs and abilities of the people who experience them. It shows that schools and education are contested spaces that need to be reclaimed from the state, and turned into places where people can grow, not up, not old, but as individuals. It offers alternative ways of running classrooms, schools, and perhaps even society.


“I have rarely seen a book that is so embedded in what education is for and that then directs the reader to how to pursue the goals, in practice and at all levels of school infrastructure so that the way schools are structured adds to the goodness of society.”
—Marcelo Staricoff, author of Start Thinking, fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, and former headteacher

The People's Republic of Neverland: The Child versus the State

  • PM Press 2020

    New paperback

    297 pages