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Life at Sudbury Valley

From Kingdom of Childhood
"If you're doing one hard thing, it's not that different from doing another hard thing."

From Kingdom of Childhood
"We were a small group of people bouncing ideas off each other."

From Kingdom of Childhood
"Communication with everybody was the biggest thing we did."

From The View From Inside
On the Nature of Sports at SVS

From Free at Last
Classes

From Free at Last
Persistence

From Reflections on the Sudbury School Concept
Bells

From Announcing a New School
The Physical Plant


From Kingdom of Childhood
Edited by Mimsy Sadofsky and Daniel Greenberg,
from interviews by Hanna Greenberg

"If you're doing one hard thing, it's not that different from doing another hard thing."

          I came to Sudbury Valley the first summer we were open. I was seven. I was really surprised when I saw the school. The picture I had before I came was nothing like what it turned out to be! I had imagined it to be a place with rooms that had labels according to what you did inside the rooms a room that said "Science," and a room that said "Reading," and I don't know what else. My picture didn't look like the public school I went to, but it also didn't look like a house; it looked institutional.
          The school is such a great looking building to a little kid, big and old and kind of mysterious. It was exciting to go there and find out that it looked like some old mansion, where you can get lost or hide from people if you want to and not be found, and things like that. I remember just feeling joy at being at this place where I could do what I wanted where I wanted. The school was physically beautiful, and to be around this beautiful place and not be constrained was wonderful. The grounds were also incredible, and walking around on the rocks the rocks were really frightening! They were big. They were several times higher than I was, and people were jumping around on them. It amazed me that people were just going up there to this far away, scary place and nobody was attempting to make them not do that.
          I had gone to public school the year before. I had ambivalent feelings about it. I liked learning how to read. That was fun, and the teacher I had was a nice woman. When fall came and I was at Sudbury Valley instead of in public school, I started to get worried about whether I was going to be learning enough, and whether I was going to be missing things; so I went back to public school at the beginning of second grade, for maybe a week. That was long enough for me to realize that I had made a mistake. Second grade in public school was horrible, boring, and incredibly tedious. So I came back and re- enrolled at Sudbury Valley.
          The whole time I was enrolled, I wasn't concerned about my education. I never felt I needed to create a "program of studies" for myself; I didn't ever again feel that was an important thing to do. I knew enough people outside of school to feel like I wasn't any worse educated than they were! I never asked myself, "Am I satisfied with the way I'm being educated?" I usually just came to school and tried to figure out what was going on, and if there was something going on that I was interested in, then I would do it. If there wasn't, I would go read. In general, I don't remember thinking, "Is what this person is doing ok?" I had the idea that it wasn't really my business what someone was doing. He was doing what he was doing and that was sort of the beginning and the end of it.
          The first thing I remember clearly spending lots of time doing was the Plasticene Village, a table in the art room taken over for full-time use for plasticene. On some days, I would do it from the moment I got there to the moment I left. I don't know how long it lasted, but it seems like it went on forever! We made houses and people; those were pretty basic. The more complicated things were machinery and stuff like that. You had to convince people your machinery worked, so you needed some superficial knowledge of how it ought to work, and you had to be able to point to where the different parts were. It was wonderful fun.
          All of us graduated many years ago, and it turns out that it wasn't a bad thing at all to be doing plasticene all day for a year or so! But I don't know how I would have dealt with that if I was a staff member then, and a parent said to me, "I can't believe it. My kid is playing with plasticene for a whole year. This is terrible." It's hard. I'd have to tell the parent, "Look, what's wrong with your kid doing this? He's having fun, he's probably learning stuff, although who knows what." I don't know how the staff dealt with it.
          Until I was thirteen or fourteen, I read a lot of science fiction and not much of anything else. At thirteen or so, I started reading other things, like Russian literature; that was because everybody was interested in Solzhenitsin. His books had just been coming out in the West and people were reading them and talking about them. That was the first Russian literature that I read. I read The Gulag Archipelago, Part I and I think I may have read Part II sometime, but I was much more interested in his novels: The Cancer Ward and A Day in the Life. Then I started reading a lot of other Russian literature too, because in his novels there are references to other things and that always made me curious to know what the other things were. I was always reading at school, sometimes a lot. Just like there were days when I would play with plasticene all day, there were days when I would come in and read all day.
          Outside, I played a lot of soccer. The soccer games were really great, mostly because of Mitch. Everybody would play, people of all different sizes. Mitch always made sure that all the little kids got treated fairly and that nobody got left out. He was gentle, and I think he held the other big kids who may not have been so gentle in check. I thought of him as sort of a role model; he was the only older kid who I looked up to.
          The other thing I did outside a lot was play war. We used to go off either to the area around the barn and stables or behind Dennis' house [no longer there ed.]. It was always an all day thing. You would go out mid-morning and you wouldn't come back until it was time to go home. This was a problem because people weren't ever sure when they were going home and parents would come looking for them and they just wouldn't be there; and their mothers would have no way of finding them.
          The game involved dividing the group into two teams, and then everybody would have a stick and you would kind of tramp around hiding in the jungle and in the forest and trying to shoot people on the other team with your stick. If you got shot you had to walk, usually to the parking lot, and then come back, and then you could be alive again. This was a big incentive to stay alive, because that's a long walk!
          People always argued about whether they got shot. Somebody would be running from one tree to another and say, "You couldn't have hit me," or "What kind of a gun do you have?" and things like that. We played that mostly in the spring or fall, because in the winter it's just too cold to sit still behind a tree for hours and hours.
          During the winter sledding was the thing. We used to sled down to the millhouse, which was kind of bad because the millhouse was at the bottom! If the ice was frozen, we used to sled down the hill toward the pond instead, which was much more fun because we'd go sliding across the pond. You could go from one end of the pond to the other on the speed you picked up on the hill.
          At one time, there was a fort that some kids built, that I used to go to. It was a secret for a while. Frank hit me once when I tried to follow him there, but somehow I ended up going anyway. It was kind of neat because it was made out of tree limbs, draped over a frame, with pine branches on top of the tree limbs. If you were inside of this thing, I doubt that you would stay dry in the rain, but you felt pretty sheltered. There was also a "well" there. It was this big hole that they had dug, and it wasn't really a well. It was just a deep hole that would fill up with rain water all the time.
          My favorite room in the school was the sewing room, and the place that I particularly liked sitting was near the solarium. I can read in a noisy room, but conversations sometimes bothered me, and then I'd go to a quieter place; or if I was in a quiet room, I would try to get people to be quiet, which was sometimes not so easy.
          When I first got to the school we all had the idea that the school was going to be a raving success and that pretty soon we were going to have 1,000 students and lots of buildings and things. This sounded great, and it was something I thought would happen. Later on, when the school wasn't that big I was conscious of there not being many people around, and I would really have liked to have a lot more people to talk to. There wasn't anybody else interested in things like algebra and I felt it would have been fun to talk to somebody else who was interested, not to get help, but just to talk about it.
          While I was there, I desperately wanted the school to be bigger. I think for me as a student there, it would have been much better if it was bigger. Most of the time I was there, the only friends I had my age were Gabriel, Judy, and Rudy, and that wasn't because I wasn't friendly. That was because there wasn't anybody else my age. The people who were my friends were really intelligent and interesting, but it would have been great to have more. I have to add that I don't remember feeling that individual friendships were that important. What was important was being able to join a group of people that I liked.
          I did math sometimes during those years not generally at school, but usually at home with a mathematics book written for adults to learn elementary mathematics. Everything that I learned before I started to learn algebra I learned out of that book, or by asking one of my parents to show me.
          After I had sort of figured out all the elementary things to do, I wasn't very interested in it. Then, at some point, I became interested in understanding why and how nuclear bombs and nuclear reactors work. So I would go and pick up books that I couldn't understand. The first thing that was identifiable as being incomprehensible was the mathematics in the books. It was easy to see that one of the reasons I couldn't understand anything was because the mathematics made no sense to me whatsoever, because it was algebra and I had never thought about algebra at all. There were other things too, but that was the first problem. So I decided to learn algebra so I'd be able to figure out things more easily. I looked at the algebra textbooks in the library until I found one that seemed OK and I just read it and did all the problems. It was something I did on my own. I didn't need any help with it. When something puzzled me I just worked at it until I figured it out. There were people I could have turned to, but there was nobody that I did turn to.
          The algebra took me something less than a year. There were two books, Algebra I and Algebra II. The thing that was really stupid was that I did all the problems in the book. I didn't realize until a long time later that this was not the way anybody ever learns anything out of a textbook! It just takes too long. Then I found that I still couldn't understand the things I wanted to read. I figured, well, the thing I should do now is try to understand more elementary physics, and so I asked Danny to help me with that. I had a physics textbook, and I just started at the beginning and read it and tried to work out problems. When I would get confused, I would go find Danny and make an appointment to talk to him sometime and ask him questions. I enjoyed it until I got to studying something that I couldn't make any sort of sense out of, the part about how gyroscopes work, which was somewhere in the first quarter of the book that I had, and I just couldn't get that to make sense to me, because the way gyroscopes work doesn't make any intuitive sense. So I stopped doing it because I was frustrated, and I was tired of trying to think about it and not having it make sense.
          My learning algebra was more or less goal oriented, although I never reached the goal I was aiming for, which was to be able to read papers and books about nuclear physics and understand them; but it was still goal oriented. It's just that it was for a goal that I wanted instead of a goal that somebody else told me I should aim for. I think this is how people make themselves miserable: instead of living their lives according to what they want to do, they try to use some other standards to live their lives. I think people are supposed to be happy. They're not supposed to be unhappy. It's selfish, but I also think it's right.
          I didn't think about math and physics very much after I stopped learning physics. Actually I didn't think about math much until I started teaching some people at school. When I was twelve, I probably would have said I wanted to be a zoologist when I grew up because I was interested in animals.
          I started taking piano lessons when I was thirteen. I just wanted to be able to play some songs I liked. After a few weeks, my piano teacher tried to get me to play classical music and I soon found that I really liked a lot of the things she was getting me to play short, easy pieces by Haydn or Beethoven, people like that. Also, I started to listen to a lot of music after I started taking piano lessons. Before, I didn't listen to much music at all.
          I practiced mostly at home for a couple of years, and then after that I practiced some of the time at school. There were days when I would practice a lot more and days when I would practice a lot less. I kept it up for ten years, practicing progressively more and more hours a day. I would have a vision of wanting to be able to play certain pieces, and then I'd get to the point where I could play those pieces and I'd want to be able to play other pieces that were harder. I didn't think about what it would do for me. I just thought it was something I wanted to do. I believe that everything you do helps everything else you do, because if you're doing one hard thing, it's not that different from doing another hard thing. It may take different physical skills, or maybe different mental habits, but it takes the same kind of concentration and requires the same kind of thinking.
          For some reason, I fell in love with the way a harpsichord sounded and I really wanted one. It seemed like it would be fun to build one, and it wasn't that expensive. I had been working part time so I had enough money to buy a kit. I made it in school, and I got a lot of advice from Sam at various stages. The directions were reasonably explicit. A lot of it was tedious and time consuming, but there were only a few things that were hard. The beginning was especially fun; what you're doing is putting the case together, gluing big pieces together and trying to get joints to come out right and stuff like that. Then later on, there's a lot more stuff that it's easy to mess up on and you have to do over again a bunch of times so you get it right.
          During the years that I was doing music, I still played outside. Maybe less, but the things I did outside were a little bit different. I still played soccer a lot. I played Capture the Flag some, but the problem was that by then I was too much bigger than everybody else. It's no fun unless you're more or less the average size. Everybody's too scared of you and you can't be invisible. If you're small you can slip behind the line and nobody notices you. I also went cross country skiing and walking and digging in the woods for bottles and riding my bicycle around the area, usually with a friend.

