First Amendment

Dale R. Reed (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 09:11:31 -0800

Good morning students. Time for the next lesson in the application of
the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to little children. Yes
Mimsy I am teasing a little but Sudbury does not discriminate on the
grounds of ...... Hope that includes me too.

I will assume by the silence to my last posting that since the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects adult American's natural
rights to create their own individual characters or personalities
including their skills then Sudbury allows their students to define

I am trying to remember what I and my boys and the neighborhood children
wanted to do when we were the ages of the Sudbury Valley students. I am
remembering activities that I have not read much about in the Sudbury
Valley literature. Hence I am expecting comments from Sudbury Valley
model schools staff or students(and where are the students on these
discussion lists? Guess that is another thread for another day) and
board members and other supporters to confirm that these things do
happen or if not why they don't.

Twenty years ago when the neighborhood children heard me splitting wood
for my fireplace(I have heated our home entirely with wood from my
forest and from logs hauled in by truck for a very long time)in the
backyard they would come a running because they knew I would let them
"help". Those that work at the SVS model schools or are parents know
why I put "help" in quotes. Anyway all sizes of boys and girls were
lifting the heavy splitting mauls and wedges and sledge hammers(I always
had extras) and swinging them as best they could(the bigger and stronger
and more practiced the child the better they could do it of course) as I
kept my fingers crossed(I am a atheist so my prayers would be
ineffective) and taught them when they asked for help(which was not very
often for they learned by watching and doing). So I assume that at the
SVS schools the students are allowed to do "dangerous" work and other
activities. We did have injuries for my positive thoughts and crossed
fingers were not always enough.

Then the children expected me to begin the "contests". First I would
start doing simple arithmetic out loud. Four plus seven minus three
times TWO! and the faster ones would blurt out the answer. Then the
problems would get harder introducing zero and fractions and then . . .
soon leaving the little ones or slower ones behind so they would start
rooting for their favorites from the remaining contestants. Then we
would get into adding and subtracting in number systems of base 4 or 5
or . . . and then . . . . . I would assume that these kinds of
contests go on all the time at the SVS model schools but why don't I
read about them in the literature?

At school fairs I would make lots of money for the PTA or whatever in
my Spelling Bee room. Problem was I wasn't charging enough for there
was always a long line outside the door and much excitement inside as
the children did what they liked to do best, that is show off how bright
they were. I assume that there are many many spelling bees and other
contests at SVS model schools but I don't read about them.

We have very(100 feet and growing) tall cedar trees in our front yard.
I had thick strong ropes strung from tree to tree and extending down to
the ground. Children of all sizes had contests seeing who could climb
the ropes the farthest and fastest. The littlest ones would get my step
ladder to reach the first branches and climb the trees. Little
"Cowboy," I think his real name was George but he and my smallest
always wore cowboy hats and carried guns on their hips) would climb
almost to the top of the very flexible Red Cedar Tree swaying in the
wind. Fortunately some of the mommies must have been Christians for
someone somewhere must have been praying for no one ever fell out of the
tree. SVS has its famous Beech Tree and I assume so do all SVS model

None of the neighborhood children and certainly not my two boys would of
been satisfied with fishing out a pond for very long. They wanted to
fish in wild mountain streams and high mountain lakes, big free flowing
rivers and in saltwater whenever possible. Amazing what a little
fisherman can pull out of the waters around a ferry dock. So I would
load up the old Jeep pickup and those boys and girls that could find a
parent to give permission would pile in the bed under the canopy with
their fishing gear(I always had lots of extra poles and boots and. . .)
and away we would go. Of course all of this did eventually result in
fly tying classes from old geezers(like I am now) teaching them how to
match the hatch and other important skills. I assume that all SVS
schools have vans to take the children on field trips for it is my
experience that children soon thoroughly explore their immediate
environment and desire to look elsewhere. Grace Llewellyn and the
children and parents that contribute to her books confirm my
observations on this subject.

Now I remember the water skiing trips with truck loads of children and
sometimes parents in their cars with more children, and snorkeling
trips, and leaning off of docks high above the water and lots of knife
cuts and hikes through the dark mossy northwest woods "losing" a child
here or there(once in the deep snow on a snowshoeing trip as it was
getting dark --wow! that was almost too much for even my adventurous
spirit) but always finding them again, and bicycle injuries(surprising
how far a 13 year old boy can jump his bicycle if supplied with the
materials to try different angles and lengths, and . . . .

Often in order to "earn" an expedition to the north pole(I am a Winnie
the Pooh fan) my boys were encouraged to write a trip report on the last
expedition or a future one complete with numbers and correct spellings
including illustrations when applicable. I assume the children at SVS
model schools are encouraged to spell well, using correct grammar and
lots of numbers and calculations and illustrations in their reports and
poems and other written and spoken work.

I assume all these activities happen at SVS model schools just as they
do in some homeschooling/unschooling and in Real Lives for all of these
activities are necessary for the complete development of free human
spirits. I am very sad for all those little children that are NOT
encouraged to grow into competent, adventurous adults by schools that
temporarily suspended their natural rights to grow intellectually and
spritually during the children's very important early years.