More on Swifty's questions

Mbradford1@aol.com
Mon, 25 Nov 1996 18:04:15 -0500

It's taken me a little time to get around to posting my comments on this
topic, so I have included quotes from three different posts.

First, Swifty wrote:

<< i have had several discussions with my therapist -- who also runs a
special needs school and does several other things (her life is a bit
hectic:) -- about SVS..
i explained to her the ideas behind SVS, and she has expressed disbelief
that the concept can work.
all of the people she has talked to about the school have spoken about
it in a negative way..>>

My opinion regarding therapists: I think a big part of a therapist's job is
to get his/her client to face the reality of his/her situation and come up
with a practical way to deal with his/her problems, rather than escape them.
Therapists who deal with students spend a lot of time trying to get their
clients to fit into the school system as it is. I think this is because they
consider it the "reality" their clients are faced with. Perhaps your
therapist thinks of SVS as a type of escape. Certainly the vast majority of
the teachers, guidance counselors and social workers I have worked with
strive for changes *within* the context of the system as it is. The
possibility that an entirely different system is needed doesn't even enter
the realm of consideration, especially one as far out as SVS, because they
are too busy finding ways to patch the leaky holes in the current system. I
myself (as a former public school teacher) probably would have classified a
Sudbury model school as "wacko" a few years ago. My move to the Sudbury
educational philosophy was a gradual one.

<<some of what she heard was that SVS teaches the bright students, while
letting others "fall by the wayside," and that graduates of SVS "don't
know how to write a term paper." >>

A term paper. Gee, that's a skill I use a lot as an adult (sarcasm here).
But seriously, tell me what normally happens to the students that don't fall
into the "bright" category in public schools? Can your therapist honestly
claim that the majority of these students are benefitting - more than they
are suffering - from this factory-style mass education? I see most of them
sliding by, hoping to go unnoticed, and biding their time til they get out,
then going through a long, painful process of figuring out what they really
want to do. If that ain't "falling by the wayside", I don't know what is!

In another post, you wrote:

<<the problem .... is that there are very, very few people adopting the SVS
model.
why? if the model is superior in nearly every way to the model currently in
general use, why is it that there is no widespread movement in its direction?

ostensibly the explanation is that changing our educational model, as
changing any belief system, is scary. but does this fear really have
the ability to persist for decades against the onslaught of scientific
and observational data?

it looks to me like there is something fishy going on..>>

and Betsy replied:

<<My experience tells me that yes, this fear does have the ability to persist
for decades, and in my naivete, I haven't figured out why. In all my
conversations in opening a democratic school I met this fear in _every_
person I spoke with. Some people are open enough to engage, and then to
think, and then to examine beliefs they hold as truth. Sadly, most people
hear it and promptly slam the door. I assume that's the fear. What seems
fishy to me is the mind that stays closed - and many, many closed minds are
sitting in official positions. And the hundred or so people at
young democratic schools and startup groups are meeting them every day. Some
make progress against the tides; some don't.>>

Interestingly enough, that really hasn't been my experience. In my
activities in the Joliet area promoting a Sudbury model school, I have met
with a great deal of positive reaction. (And this in an extremely
conservative community.) Granted, there are those around here who think it's
"wacky", or "would never work", but when I have been given an opportunity to
have a dialogue with people the majority have found the discussion
interesting and persuasive. I think it helps that my involvement with the
model began as skepticism, but converted to support based on Danny
Greenberg's, and others', logical and common sense arguments. It also helps
that SVS has a wonderful 28 year track record.

The aspect that appeals to me most, and that I find appeals to many I talk
to, is the self-reliance and confidence that students develop in such a
setting. Ask your therapist if she is familiar with _Raising Self-Reliant
Children in a Self-Indulgent World_ by Jane Nelson & H. Stephen Glenn. This
is a very popular book with guidance counselors and family therapists, and
has for me been helpful in understanding the importance - nay, the absolute
necessity - of allowing children the freedom to make their own choices. It
helps make it clear that freedom to choose is not the same thing as
permissiveness, which is a very important distinction to make when explaining
the Sudbury model.

I'm not saying there's a tidal wave of progress towards this type of
education, but it is becoming increasingly clear to a majority of people that
the traditional system isn't working. They just aren't ready to make the
leap of faith to Sudbury model - yet. But I believe that consistent,
rational and patient dialogue will bring us ever closer towards our goal.
Then again, maybe I'm just a hopeless optimist who has yet to deal with the
realities of an operational school! (Or maybe both....)

Sincerely,

Melissa Bradford
Liberty Valley School
*Opening of Fall '97*