          In my teens, I became interested in the administration of the school. I don't know why, really. I remember thinking that it was fun to be involved with certain things, like the judicial stuff and the trials. I also thought that the more people that were involved with administration, the better. I felt some sort of civic duty to be involved with it to a certain extent. Everybody felt loyal to the school, but people did different things about it. I don't think I felt more loyal to the school than my friends who were not interested in administration.
          I was Building Supplies Clerk for a while. That was just somebody who went around and kept the toilet paper and the paper towels and the soap in stock. I had to get somebody to take me to the store to buy cases of paper towels and toilet paper occasionally. The soap we had then was terrible, a powdered soap that was so abrasive you could hardly use it. If you had to wash your hands more than three or four times in a day, you'd have running sores.
          I was Building Maintenance Clerk one year. I really wanted to know about these things and I wanted to do them and see what they were like. But I never felt I was doing a good enough job at it. It wasn't as big a job the year I did it as it is most of the time, because there wasn't anything major going on. There wasn't any money to spend anyway. All the little things that came up, I could easily fix, like if a doorknob fell off someplace, or a window pane got broken or something like that. Also, I liked fooling around with electrical and electronic things that the Audio Visual Corp. had, so I would keep them going.
          I was Law Clerk when I was thirteen. The work was awesome. The judicial system is streamlined now compared to the way it was then. We kept track of everything by hand then. There was a listing of each trial by trial number, and there was a listing by charge, and there were listings for each individual too. So there were all these records to be kept, and the first time I had to do it I was overwhelmed; it took getting used to so I wouldn't forget to put something down some place. I remember sitting at the table with all this stuff and just trying to figure out what to do with it all and where to find what I needed and where to put everything.
          I can remember the first time I had to go around and notify people of trials. The scary thing was talking to a little kid who didn't already understand what was going on. Lots of times complaints could go through, testimony could be taken, and School Meeting could vote a trial for some kid who was new to the school and still didn't really understand what was happening.
          I also ran the mimeograph machine for years and years, and collated whenever we had something long to do, like a long newsletter or when somebody would publish a long article. I can remember collating with Gabriel. We'd put down long planks on a table so you'd get more pages on them. We had a lot of fun doing that. We would just walk up and down talking to each other and collating these long things. It would sometimes take hours to do. It's funny, I don't think of myself as being talkative, but I guess I talked a lot, to a lot of people. I talked to Gabriel probably more than anybody else, and I talked to Margaret Parra a fair amount when I was older.
          For years there were water fights and nobody ever made a fuss about them because they were always done covertly, and nobody was aware of them or nobody knew exactly who had done them. The best ones were with paper towels which we would soak in water "gloppies" and throw at each other. The best times were at night in the winter, when it's dark at 4:30. The staff members would all be up in the office and there wasn't anybody working in the kitchen, so the downstairs of the school didn't have that many people in it, particularly the art room, the main lounge, the library workroom and then down the stairs into the basement. The basement was the main area for the water fights. You had to be careful running from the art room (where you usually got the paper towels and water) to the basement, but once you were in the basement, there wasn't likely to be anybody there. It felt really neat to be in the building when there weren't very many people around and it was dark and mysterious. Actually, at the time, water fights weren't illegal. There was a special law made about them later.
          I liked the pot luck dinners at night a lot, but wasn't so crazy about the spring picnics because I liked to be in the school after dark, running around outside. That was fun and different, whereas when I was a little kid the picnic was always just a pain in the neck. You'd go to school and there would be your school, but you couldn't really do the things you wanted to because there was way too much stuff going on and there were too many people around and the only people you wanted to spend time with were your friends anyway, who'd be there, only it was harder to do things with them because you were at the picnic.

          I think I always knew, as long as I can remember, what the School Meeting was: the place where things got done and decisions got made. Before I started going regularly, I did what most little kids do; they go when something germane to them comes up. At some point I can remember feeling maybe that wasn't right and maybe everybody should go all the time, and then at some other point I decided that, yes, it was ok, it was alright for me to let other people decide things that I wasn't interested in. The image I had was that somebody else was taking care of most things and I didn't have to worry about it very much where "somebody else" was staff members and older students, but mostly staff members. But the thing that went along with that image was that I felt I could complain if there was something I thought wasn't right or something I thought should be changed.
          When I was older, I got really impatient at meetings. I remember thinking that it takes people so long to understand what other people are saying and people miss the point of what other people are saying, and then say things that are way off the point themselves. More recently I've learned that people do these things a lot less at School Meetings than they do in almost any other setting, and the School Meeting works as well as any democratic meeting that I've ever seen.
          Once I started going to School Meetings, I went to Assembly meetings too. I never thought the Assembly had much role in what went on in school and I was usually perfectly happy with that. As a student I always felt a little bit resentful about the Assembly, as if it was the School Meeting that should be deciding these things and the Assembly was sort of beside the point. I'm not presenting that as the truth. I'm just telling you how I felt.
          Everybody was on the judicial committee, so we were aware of the functioning of the judicial system in a much more intimate way than the other parts of the school. I think as a little kid, it's more a part of your life than the other functions of the school. Not only are you using it, but you're also taking part in running it at some point.
          The judicial system was an interesting center of conflict in the school. Especially trials. All the time that I was involved, trials were very rare, so that having one was kind of a special occasion. There would be a lot of buildup and people would talk about it, and then there would be people arguing their cases and trying to convince each other, and it would come down to what the jury thought at the end, so that was always really fascinating. I think the drama of it was very interesting to me. I mean, the justice of it was nice, but I don't think that was interesting in and of itself.
          There was no way not to get fair treatment if you got brought up. The committee investigated and they made some kind of report, and if the report was wrong, then it was not that important because it could get cleared up in the trial. There were enough checks and balances. It was quite difficult to get convicted of something that you weren't guilty of.
          This was important to me because I took advantage of it sometimes. I was a real stickler, and if people brought me up for things that I knew were wrong, but weren't against the rules, I wasn't about to let myself get convicted of breaking a rule that I know I hadn't broken. As a defendant, I wasn't scared, but I was nervous. It's more like the fear you experience when you're going to talk in front of a group of people, than the fear that you experience when you're afraid of bad things that are going to happen to you. I was always more afraid of being embarrassed than being convicted. In general, it was important for me to learn that I could defend myself and convince people that I was right.
          The major interaction I had with the staff was talking to them. They meant something to me because of who they were. I grew to feel really emotionally attached to most of the staff members who were around the school a long time, because they were people I really liked and respected not necessarily because of things they did for me, and not just because of things they did for the school, although that was important too.
          My relationship with them individually was always good. There were certainly times when I was really irritated with Danny, particularly, but I don't remember anything that was a long term irritation. It was just always about small things that were happening in school. And it didn't adversely affect the real relationship that we had. In general, I liked the staff to be friendly and I liked them to be there, but I didn't want them to come seek me out, particularly. I certainly didn't want them to try to get me to do things, but I didn't even particularly want them to talk to me unless they had something specific they needed to talk about. I was much happier being able to seek them out if I wanted to. It wasn't usually a matter of wanting to arrange to do something that was large scale and time consuming with them. It was mostly just getting help with individual things, or wanting to ask somebody a question about something. An example is woodworking, which I did for a while. When I wanted to make something out of wood, I wanted to be certified to use the tools and sometimes I'd want help doing a particular thing, but I wouldn't want somebody to do it with me the whole time.
          If I was somebody who was less determined not to ask people for help about most things, then the staff might have had a larger role in doing things with me or teaching things to me, or trying to help me figure out what I wanted to do. I wanted to be left alone, and in retrospect nothing has made me think that I was wrong to have wanted it. I wasn't going to go start a class if I was peripherally interested in something; I would just go read a book instead.
          I was always worried a little about staff elections. There have been periods when individual staff members were temporarily unpopular and there would be really bad election results which always seemed sad to me. Most of the staff had been there a long time and had put so much into the school that it always seemed horrible when they would get a rash of fifteen "no" votes one year; it must have felt horrible to them. The other thing was that crazy people would come and want to be staff members sometimes, but we were always too smart to elect them, so that wasn't really a problem. I think it's a good idea for children to choose their teachers. Everybody makes wrong decisions and I'm sure that we've occasionally elected people for staff who probably ought not to have been elected, though I don't know if we've done the reverse. But I think that chances are we've made better decisions than any other method. The problem is, who's going to make the decisions if we don't do it ourselves? Whoever is, they're probably not going to do as good a job. I don't know any good alternative. The alternative of the students not being the ones who decide who works at Sudbury Valley would undermine one of Sudbury Valley's main points, which is that the students decide what's good for them. To have everything the way it is and to change that one thing would be really two-faced.
          That's one of the things that makes Sudbury Valley easy to talk about. In a lot of ways the school's hard to talk about because it's hard to get people to believe you when you start trying to describe it, but one of the things that makes it easier is that it's really honest, so that when you say something you can really mean it; and when you say that the school is controlled democratically and the students essentially have the power, there's no lie there. There's no lie like, "Well, they have the power except that there are certain decisions they can't make." I was saying this to somebody recently: "The students can do anything they want." She said, "Oh, it sounds like a Montessori school," and I said, "Well, not exactly, because if you want to go outside and play soccer all day in a Montessori school, that's sort of hard." And she said, "You mean, you could go outside and play soccer all day?" I said, "Yuh, the students can do anything they want." And she said, "Well, I heard you, but I didn't really believe that."
          People would ask me about the school sometimes, but nobody ever tried to convince me that I shouldn't be going there. I was probably more obnoxious about it than the people who asked me about it, because I would try to convince them that everybody should be doing it. I thought that it was completely obvious that this is the kind of education everybody should get.
          I think my parents worried about me a little bit. I'm not sure about my mother. My father said that he worried some about me, but he was also able to leave me alone, which was good. I imagine I would end up doing the same thing. I would probably worry about my children, but that's the way it is. One worries about one's kids. Everybody I know worries about their kids, no matter what, and no matter what their kids are doing, so I'd worry about it, but I hope I'd be able to leave them alone. If I can't do it, I don't know why anybody else should be able to do it, because I've got better reason than anybody else to leave them alone.
          Recently somebody was asking me if I was well prepared for college. I was telling them about Sudbury Valley and they kept asking me, "Was this hard for you when you went to college?" and "Was that hard for you when you went to college?" and I finally said, "Look, nothing was hard for me when I went to college. I did some hard things there because I tried to learn things that were hard to learn, but college wasn't hard for me." Yes, I was well prepared. I think that people from Sudbury Valley are, in general; not necessarily because they have exactly the skills that are expected of them, but because they have the skill of knowing how to take care of themselves in a general way, so that when it comes time that they have to do certain things, they can do them. The people I knew in college who had problems were all people who weren't used to trying to figure out what to do with their day, what to do with their month or what to do with their life.

