Re: Three Threads in a Fountain

Scott David Gray (
Wed, 29 Jan 1997 08:58:20 -0500 (EST)

On Wed, 29 Jan 1997, Bruce L. Smith wrote:

> 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

A) I don't know that many people are advocating that SVS be a model for
"all" schools. I think the lesson SVS shows the world is that one
_need_not_have_ school, or truancy laws, etc. to allow a populace to
educate itself.

B) The point of the SVS model is that it assumes an equal right / ability
for each person (kid or adult) to decide how s/he can best use his own
time. We don't offer a "curriculum" of any sort. Our strength is in the
_lack_ of solid curriculum -- it means that if a kid wants and feels s/he
could learn better with a curriculum s/he can set one for him/herself.
(We don't have any rules _against_ reading math and science books all
day, or quizzing oneself.)

> 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

What's a unique need or background? No two people come from the same
"background", and it seems that more freedom is the _only_ answer which
allows people with a _range_ of different backgrounds / needs to each find
what they want... I'm not sure I understand your point -- what kind of
"unique background" implies that a person is less capable of running
his/her own life? Even if this _were_ the case, that some kids were at a
predictable disadvantage vis-a-vis self-motivation, wouldn't those
"disadvantaged" kids need _more_ time in control of their own destinies /
lives -- not less? Please explain your question (and define these
"extraordinary challenges".)

> 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?

I'm of the mind that the traditional schools are beyond repair. I
sometimes flinch to even _call_ SVS a "school", because of the images in
our culture about what "a school is supposed to do". The best hope for
education, in my mind, is _not_ a reform of the infrastructure, but a
dismantling of it -- simultaneous with a bolstering of the "public
information" structure which is already in place (libraries, community
centers, etc).

[Third question not examined here, so not reprinted here.]

> 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_

--Scott David Gray
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