Re: Sudbury as community

Dale R. Reed (
Mon, 07 Apr 1997 22:34:58 -0700

Bruce L. Smith wrote:
> collective of interacting individuals, there is also a lot to be said for
> communities of not-so-like-minded people. Certainly there have been plenty
> of communities in my life (for example, jobs) where the ability to interact
> with people who decidedly did NOT share my interests has proved vital.

This is a good point. To you new people on the list that don't know my
history I spent a couple years wintering over buried under the ice in
Antarctica. I did not chose the people I wintered over with and had to
learn very quickly how to get along with many different kinds of
people. In fact I did not get along very well the first year and after
returning home to Colorado decided to go back a second time to prove to
myself I had learned my lessons. I had and the second year went much
smoother. I suspect I would have had a much better first year if I had
been a graduate of Sudbury Valley School.

And as Bruce says, one generally does not get to pick who they work with
on the job. I engineered for 30 years at Boeing never knowing who my
seat mates or cubical buddies would be tomorrow. Some of the lessons I
learned in the Antarctica were very useful. In fact I have applied them
to my marriage and family and other relationships. So I can see the
advantage of spending a year or two at a Sudbury Valley School or some
similar environment to learn how to get along with people who you did
not choose.

But neither under the ice, nor at work, nor the union that I was a big
cheese in, nor my family nor anywhere else in real life are groups run
democratically. That decision making technique of Sudbury Valley's is
very charming but is not used to any significant extent in the real
world. The Antarctic bases were military with a strict chain of command
that we sandcrabs(civilian scientists) were expected to obey. Work is
run by bosses. Unions are representative similar to our federal and
state governments but without a Bill of Rights, some family decisions
can be reached by consensus but generally some of the important
decisions are left to the father and some to the mother until the
children get old enough to start making some of their own decisions.
And so on.

> On
> this same note, Dale speaks warily of students' "having to compromise" with
> staff and other students. Well, isn't compromise a part of life?

If a school is a place for learning, we are not talking about baby
sitting here I hope, then I cannot see the advantage of a budding
engineer having to compromise with half a dozen other students on their
Algebra teacher. In 1968 sure but not in 1997. If the student wants
compromising lessons that is fine for a class or two but to spend year
after year compromising with 50 other children over what facilitators or
staff(they generally do not "teach" at a Sudbury Valley School but I
instead appreciate talented teaching) will help him or her learn to
write interesting papers, or develop their mathematically abilities or
whatever? I just do not understand why.

> Economic barriers may be galling, but
> let's also remember that tuition at Sudbury schools ranges widely, and they
> still manage to operate quite well at a _fraction_ of the public schools'
> per-pupil expenditure.

I am a capitalist and in no way find economic barriers galling. I wish
more decisions in this world were made for economic reasons instead of
on the basis of need, or political connections, or race, or sex or I
wear a special golden tie tack in the shape of a dollar sign. In fact
one of the things that attracts me to the Greenberg's is they had a
choice when they set up Sudbury Valley School, to make it for-profit or
non-profit and they chose for-profit. I appreciate that and understand
at least some of the advantages and disadvantages of that decision.

And the welfare schools cost way way too much for what the students get
out of them, that is for sure. I am working to separate school and
state to free up the $3E11/year that is spent on k-12 in the U.S. so
more children can experiment with Sudbury Valley and whatever other
learning environments that people can invent and attract students and
their parents to fund voluntarily.
> Please don't think that I am being overly critical of homeschooling, or
> unschooling, or any genuine (i.e., thoughtful and sincerely pursued)
> educational alternative. Indeed, I am posting this message in large part
> because I think we're in danger of mixing the apples and the oranges. I
> perceive a consensus in all that's been said on this topic, that diversity
> in communities is a good thing. It's simply my view that Sudbury school
> communities combine diversity and accessibility, autonomy and support, in
> an organic way that shouldn't be overlooked or downplayed.

I agree entirely. It was Hanna that started this latest homeschooling
vs Sudbury Valley thread. I was not intending to run anything down
either. The problem(one of the problems) with these discussion lists is
a half dozen of us have been "arguing" these subjects for many months
and then new ones come in but we can't see them enter and so ...

Anyway as I have repeated many times before I am a libertarian that
likes lots of choices and Sudbury is another very interesting choice. I
find it fruitful and enjoyable to discuss the relative merits of the
many learning environments on line. I have learned a lot from these
discussions. And I hope I have added another interesting and thoughtful
point of view also. Dale