          I was really nervous about defending my thesis. I was seventeen. People usually talked about their last several years of school, and what they were planning to do in the immediate future. I didn't really want to do that. This was a leftover from when I was a little kid. I had the idea that you should be somehow specifically defending the thesis that you are ready to be responsible for yourself, and I didn't want to do it by telling what I had been doing recently and what my plans were. So I decided to talk about what I felt responsibility meant and explain why I thought I was ready to live my life in accordance with that. I was a little bit nervous because I hadn't seen anybody do that before and there were weird questions people could ask me. As it turned out people did ask some weird questions. It was certainly meaningful emotionally, as a rite of passage, getting up in front of all these people who I'd known for a long and telling them that I was ready to leave and why.
          I decided to leave the school when I did because I felt there wasn't anything I wanted from the school anymore. It didn't take any time at all to decide to leave. I suppose in a sense it took me eight years, but when I felt I was ready, it didn't take much time at all.

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From Kingdom of Childhood
Edited by Mimsy Sadofsky and Daniel Greenberg,
from interviews by Hanna Greenberg

"We were a small group of people bouncing ideas off each other."

          Plasticene was probably one of the most intense things I've ever done. There were days when we'd show up, go right to the art room, work steadily at it until lunch time, eat lunch at the table, and keep on going until we had to leave that night; and we'd never, never leave the room once. The villages would evolve. Sometimes you'd be building a gold mining community. Sometimes it would be a bunch of towns with hotels and saloons. It usually involved a lot of buildings, a lot of vehicles, a lot people, and you'd make all this stuff. Then you would enact various scenes with it. You would drive your cars around and have certain battles and blow them up on occasion. But for the most part, you were building. You'd be building tanks and airplanes, just one thing after another. I did it at home too; you could bring them in already built.

          I think about it every now and then, and I did exactly what I'm doing now, except I'm doing it now in real life. I'm building a factory and making machines and talking to people all day long. Same exact thing. And very intensely. Day in and day out, the same exact thing I was doing in plasticene. Except that when you're a kid you don't really have as many of the same complications you have when you're an adult. If you're working on a plasticene village, the worst that can happen is you can lose your razor blade or something like that. And maybe you can find another one pretty quickly. There aren't setbacks like you would have in real life, later on. You won't run out of bricks for your building, because you're making the bricks yourself.

          With the plasticene, I was making businesses. I made a lot of factories. I had a cannery at one time. I had a still. I had a bottling plant attached to the still. I could picture it -- I had seen films and gone through books that would show you pictures of bottling plants and such things. It had to be realistic.

          It was the fascination of creating. You were creating things that you couldn't have yourself, maybe, but you could still make them, and by making them, you could have them. And if you were going to do it and have it, you might as well have it as realistic as you could make it.

          We only had so much clay and the fun was in the creating. Afterwards, the only thing you could do with it was to smash it and start over again. It was a constant build and smash. Sometimes we would decide to change modes. For a while everything would be Western. From there, it might go to a battlefield. From there it might go to factories. Western was probably the biggest thing.

          It lasted two or three years, on and off. Probably more. We were not being influenced by any outside source. We were a small group of people bouncing ideas off each other and leading ourselves wherever we took ourselves. We learned from what we could get out of books and from our own interests. We took all kids in, and let all kids be part of this.

          My parents were supportive of me during the troubles I had in public school. I was in sixth grade, and I was doing anything I could to rebel against the system. That's not a good way to learn. It's not a good way to go forward in life. I noticed as soon as I got to Sudbury Valley that I no longer had anything to rebel against, so there was no reason to do all those other things that I was starting to do, like starting to smoke. If nobody's telling you to do things that you want to rebel against, there's no more point in rebelling. So we just played.

          I was a little nervous about coming to Sudbury Valley because it meant leaving conventional types of schools. But I was encouraged by my parents, and from the interview it seemed like a much better sort of school. The philosophy of it made so much sense. Basically you could do anything you wanted as long as you didn't break any laws or infringe on anybody's rights. You could pretty much write your own rules because you knew, instinctively, that if you were going to throw a handful of gravel at somebody, that was going to infringe on their rights. You didn't have to look up in the rule book whether it was a violation to throw gravel or not. You already knew.

          I think maybe for me it would have worked to stay at home. My father was very helpful on weekends, and at night when I came home from school. I had a very nice workshop of my father's I could use. I would work in there, do things, and then go out and play.

          But I'm a relatively social person as well and, as a kid going to school with all these other people, having somebody else to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, was very important. If I was all by myself, I would not learn how to relate to other people, and also not learn one of the most important things Sudbury Valley taught me: nobody at the school knew much about what I wanted to know, but they all could teach how to find the information. So if I needed to find something, they might show me how to use a card catalog, or how to talk to somebody who did know. I think the school taught me how to learn better than if I was just at home.

          What was important to me was seeing how other adults acted and related. I picked up a little bit here and a little bit there. Nothing that I could say, "Well, I had this great revelation. I learned this from so and so." It was just nice to be amongst adults, seeing what they do. And other kids too. Everybody had different interests, but in a small school like that, it was more a matter of age and interests combined, so if there was only one other person your age you were probably going to be friends, and if somebody was not at all your age and had the same interests, that would also make you friends.

          We went on walks into the woods right from the very beginning, building little forts. It wasn't too much later that we started playing with little race cars and plasticene. Then we had projects. We'd try to make go-carts out of old wheels and things. We used to go down into the "morgue" in the basement and fix up old stuff people had donated -- bicycles and things like that. There were so many places at school to explore: the barn, the stables, the basement, the attic, you name it. We also found old dumps in the woods, and we started collecting "antique" bottles. Then there were trips to the Sudbury town dump, getting people -- staff members or other students -- to take us. There were certain items we always looked for: anything that had anything to do with a bicycle or a tricycle. We'd take those parts back, and build new ones. It was like a little business. We'd fix them up, and sometimes we'd paint them. We put price tags on them -- 50 cents, 75 cents -- and we would sell them.

