Three Threads in a Fountain

Bruce L. Smith (bsmith@midway.uchicago.edu)
Wed, 29 Jan 1997 00:22:03 -0600

Feel free to pick up and play with these as your time and interest allow:

1. One thing I'm still a bit uncertain on regarding the Sudbury model is
just how it would meet the needs of *all* students, if/when it becomes the
model for all (or most) of our schools. Clearly, there students whose
unique needs or backgrounds would render their participation in a
Sudbury-model school somewhat more problematic than if, say, they were the
model of the self-motivated, fully-able, middle-class child. Don't get me
wrong: I am not doubting the potential of the model; not at all. But what
adaptions would be required to extend the benefits of a Sudbury-model
education to those whose capacity or home environment might prove to be
extraordinary challenges? Or is this a moot question? Would patience,
creativity, and flexibility suffice?

2. The _Chicago Tribune_, which today gave a rather favorable profile of
the Liberty Valley School and the Sudbury model, has also been running a
series of articles recently on the phenomenon of so-called charter schools.
Not knowing very much about these, I was wondering what the members of
this list might have to say about them. I will admit to a good deal of
skepticism at the prospect of effecting genuine reform within the system,
however much autonomy a charter school is promised. And yet Sudbury
itself, as early as 1970, envisioned the future of the model extending to
what they termed (in _The Crisis in American Education_) "satellite public
schools." Do you think this is a step in the right direction, however
misguided? Or do you think it's more evidence of the piecemeal reform that
has gotten our public schools nowhere?

3. Some of you on this list have read a bit on my background, my five
years as a public school teacher, the reasons I left and my current
situation. Regarding the latter, let me publicly announce my hope of
joining the staff at a Sudbury-model school in the very, very near future.
To that end, I would like to invite the list to discuss the hiring process
of Sudbury-model schools, both in theory and practice. How might I go
about contacting all fifteen (?) such schools, and what should I tell them?
What sorts of qualifications should a prospective Sudbury-model staff
member possess, and how does/should the school assess the qualifications of
that candidate? I understand the theoretical foundation, the fact that
students interview and approve all hirings (as well they should): I am
interested in learning the actual mechanics of the process.

I realize these three potential threads are a bit diverse and divergent.
But I hope that at least one of them will contribute to the lively
discussion of which I know this list is capable.

Cheers,

Bruce

-------------------------

"If a person is determined to learn, they will overcome every obstacle and
learn in spite of everything...but if you bother the person, if you insist
he stop his own natural learning and do instead what you want him to
do...between 10:00 and 10:50 and so forth, not only won't he learn what he
has a passion to learn, but he will also hate you, hate what you are
forcing him to do, and lose all taste for learning."

-- _'And Now for Something Completely Different':
An Introduction to Sudbury Valley School_