          We'd experiment a lot. At one time we wanted to crash-test the tricycles we were selling, so we took one and went up to the top of the fire escape to drop it down and see what would happen. It was a good long drop. Usually not much happened; tricycles are pretty durable. That was something one of the staff brought us up on. We told him it was a study and we had a safety person at the bottom to make sure nobody would run out and get conked on the head. We were very apologetic. We said we didn't really realize it was bad and we wouldn't do it again. We talked to him quite at length -- at least I did, because I was named on the complaint. So he dropped the charges. We never wanted to get brought up if we could avoid it.

          I felt that for the most part the things that I was doing around the school were innocent, although a lot of them maybe were wrong. Take the case of throwing a tricycle off the fire escape. I had gone to the dump many times, picked the tricycle parts up, built it right from scratch, every little nut and bolt, fixed it all up. We had done that to so many, that we had an extra few tricycles, so I dropped it to see what parts would break first. Now, you take somebody who built that tricycle right from scratch, knows every part of it, and then drops it off -- the act of dropping it seems quite harmless. But if you take somebody else who runs and grabs some other kid's tricycle and hauls it up there and throws it off, all that person is doing is trying to break a tricycle. It seemed that people at school, including the staff, watched me, and saw that I had built that whole tricycle. So even though they might not have understood what I was doing then, they let me get away with it. Because in every case where I did something like that, I was doing it as part of a learning process. An act that might have been considered bad, or something that somebody else would get censured for, was just one part of the whole picture for me. For example, if I had alcoholic beverages on school campus, it was because I had made a still. To me at the time, it really did seem a learning experience and innocent. There's a big difference between a kid who smuggles a fifth of whiskey into his lunch box and a kid who, over a period of three or four months, makes a still, grinds his own grain, makes some whiskey; and the fact is I never even drank the whiskey I made. What fascinated me was how to make the stuff. So I made whiskey at the school, and I possessed it at the school because I had made it there, and I was allowed to, because I had gone through all those steps. If I had just said I want to have whiskey at school, everybody would have said, "Forget it, that's against the law. Kids can't have whiskey at school." But I said I want to make a still, to see how whiskey is made, and then it was ok.

          In general, we knew a lot about what we were doing. We had a whole series of books on science and technology, at school mostly, and in my house too. I would read at school all the time. I spent hours and hours and hours reading, and going through the school's library. I knew every book in the library, upstairs and downstairs. I'd crawl into a corner and read. People usually didn't notice me. There's something about a kid at school reading that doesn't attract attention. A staff member walks by and sees some kid reading: that's a kid who does not need any help at the moment.

          A lot of times, I read was when the weather was really bad. Or there were times when I just wanted to be alone, so I would go off and read. Those library rooms upstairs were usually the rooms I would be in. Not many people were up there. I read a lot of books on what other people had done, people who had gone off and lived in the woods, people who had invented a lot of things. Biographies. And then I read a lot of "gee whiz" adventure books -- Tom Swift's and Nancy Drew's. I could go through a Nancy Drew book in about an hour and a half, and I read them all. There were a lot of books in school that I didn't like reading but I still knew where they were, and I knew that there was nothing of interest in those books because I had opened them to see.

          Probably one of the best early moves the school ever made was to get all those books. Where they ever got them, I don't know, but getting them and cataloging them was really good. I was usually too impulsive to want to use the public library loan system. I wanted it now.

          For the most part, I did stuff in big blocks of time. I would start each day by continuing what I left off on the day before. So if I was building a tree fort somewhere, I would start again on that tree fort. I would work on the tree fort until I got hungry enough to come in for lunch or, if I was smart enough, I would have brought the lunch to the tree fort in the first place.

          Certain times I would leave the tree fort and go and do other things for a while and then maybe come back later on and spend another day at it. After it was done, I'd only go there every now and then. Once a tree fort was done, it was no longer as interesting. Building something, like making a tricycle, is more fun than once you have it. That's why breaking a tricycle after you have it is not that big a deal, because the fun was in building it.

          In general, we were everywhere. During good weather, we were mostly outdoors; in pouring rainstorms and stuff, we would be inside. There's only so much time you can spend outdoors in the winter, even if you're skiing. But we were always building snow forts and there was a lot of outdoor activity.

          We would occasionally go off on bicycle trips and we'd ride around. Nobody knew we were going. We'd just take off. We had bicycles we had fixed up, also from the dump. We'd go up to the Primate Center. We'd go to the Wayside Inn. We'd go all over the back, northern woods of Framingham on the road system.

          One day we found a car on one of our trips through Callahan State Park. It was abandoned and had crashed into a tree. We took it back and fixed it up a bit, got it running, and then whoever had originally stolen it (or whatever they had done) found out that we had it and they stole it back again. Then they rammed it into a tree again. These neighborhood kids were just into smashing things up, obviously. So this time it was really wrecked. We towed it back somehow. We got it back in one piece. It was too wrecked to use so I stripped it, and made what parts were left into a tractor. That was my winter project. Once it was all done, I remember not having too much more to do with it and I sold it. I spent more time futzing with it than actually using it.

          Then there was the mini-bike. I pushed certain rules and got the school to actually buy me a mini-bike. They bought a bunch of parts and it took me a solid year, because I didn't know anything about welding at the time and it was a pile of pieces. It was a big challenge to build, but I did build it and I learned an awful lot from it. I also learned a lot about how not to be frustrated because the thing wouldn't start. I used it for a few years, but after a while, I realized that I had to sell it because there wasn't anything more I could learn from it. I never used it that much. It was one of those things -- the dream of having a mini-bike was greater than the reality of having it. The freedom of a mini-bike is not the same as the freedom of a bicycle. A bicycle you can ride on public roads. They don't break down all the time. You can go all sorts of places, be free. A mini-bike is never that way.

          Once I got a Hillman that was beyond my abilities to fix. I never got it running, but it was my car. I would have kept it until I finally got the thing to work. Getting parts for it was hard. I really didn't understand too much about what I was doing, but I kept on working on it, getting the brakes to work, getting the fuel system to work, getting this or that to work. But I needed a new fuel pump for the car, and it cost $30. That was more money than I wanted to spend. I had very little money. You have to work and I didn't work. I was too busy playing, I guess. There were very few things I really needed money for. We had a small allowance, and there was work we could do around the house to get money. Or I would sell a tricycle for fifty cents or a dollar. I always had what money it seemed like I needed.

          I did find something funny out though when I had that car. Some local kids ruined it one day. I had to have it towed away because they smashed it. But the funny thing was that after they did that, that day I had a type of stomachache which I had not had since public school. I used to have some really painful stomachaches, but I wouldn't let on that I had them. I would be quite miserable to the point of practically fainting. Sometimes I'd go home and just lay down and they'd go away. But for the most part, I'd lay down at recess time and it would go away, so I could live with it. After that car was wrecked, that stomachache recurred, and I realized that it was all stress. I finally understood what those stomachaches were caused by: school.

          Somewhere in these books I was reading, the idea of farming as a way of life, self-sufficiency, homesteading, became a real interest. With that interest came raising some animals. We talked it over, my friends and I, and decided that we were going to raise goats. We got permission from the school. We built a fence, made a pasture, got everything ready, bought the goats, raised them, had them bred, and had the kids. We had them about four years. They were purebred goats, so we could always sell the kids. With the goats came other rights. We could now stay at the school after hours, because there was always something that needed to be done with the goats. That was nice. We had a whole bunch of us to take turns on weekends. There was always one of us who could go over and take care of the goats at the school. That was no problem during the school year. During the summer vacation, we had a garden at the school, so we were coming over all the time anyway.

          I never really got used to goats' milk, but there were the goats: you're going to drink the milk and like it! We could sell some of the milk, but basically very little. Overall, the goats were a financial loss. So was almost any agricultural thing I ever did.

          We ate one goat, once. We had a goat that we had castrated, and the vet didn't do the job right; it also wasn't dehorned properly. So we could not sell it as a companion for a horse, which is usually what we did with all our male goats. Around this area there are a lot of people with horses who can't afford two horses, and a goat is a super horse companion. A goat isn't afraid of anything. A horse is afraid of everything, including its own shadow. So if you have a goat, which is a very sociable animal, and a horse, the two will become friends. If anything is going on, the horse will look at the goat and the goat'll look up and say, "Yuh, that's just a truck driving by. No big deal." -- and the horse stays real calm. So not only does it give the horse company, but it calms the horse down. That's why a lot of people buy a goat, and they might as well get a fixed male goat, because they're cheapest; that's how we would sell ours. But we had this one that wasn't going to be useful for that, so we butchered him and had a big feast at the school after hours.

          The rabbits were also part of the farming. I had an interest from a long time before. I had sent for some material from the American Rabbit Breeder's Association and became a member. I always had in the back of my mind that I'd like to do that. We raised them for a while and it was a lot of work, particularly in the winter. It was also quite expensive to feed them. We bred them according to the scientific process, the right bucks with the right does, trying to keep track of the pedigrees and making out papers on them and trying to sell some of the kits. It was an awful lot of work. We butchered them for meat, but for the amount of work it was to butcher a rabbit, you got such a small amount of meat! At this time I could already make more money per hour fixing somebody's car than I could butchering a rabbit that I'd put all this energy into raising. But we had some good rabbit meals at the school after hours where we would cook a rabbit as part of our agricultural experience!

          Then there is the story of the squirt. It was April Fool's Day. I figured that would be a good time to do it. The school had an annunciator control panel in the kitchen. It had been used to call the maids when the building was someone's private home. It went to all different places, but it rang in the kitchen and a little arrow would show up. I don't know what happened to that system, but after it was taken out the wires were still there, and some of them went down into the basement. I connected a windshield washer pump to a battery which was downstairs and hooked it through a little squirt nozzle which I stuck between the two stoves, aimed at a certain spot. I would wait until somebody would sit in the seat that the thing was aimed at, and I would push one of those little buttons that was already there, and they would get squirted. I also squirted Margaret, getting her on the glasses, and she found out about it. She wasn't mad, because she had a pretty good sense of humor that way.

          One of the things that I remember as being kind of humorous was when we learned how to make bombs out of caps. There's a way of folding them together so you could make quite a powerful bomb if you spent enough time. We made one that had quite a bit of power and we waited. We dug it about five feet underground. We waited until Danny was walking by and, when he stepped over it, we fired it off. We knew that he would never know it because it was down so deep. It was great fun for us to know that we had done it under his nose. It was big enough that we felt it, but nobody else knew what it was, because it caused such a little vibration. People were wondering what these kids were doing poking rods into the ground and running wires around and giggling, but they never knew.

          I never really took a class in my life at SVS. Say something came up and I had to divide. I would learn how to divide in a matter of a couple of days and that was it. All I wanted to do was learn how to divide. Everything that I learned at public school that I really didn't have an interest in, I do not have the foggiest recollection of. So if somebody had told me I had to take English literature, it would have been a total waste of my time.

          Every now and then I would worry, "Am I learning anything? Sooner or later I'm going to grow up, and I'm going to have to earn money. Is sitting at this plasticene table all day teaching me how to learn?" Visitors would come in quite often and they'd say, "This is a school at which you're not learning anything and you're going to be a failure and nobody's teaching you how to make money when you get out of school. What are you going to do?" There was always that worry. But I don't remember ever really doing anything about it.

          I remember talking to people and they would say, "What do you do?" If it was in the winter and I had just come in from building snow forts all day, that's what I would tell them about. And they would look at me kind of shocked. That would reinforce that little feeling of, "What am I going to do when I grow up?" That's how I was always aware that sooner or later I had to grow up.

          After a certain time it became obvious that, just like once I had that car and tractor built, I was done with it, after a certain amount of time the school was something I had to be done with. I had to graduate. I had to go on and do something else. That evolved slowly; it wasn't that I felt pressed. It came from inside and I was ready. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but I was prepared to go out and do whatever it was. I don't think I had the confidence to go out until I was really ready. Whether I knew what I was doing or not, I knew I had the confidence that I was going to go out and try, that I would do the best I could and let things happen the way they were going to happen.

          In general, my experiments weren't done in a dangerous manner like, say, a guy testing a parachute by jumping off a big cliff. I would prefer throwing a brick tied to a parachute. If that brick hit the ground and broke, that was my failure. I would test the waters before I jumped, always. My failures were never catastrophic, they were just, "Well that parachute didn't work. I'm going to have to build another one -- and very cautiously when I do." So I wasn't about to jump out into the real world and do something that would cause me to have a catastrophic failure that would crush me to the point where I would say, "Oh, I'm not going to do that again and I'm just going to pump gas." I still live my life that way. I don't throw all my eggs in one basket.

          I enjoyed being at the school, and I have no regrets that maybe I missed something. There was a lot I could have done, but I didn't know I wanted to do it, or how to do it, when I was there. That's why I was at the school, to learn to be who I am now and to learn as much as I could while I was there, every day. I am the same person now as I was then, and I cannot say that at such and such an age, this happened to me and I was a changed person. Did the school make me the way I am now? It's something I wondered often. I don't know if it did, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did. It certainly helped. It took away those stomachaches, and it kept me from wasting my time doing silly things of protest.

          I had the shortest thesis defense ever. There were no questions. I said -- it must be on record somewhere -- "I believe I'm responsible enough to leave the school and to get a diploma." That was it. "Any questions?" None. "See you later."

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From Kingdom of Childhood
Edited by Mimsy Sadofsky and Daniel Greenberg,
from interviews by Hanna Greenberg

"Communication with everybody was the biggest thing we did."

          I remember well the first day I was at Sudbury Valley. The atmosphere was "little house-on-the-prairie-ish," because the building was so homey. The first place I went was into the art room with Joan. I stayed in there the whole entire day. I was painting. I made this yellow sun, and I painted over it with green and I thought, "Wow, I'm gonna get in trouble for this because suns are supposed to be yellow and I made it green." I showed it to Joan; I guess I just wanted a reaction. She looked at it and said, "That's very beautiful". I said, "Yuh, but it's green". She said she loved it, thought it was the best thing, and I was so shocked by that.

          I was four. My brother who is four and a half years older than me had already been there a year. I felt secure with him at school. It was nice to have him there. Sudbury Valley's something we have had in common, something private and special, that we can still talk about.

          I don't remember very much of when I was younger. I was just being a little kid. When we were little there wasn't any one thing we always did. It was always new or different. From eight on, I was always with a clique of older kids, girls and boys. They were not my age, but I used to take the same classes they took. We'd talk about the same things. I just went with everybody else, did what they were doing. We'd sit around and write on people's shoes and listen to music. That was a big thing, listening to music. We played cards until Danny said gambling was illegal and to get all the silver off the table. The major activity was to sit around with all the other girls and talk. Communication with everybody was the biggest thing we did. We'd talk for hours. About anything. I was always the youngest one, until everybody started graduating. That was actually better for me because then I became more independent and I did things that I really wanted to do, as opposed to doing what everybody else wanted to do! But I missed having everybody there. Of course, I had established new friendships in the meantime, so it wasn't like everybody left and then there I was hanging out on the end.

          When I was younger I never did classes: I did fun things like play in the playroom and cook with Margaret, which was a "class." I was outside a lot. We used to play on the swings, or play football, or play kickball, or capture the flag, and several of us would go on walks. Between the ages of eleven and fifteen I spent a lot of time in class. After that I slacked off for a while until my last year there. I took French for three or four years. I love the language, and I love being able to speak it, but I dreaded the class. I persisted because I wanted to learn French and I knew that, if I was going to learn, I'd have to do it. My biggest help with my English grammar was the grammar I learned in French, but I just don't have a knack for grammar.

          Ice cream day was always a big celebration. That was something everybody looked forward to. The day before, Margaret would get a bunch of kids and we'd make the base for it, then we'd plan how we were going to serve it. We'd all wear the same thing and make it like a business. I remember one year Jenna, Amber, and I were the only ones doing it and we all wrote up little slips about who owed what. It was like running your own little ice cream shop.

          I always used to go on the camping trips to the Cape. I was never allowed to go on the mountain ones. They always said I was too young and that I wouldn't be able to do it. That was very aggravating to me because at Sudbury Valley you'd be able to do whatever you want, and then all of a sudden there was that restriction. They didn't let me go until I was old enough that I didn't want to go any more because I was having too much fun at school!

          I could talk about pranks for hours -- hiding people's shoes, or putting somebody's lunch where it doesn't belong or stuff like that. I remember some of the boys pulling pranks on the girls, more than the other way around. My brother and his friend used to catch mice down in the basement and take the trap with the mouse in it and run around and scare the girls with it.

          One day we were all sitting in the kitchen and Ryan and Jenna were coming down the hill. There was a big joke between all of us that no matter who's eating what Ryan would want some. Cal was there, and at the time he had a dog and he had some dog food in the school. He was also known for having the best sandwiches, so my brother came up with the idea of making a dog food sandwich and Cal pretending to eat it. Everybody got involved with it, throwing little tidbits in: "Here, put this on, put that on it," and they even cut out a little bite to make sure it looked authentic. They said, "When Ryan comes down guaranteed he's going to ask for a bite of the sandwich." So sure enough Ryan walks in the kitchen and says hello to everybody and the first thing he does is look at Cal and say "Hum, that looks like a good sandwich. Can I have a bite?" Of course he took a bite and everybody in the room cracked up.

          When I was younger the School Meeting was boring. As I got older I participated in it more. I was very shy in School Meeting. I never spoke. I would vote and I'd listen, but I didn't feel what I had to say was important, or I felt it was important but I thought that everybody else would find it ridiculous or not understand the point I was trying to make. I would basically sit there and then discuss it afterwards: "I totally disagree with this," or, "I agree with this," and I'd either get really mad or I'd be happy about it. And I'd say, "Ok next time I'm going to say something." By the time it came to my last years I started speaking, but I had attended meetings regularly from about age eight on! I realized that if I had something legitimate to say, I was listened to. When I was eight I wouldn't go every week as I did when I was older, but I would go. Sometimes, there were things I was involved with, and I wanted to see what was going to happen, like things with the Cooking Corporation. I was a director of the Cooking Corp. for a long time.

          I remember being young and thinking, "OK I'm going to bring this person up. I have a legitimate complaint against them and they're going to get in trouble for it and they should." And it would go through the whole judicial process and somebody would come over and say, "Look, let's mediate this," or something, and I normally would, but I'd get really annoyed about it because I thought I was proving a point. I felt the staff always wanted to mediate to reduce the aggravation that was going on. But the laws were enforced, and for the most part if you went against them you paid the price, you either were fined or you had to do something. Most kids abided by the rules. Of course, we had our typical trouble-makers, who thrived on going against the rules, but not for the most part.

          I was about fifteen when I became a Judicial Clerk. I wanted to know who was doing what, and when, and I figured I should be a clerk and really learn it more because that's also when I started saying to myself, "Hm, you like this type of stuff. Maybe you could do something with it." I've always been intrigued by criminal justice. It's interesting to see how people's minds work against laws, or with laws. When I was very little I found the judicial committee boring because I was taken away from playing on the swings or doing something.

          Having a close relationship with the staff was very important for me because I could learn to deal with my problems in school with the help of staff. What I learned from that type of contact helped me through a lot. Margaret was rough on me, which was good. She didn't let me get away with what I wanted to get away with. I'd be cutesy about something and she'd say, "Hey, you didn't do it. Do it." I'd say, "Oh, I'm tired." And she'd say, "Get in that kitchen and wash those dishes. You cooked with me, you made something, you finish." That was really good for me.

          Criminal justice was something that I was always interested in but I had other interests as well. Biology really appealed to me, but I slowly lost interest in it. Margaret used to say, "You're a perfect person for the military." This was intriguing but I never could see myself doing it. Joan would say, "You know, you could be a lawyer someday" or something like that, and I would think, "Yeah, I do like this, don't I?" I always had encouragement from people saying that I could do anything I wanted to do. Even Mimsy, who I never really talked to much, would say, "Look, you can do it if you want to, and you will."

          People who had nothing to do with the school gave me a hard time about my education because they never understood the philosophy of it, and I'd have to sit and argue. It annoyed me because they didn't know what it was about. They never had been there. When people said, "What, you're not doing algebra?" I would say something else I was doing or I would say, "If I want to do it I will do it and I have that over you, because you're doing it because you have to do it." It made me very defensive, but it enhanced my confidence. I was confident in school because I was happy there. I also thought I was one step ahead because my friends were older and I was doing the same things they were doing. But I missed a lot of the social aspects of other schools. Sometimes I thought it would be fun and exciting to have proms and the things you could have in a school with a lot more people.

          When I was seventeen I decided to leave school because I knew there were other things I wanted to do, and I had done everything I had to at Sudbury Valley. I was at the point where I wanted to travel. I wanted to move on. I was ready for college. I wanted to have a professional education.

          It was important to me to defend my thesis because that was something established in school that you did to end it. There was a feeling of accomplishment when it was over with. It was a goal to prepare for. One day, I woke up in the middle of the night and said "Oh, I have to put this down on paper." And I just started writing. I woke up in the morning and I read it and said, "Ok! I think I'm ready to do my thesis." I grabbed Joan that day and I said, "I'm ready to do my thesis, this is what I want to do." It was really scary being in front of all those people. It wasn't something I was used to. But I thought the questions that were asked were the stupidest questions I ever heard. I'd built myself up for all this and I thought, "Ok, if this question's asked I can handle it. If this question's asked . . . " I got there, and after saying in my thesis what my goals in life were, people asked me, "What are your goals in life?" I said, "Well, not to sound redundant but... this is what I'm doing, this is what I'd like to do." I thought it was going to be more challenging than it was. But the minute it was over my stomach just dropped and I thought, "Hm, that's it. It's over. No more Sudbury Valley for me."

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From The View from Inside
By Michael Greenberg

On the Nature of Sports at SVS

          Have you ever noticed the uniqueness of the way that sports are played at S.V.S.?

          The experience is a beautiful one which brings out most of the noble characteristics which a person can possess. It also illustrates a point about language and the S.V.S. experience that is worth thinking about; for, although we give our activities at the school the same names as activities that take place elsewhere (for instance, “soccer games” or “history class”), what is actually happening during those activities at school is so fundamentally different from what happens elsewhere that the name becomes misleading. This is why it seems impossible, at times, to explain the school to people who haven’t actually seen it.

          To describe the school, we must explain what actually happens, mentally and physically, step by step, because people have no direct experience that is the same as ours. At best, their idealistic, utopian ideas may resemble our day to day experiences at school. People can be reached by showing them how their ideals of freedom and responsibility, of democracy and fair justice, translate into day to day actions. We know that people in other schools have no direct experience of these things. What we forget is that, even after school, most people don’t have a direct experience of true democracy, fair justice, freedom, and responsibility in the full sense that we know them at S.V.S., just as people in other countries have no idea of what day to day life is like in the U.S.A. through reading the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

          Which brings me to how utterly incomplete and misleading terms like “soccer game” and “history class” are in describing those activities at S.V.S. I will take soccer as an example.

          In other schools soccer is a game where all players on a team are of a similar age, sex, and, if the school is big enough, ability. It is played at designated times selected by the school. It is highly competitive both as regards an individual’s performance on the team and the performance of team against team. There is a lot of peer pressure and one’s status and sense of worth is highly dependent on physical performance. The fact that people manage to have some fun in spite of all these negative aspects says a lot about the deep human satisfaction that arises out of physical exertion and play.

          This is what usually happens in other schools. The players arrive at the designated time wearing their uniforms. They are told by their coach how to improve their performances (not how to have more fun). They go to their designated positions. A team will always have more players than are allowed on the field so the people who don’t perform as well as others will not be allowed to spend as much time playing. They play the game. They ‘work’ the game” might be a more appropriate phrase, because traditional, organized amateur sport is almost as regimented as professional sports.

          People who are paid $200,000 a year to beat other people in sports should be performance oriented. The average person who simply wants to enjoy the physical process of play, or who wants to improve their own ability to kick a ball simply as an athletic challenge, should be enjoyment oriented, not process oriented.

          Here is what happens at an S.V.S. soccer game. One person says, “Let's play soccer” to some other people. Whoever feels like playing at that moment comes to the field. There are six year olds, ten year olds, eighteen year olds, maybe a staff member or parent who feels like joining in. There are boys and girls. Teams are then chosen with a conscious effort at creating evenly matched sides. Someone who hasn’t been there would not believe the amount of effort that goes into making the teams even. Given the diversity of the players, this often consists of one team having an extra “big kid” who can play well and the other team getting a small army of six year olds to get in his way. People want even teams because they are playing for fun. It’s no fun to play a game with lopsided teams.

          After a game starts, someone will often come and say, “Can I play too?” and the teams will be rearranged to accommodate them, trading players back and forth. If that proves impossible, they will be told “Get someone equal to you to play also.” The game is played by whomever wants to play, for as long as they feel like playing. There will always be certain people who value winning, but there is little peer performance pressure. Most people don't really care who wins.

          Now, you might get the impression that people are not trying very hard to be good at the game, but that’s not true. Because the process of play is only fun if you exert effort and challenge yourself. That is why people developed the idea of games like soccer in the first place. Running around for no reason gets boring, but running around trying to kick a ball between two posts that are guarded by people who are trying to stop you – that’s exciting.

          The people who play sports as we do at S.V.S. learn far more profound lessons about life than those that can be taught by regimented, performance-oriented sports. They learn teamwork – not the “we against them” type of teamwork, but the teamwork of a diverse group of people of diverse talents organizing themselves to pursue a common activity – the teamwork of life. They learn excellence, not the “I’m a star” type of excellence, but the type of excellence that comes from setting a standard for yourself to live up to and then trying your best to live up to it.

          I'm twenty-three years old and I’ve played a lot of soccer. It would be pretty silly for me to try to be better than the three eight-year-olds who crowd around my feet every time I try to kick the ball. I think that the eight year olds are too busy running after kids who are three feet taller than they are to worry about being the best eight year old. In this game, as in real life, the only standard that matters is one you set for yourself. One of the profound truths you learn is that we are all so different from each other that peer pressure and comparisons of worth are meaningless. If you’re eleven years old and you are only allowed to play with other eleven year olds, it’s very hard to glimpse this profound truth which unlocks the true meaning of excellence.

          They learn responsibility and restraint. In all the years of playing very physical games like football, soccer, and basketball, there has never been an injury beyond a minor cut or bruise. People play all these sports in their regular clothes without any of the standard protective equipment that is normally required. How can this be explained when people wearing protective pads injure each other with alarming frequency? Because in a regimented, performance-oriented way of looking at sports (or life), making sure you don’t hurt someone becomes less important than winning. So it doesn’t matter how much you talk about “sportsmanship” or how many safety pads you wear, people will get hurt. When you approach sports (or life) as a fun, exciting process, as something that is done for the sheer joy and beauty of doing it, then not hurting someone, not impairing their ability to enjoy the same process becomes a top priority.

          This whole experience of sports at the school is just one of the many ways in which the kids answer the question, “What activities produce a meaningful life?” or, to put it more simply, “What is the meaning of life?” For people at school, freedom is not just a tremendous wonder, it is also a tremendous burden. This freedom to do what you want forces you to decide what you want. People play because they are free to, they want to, and they are alive. At the school, sport and physical play are magnificent expressions of the people who play them.

          To participate in an activity where the clash of unequal bodies is transformed through teamwork, pursuit of personal excellence, responsibility and restraint into a common union of equal souls in pursuit of meaningful experience has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. I am sure it has had a similar effect on others. This can be easy for anyone to understand, but not if I simply tell them that I “played a lot of soccer at school.

          When I was eight years old and people asked me what I did with my time at S.V.S., I said, “Nothing.” I now realize what I meant to say was “everything.” Education is not so much a matter of learning facts as it is a matter of learning how to think. What the school teaches (or, rather, allows people to learn) is how to think. It does this by allowing people to talk, listen, play and contemplate as they see fit. It is this rare and wonderful privilege that colors and gives meaning to every activity.

          The language that we use to describe the school must take into account the uniqueness of the context within which things happen here. We must speak the language of philosophy. We must talk about the processes that occur when one of the deepest needs of the human spirit, the need for freedom, is fulfilled: the process that occurs when a young mind is forced by that freedom to find activities which it considers meaningful (because humans hate to be bored); the process that occurs when you do things because you want to, not because someone or something makes you. This is not a school to be compared blandly with other schools. It is a way of thinking and of living.

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From Free at Last

By Daniel Greenberg

Classes

          We have to be careful with words. It's a miracle they ever mean the same thing to any two people. Often, they don't. Words like "love," "peace," "trust," "democracy" -- everyone brings to these words a lifetime of experiences, a world view, and we know how rarely we have these in common with anyone else.
          Take the word "class." I don't know what it means in cultures that don't have schools. Maybe they don't even have the word. To most people reading this, the word conveys a wealth of images: a room with a "teacher" and "students" in it, the students sitting at desks and receiving "instruction" from the teacher, who sits or stands before them. It also conveys much more: a "class period," the fixed time when the class takes place; homework; a textbook, which is the subject matter of the class clearly laid out for all the students.
          And it conveys more: boredom, frustration, humiliation, achievement, failure, competition.
          At Sudbury Valley the word means something quite different.
          At Sudbury Valley, a class is an arrangement between two parties. It starts with someone, or several persons, who decide they want to learn something specific -- say, algebra, or French, or physics, or spelling, or pottery. A lot of times, they figure out how to do it on their own. They find a book, or a computer program, or they watch someone else. When that happens, it isn't a class. It's just plain learning.
          Then there are the times they can't do it alone. They look for someone to help them, someone who will agree to give them exactly what they want to make the learning happen. When they find that someone, they strike a deal: "We'll do this and that, and you'll do this and that -- OK?" If it's OK with all the parties, they have just formed a class.
          Those who initiate the deal are called "students." If they don't start it up, there is no class. Most of the time, kids at school figure out what they want to learn and how to learn it all on their own. They don't use classes all that much.
          The someone who strikes the deal with the students is called a "teacher." Teachers can be other students at the school. Usually, they are people hired to do the job.
          Teachers at Sudbury Valley have to be ready to make deals, deals that satisfy the students' needs. We get a lot of people writing the school asking to be hired as teachers. Many of them tell us at length how much they have to "give" to children. People like that don't do too well at the school. What's important to us is what the students want to take, not what the teachers want to give. That's hard for a lot of professional teachers to grasp.

          The class deals have all sorts of terms: subject matter, times, obligations of each party. For example, to make the deal, the teacher has to agree to be available to meet the students at certain times. These times may be fixed periods: a half hour every Tuesday at 11:00AM. Or they may be flexible: "whenever we have questions, we'll get together on Monday mornings at 10:00AM to work them out. If we have no questions, we'll skip till next week." Sometimes, a book is chosen to serve as a reference point. The students have their end of the deal to meet. They agree to be on time, for instance.

          Classes end when either side has had enough of the deal. If the teachers find out they can't deliver, they can back out -- and the students have to find a new teacher if they still want a class. If the students discover they don't want to go on, the teachers have to find some other way to occupy themselves at the appointed hour.

          There is another kind of class at school, from time to time. It happens when people feel they have something new and unique to say that can't be found in books, and they think others may be interested. They post a notice: "Anyone interested in X can meet me in the Seminar Room at 10:30AM on Thursdays." Then they wait. If people show up, they go on. If not, that's life. People can show up the first time and, if there is a second time, decide not to come back.
          I've done this kind of thing several times. The first session, I usually get a crowd: "Let's see what he's up to." The second session, fewer come. By the end, I have a small band who are truly curious about what I have to say on the subject at hand. It's a form of entertainment for them, and a way for me (and others) to let people know how we think.

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From Free at Last

By Daniel Greenberg

Persistence

          It's a problem with words again. The way I just described it, learning sounds casual, loose, laid back. Easy come, easy go. Random. Chaotic. Undisciplined.
          Often I wish that were true.
          When school first opened, thirteen year old Richard enrolled and quickly found himself absorbed in classical music -- and in the trumpet. Richard soon was sure he had found his life interest. With Jan, a trombonist, available on the staff to help him, Richard threw himself into his studies.
          Richard practiced the trumpet four hours every day. We could hardly believe it. We suggested other activities, to no avail. Whatever Richard did -- and he did a lot at school -- he always found four hours to play.
          He came from Boston, 1-1/4 hours each way every day, often 1/2 hour or more on foot from the Framingham bus station. Like the proverbial postman, "in rain or shine, hail or sleet" Richard made it to school, and to our eardrums.
          It was not long before we discovered the virtues of the old mill house by the pond. Built of granite, roofed with slate, nestled in a distant corner of the campus, the old neglected building took on sudden beauty in our eyes. And in Richard's. In no time at all it was turned into a music studio, where Richard could practice to his heart's content.
          He practiced.
          Four or more hours a day, for four years.
          Not long after graduating from school, after completing further studies at a conservatory, Richard became first horn of a major symphony orchestra.

          Richard was followed soon by Fred, whose love was drums. Drums in the morning, drums in the afternoon, drums at night. Emergency action was in order. We fixed up a drum room for him in the basement, and gave him the key to the school so he could play early, late, and on weekends.
          We discovered that the basement wasn't all that isolated acoustically from the rest of the building. It was often like living near a jungle village, with the constant beat of drums in the background.
          Fred moved on at the age of eighteen after two years. We loved him, but many of us wished him godspeed.

          It isn't only music that brings out the stubborn persistence we all have inside us. Every child soon finds an area, or two, or more, to pursue relentlessly.
          Sometimes, it isn't even material they enjoy. Year after year, older students with their hearts set on college drive themselves steadily through the SAT's, the infamous "aptitude" tests which measure children's ability to take SAT tests -- and which colleges everywhere seize upon to help them make their hard admissions decisions. Usually, the kids find a staff member to help them over rough spots. But the work is their own. Thick review books are dragged from room to room, pored over, worked through page by page. The process is always intense. Rarely does it take more than four or five months from beginning to end, though for many this is their first look at the material.
          There are writers who sit and write hours every day. There are painters who paint, potters who throw pots, chefs who cook, athletes who play.
          There are people with common everyday interests. And there are others with exotic interests.
          Luke wanted to be a mortician. Not your most common ambition in a fifteen year old. He had his reasons. In his mind's eye, he could clearly see his funeral home ministering to the needs of the community, and himself comforting the grieving relatives.
          Luke threw himself into his studies with a passion: science, chemistry, biology, zoology. By sixteen, he was ready for serious work. We took him out into the real world. The chief pathologist at one of the regional hospitals welcomed the eager, hard-working student into his lab. Day by day, Luke learned more procedures, and mastered them, to the delight of his boss. Within a year, he was performing autopsies at the hospital, unassisted, under his mentor's supervision. It was a first for the hospital.
          Within five years, Luke was a mortician. Now, years later, his funeral home has become a reality.

          Then there was Bob.
          One day, Bob came to me and said, "Will you teach me physics?" There was no reason for me to be skeptical. Bob had already done so many things so well that we all knew how he could see things through to the end. He had run the school press. He had written a thoroughly researched (published) book on the school's judicial system. He had devoted untold hours to studying the piano.
          So I readily agreed. Our deal was simple.
          I gave him a college textbook, thick and heavy, on introductory physics. I had taught from it often in the past, even used an earlier version when I was a beginner. I knew the pitfalls. "Go through the book page by page, exercise by exercise," I told Bob, "and come to me as soon as you have the slightest problem. Better to catch them early than to let them grow into major blocks." I thought I knew exactly where Bob would stumble first.
          Weeks passed. Months.
          No Bob.
          It wasn't like him to drop something before -- or after -- he had gotten into it. I wondered whether he had lost interest. I kept my mouth shut and waited.
          Five months after he had started, Bob asked to see me. "I have a problem on page 252," he said. I tried not to look surprised. It took five minutes to clear up what turned out to be a minor difficulty.
          I never saw Bob again about physics. He finished the whole book by himself. He did algebra and calculus without even asking if I would help him. I guess he knew I would.
          Bob is a mathematician today.

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From Reflections on the Sudbury School Concept
Edited by Mimsy Sadofsky and Daniel Greenberg

Bells
By Martha Hurwitz

          At 7:48 each weekday morning, I hear First Bell. I'm usually sipping my coffee. Early in the school year, when the days are warm and my kitchen door is open, I can listen to the low monotone of the female voice pushing through the P.A. system. Soon after, another bell sounds (it's certainly not a ring), and I imagine roomfuls of like-sized and uniformed students moving through corridors like cars through a trafficked intersection. By this time, I'm making the final preparations for my commute to Sudbury Valley. Although the school with bells is only a stone's throw away from my back steps, I'd much rather commute 45 minutes twice a day to have the freedom that is the keystone of Sudbury Valley.
      Freedom seems impossible at this school next door. The bells themselves betray the lack of freedom inside the school. They demand: Are you where you should be now? Are you doing what you're supposed to be doing? Have you done what's expected of you? Especially coming out of summer vacation, I imagine that those students moving to the sound of the bells must be suffering a great transition, from the relative freedom of their summers to the virtual loss of self during the school year.
      Of course, there aren't bells at Sudbury Valley; the questions they pose would be entirely inappropriate. However, at the beginning of each year, or the beginning of a student's experience at the school, Sudbury Valley students also go through a transition. Typically, what returning students, new students, parents and even staff experience getting used to the school year at Sudbury Valley may seem a surprising reversal of what happens elsewhere. Here, the difficulty is in getting used to freedom, not in relinquishing it. As welcome as the possibility of freedom may be, it is not always easy to achieve. Rather, it is a formidable challenge. School members are effected on many levels: as individuals each with a unique sense of self, as members of the Sudbury Valley community, and as responsible citizens in the wider society.
      For new students, the transition into the Sudbury Valley school year must be exceptionally profound. Not only do they move out of summer and into school, but they must change their very understanding of what school is. For some, SVS may seem like a continuation of the summer or as if they'd dropped out of school for something frivolous, even illegitimate. Younger new enrollees tend to adapt without a second thought; they haven't yet become burdened with expectations. Older new students may sputter and stall like a car that needs warming up. For years they've been urged or forced to replace natural inclinations with the should's and supposed to's of a life structured by bells. Many are former 'good' students who did everything they were told, and did it well, yet felt an intense disassociation with their lives. Others were the 'bad' ones, those who wouldn't succumb to the structures and directions imposed on them. For both, summers were perhaps their only chance to exercise personal choices about what they want to do.
      In a way, our new students are similar to the slaves just after emancipation. For generations, the slaves barely had names with which to establish their sense of personal identity. Choosing a name after emancipation was both powerful and symbolic. It meant a former slave was now a person with a sense of self. Many new SVS students describe their previous school experience as if they were imprisoned or stultified. Their liberties were impaired, not rendered obsolete as were the slaves; but in both instances, time and respect are essential in allowing them to find out who they honestly want to be. Sudbury Valley deliberately gives room for this. To many outsiders, the students' experience of self-exploration looks suspiciously like they're doing nothing. To new students, this introductory experience feels challenging, often confusing, but certainly not like they're doing nothing.
      Returning students start the new school year by reacquainting themselves with what it is that they want. This is relatively easy for the lucky few whose summer experiences are as much their creation as their days at SVS. The transition is more pronounced for those whose time and choices were circumscribed during the summer; they have to learn (or relearn) to find and honor their wants. They must experience the traumas and rewards of time undetermined, apart from the norms of the society at large, adapting to the norms of the people and structure within the SVS community. Often they feel that what they want doesn't amount to much, especially in the discriminating eye of parents, relatives, friends from other schools, or our culture in general. Indeed, they must learn about what the idea of amounting to much actually means in their lives.
      For parents the transition into Sudbury Valley entails giving way, although for them it may be less of an annual event than it is for the students. This means embracing and allowing, believing and trusting, not of the school and of its staff, but of the students in all their interests, lack of interests, indecisiveness or singleness of pursuit. Parents may never know how their children spend their time at SVS, but they will know if their children are happy, energetic, thoughtful, or engaged. There can be no documentable picture of what a day at Sudbury Valley looks like. Parents may ask "What did you do today?", but the student's answer will invariably be incomplete: doing at SVS can mean anything from eating lunch with some friends, to curling up on a pillow in the sun in the conservatory, to getting brought up, to sitting on the playroom porch watching four-square. Even doing nothing is considered doing. "What did you learn today?" is a more dangerous question, depending on how it's asked. Too often the inter est isn't for conversation, but for evidence. It sounds like what the sounds of school bells intimate, "Are you doing what you're supposed to?"
      Even some of the staff experience a transition in returning to SVS for a new year. For those of us who work elsewhere for all or part of the summer, being at SVS is something of a relief. At SVS, the staff are demystified individuals who relate honestly and directly with the students. In many other institutions, the role of the educator is as a masked performer who participates in limited and predetermined relationships with his/her charges. Even though I tend to work for what are considered particularly 'progressive' educational organizations during my summers, I end up reconciling many conflicts of assumption: that my students need to be supervised at all moments, that my clients won't choose the right things if given choices, or that being honest with the group may undermine the authority I must maintain over it. As with any other Sudbury Valley member, I am challenged to articulate my position, and not to compromise myself beyond what may be useful. I'm sure others from SVS also know the thrill of having a particularly SVS-like position acknowledged or adopted once it is explained.
      Although public perception might suggest otherwise, freedom is neither easy or free. Often people assume that a school with so much freedom would support chaos, invite atrophy, or generally be a free-for-all for the privileged few participants. Freedom, by definition, is freeing, but it isn't free. It takes a lot of work. There are many things we're taught as members of our society; being free isn't necessarily one of them. It takes courage, tenacity and commitment to participate in such an unusual and controversial institution as Sudbury Valley, whether as a student, parent, or staff person.
      A few blocks away from my house, in the opposite direction of the school with bells, is a church with a carillon tower. Every fifteen minutes the bells ring out. The sound bounces off the school behind my house, making a quick echo, "Bong-ong, bong- ong." I find the sound of these bells soothing. They seem to pose those questions we at Sudbury Valley enjoy being asked: Where are you at this moment? What are you thinking right now? What has your day been full of up to this point? What are you choosing to do at this moment of your life?

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From Announcing a New School

By Daniel Greenberg

The Physical Plant

      We got a great deal of insight into good campus design accidentally. We went out and looked for a place and found our campus, and it happened to be an old, distinguished estate. We might have ended up with a plot of ground on which we had to build; or we might have ended up with any number of other things. I don’t know what we would have thought then, but probably we would have been thinking along pretty standard lines had we designed a campus from scratch. We would have tried to decide what kind of design would best suit the needs of the school as we envisioned these needs in advance, and we doubtless would have come up with an art center, and information center, and this and that. It’s called campus planning. But as it turned out, none of this came to be, because we had a ready-made building. And we found out something from our experience with this building that, not surprisingly, reflects much of the very early centers of learning in medieval and early modern Europe.

      We found out that there was something extraordinarily suitable about an estate-size building, a building planned and built as a large estate, as a design for a school. Let’s put it this way. You can start by pointing to some of the features of a planned campus, in the standard sense of the term, that really are inappropriate to the kind of school we’re talking about. The main feature is that it’s planned in a linear fashion: there’s a planned use for each building, there’s a restricted degree of flexibility. You build a laboratory and that’s what it is. You build a library and that’s what it’s designed to be. There’s a tremendous degree of linearity to the use of the buildings, which reflects the linearity of the institutions they serve and is very much out of character with our school. There isn’t the kind of flexibility, the kind of give, that could respond to change and fluctuation in needs of various student bodies. You program what can be done at other schools so tightly that you lay the groundwork for channeling a student’s possibilities for activity.

      The second thing wrong with these buildings is that they’re like jails, they’re cold, they’re mass produced, everything about them smacks of the regimented linearity of the industrial age. Long corridors, big rooms with lots of chairs lined up in them, toilets with urinals lined up next to each other, cafeterias where everybody eats at the same place at a given time, and so forth. They have a character that’s very compatible with modern society. When you look at modern architecture the thing that’s striking about it is the basic similarity between structures; and that’s to be expected because they all share the linearity, the aspiration to linearity and the aspiration to regimentation, that modern society has. So whether you’re looking at a place of entertainment, a shopping center, a prison, a school, a college, a factory – whatever you happen to be looking at, you get the same kind of structure that has become almost synonymous with the word “institutional.” And that’s really what’s wrong with modern campuses.

      Another thing that is also not in character with our school is very small intimate buildings like homes. There are a lot of educational reformers who talk about small family-type units. This is a tremendous fad in education. They talk about the “family” group and the “family” room – we used to call it “home room,” now it’s the “family grouping.” Or they talk about reorganizing schools into small units – tens and twenties – with a teacher who has a sort of parental role. For our school, this can be ruled out on the grounds that I’ve already discussed, because it hybridizes the personal and the institutional relations of people in a way that we’re not interested in.

      The thing about large estate type structures is that they avoid linearity on the one hand and the small homey family intimacy on the other hand. What’s a big estate? You’ve got all sorts of rooms, and you’ve got a lot of them, so you’re never in danger of falling into the trap of thinking you’re a family. There are rooms of all different sizes. They’re comfortable, they’re thought of more in terms of human comfort than regimenting the activities of their occupants. You get design in an estate that looks to the comfort of the inhabitant, looks to a wide variety of multipurpose rooms; so you have much more flexibility, hardly any linearity at all, and a sense of ease and comfort. This is enhanced as I’ve already pointed out, in furnishing the place with comfortable home-type furniture. Not to create a home, but the kind of furniture you would put in your home for comfort rather than regimented row-type chairs and desks.

      What I’m trying to say is that if you look around at the various forms of current architecture, the one form that is presently known and available that seems particularly appropriate for school design is the estate. That doesn’t rule out some special purpose buildings. That doesn’t rule out building an auditorium, or any particular single purpose building. But I would say that the need for these is relatively small in a school. You’re better off making use of the specialized buildings in the community. They can be shared by everybody, by the community, by the school. You’re better off building a really good bona fide theater in the community and giving access to all groups; and if you need more, you build another theater in the community rather than having each school have its own specialized theater. That’s a terrible waste of resources and a linearity in the institution which ends up either in having the building not used most of the time or forcing people into the dramatic arts simply to use the facility. Actually, in the present day education, it’s more the former than the latter. For example, the average modern school outfits TV multi-media centers and computer centers and so forth, rather than make use of these facilities in the community at large, and most of these facilities sit unused in the schools much of the day. In the few schools where they put up facilities and then insist on their use, it leads to a tremendous regimentation of the whole school in order to justify the outlay.

      So I would say that of all the types of structures that are sensible today, a really good campus is one in which you have several large villas, and grounds in between. You can have this in the heart of a city. There are large mansions, and if instead of putting art collections in the Frick building and the Guggenheim home or something like that you put schools in these large buildings, you’d have the same effect in the city. True, you wouldn’t have green and trees and outdoors around it, but then you don’t in the rest of the city either, so it would be in line with the rest of the city.

      I’m not saying that there might not develop in the course of time other styles of architecture that might not be equally well suited to schools, and maybe even better. All I’m saying is that if you look around at the present available architecture, this style stands out as by far the most appropriate one. It has the added feature of being reasonable as far as the expense of constructing it and maintaining it are concerned. The outlay on such a physical plant is a fraction of the outlay of a big modern building. There are lots of reasons for that, but I think the basic reason is that linear institutions tend to waste a tremendous amount of space and equipment because so much is put into providing things that aren’t really needed.

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