Re: DSM: Educational Reform

SEArenas (
Wed, 20 May 1998 18:33:30 EDT

Thanks for your reply Joe. Although I had not intended for my message to you
to be forwarded to the entire list, since it was, I'll respond here too.

Probably I'm in a minority on this list, but I'm somewhat put off by the
implications that public school is so completely awful, and the Sudbury method
is so completely perfect. I see some of what you describe in my son's
experience at public school, but I see many positives as well. And, I have
concerns about aspects of the Sudbury model as well... I think as an ideal
it's pretty close to perfect, but as a real-life experience, it may not always
live up to the ideal. If resolving problems, learning from mistakes, dealing
with hard issues is an accepted & given part of the Sudbury experience... then
I don't see why problems, mistakes, and hard issues that come up in public
school are somehow worse. Harder to effect change perhaps, but not completely

For parents whose kids have never attended public school, and who have
accumulated second hand horror stories from other public school families, it
may be very clearcut. But it would be interesting to hear from parents who
have had kids in public schools, not just struggling inner-city public schools
but "good" public schools (the ones that get nationally recognized for
innovation and excellence), parents who have volunteered and been active in
working with school districts and staff, and how and why they chose to leave
that learning environment for a Sudbury model school.

For me, the decision is not likely to be based on my opinion of whether one
learning environment/method is inherently better than another, but more simply
on which one is best for my child. I will say that regardless of which path I
& my son ultimately choose for him, the experience of researching the Sudbury
model and other alternative methods, has been eye-opening and empowering in
terms of asking for what I want & need from my son's education... rather than
just accepting/making-do with what is available & offered.


In a message dated 98-05-20 16:17:13 EDT, you write:

<< And the requirements for public school students today are even more
ludicrous than they were when I was in school in the Seventies and
Eighties. Our friends who live in Bethesda, MD have three children
enrolled in public school. They spend two hours _a night_ doing homework,
and much of it is so abstract, the parents can't even help them with it.
They showed it to me (it was sixth grade grammar), and it was absolute crap
- completely useless. Par for the course.

I (and I'm sure many of you) have seen it over and over again, where people
have these brilliant kids with sparkles in their eyes who play deep and
hard from dawn until dusk, until the parents shove them into our modern-day
workaholic schools. Sure enough within a year the sparkle's gone, and
they're trudging around acting reserved and judgemental, waiting for the
next adult to impose their will on them. They've got the weight of the
world on their shoulders, because they've been thrust into the adult world
of constant work, evaluation, punishment, and rewards!

I decided I wouldn't allow that to happen to my children. They're very
lucky not to have to spend a year decompressing from a conventional school
because they will never set foot in one.

Having made this decision, Linda and I see things every day that confirm
our choice. Our son is 6. Right now he's teaching himself to read. He's
really excited about math and animals (especially bugs). He's very
computer literate. All this, and Linda and I have never initiated the idea
that he should learn a single thing.

I respect your path and I think it's wonderful that you are so obviously
concerned with your son's life. I hear your concerns, and I have heard
them a dozen times. The issues you raise are issues that every single one
of us have faced, and the answer is that the Sudbury Model requires from
parents great patience and trust in the child. I think my kids need what I
needed when I was their age and what we all need as adults: for them to be
respected as human beings capable of making decisions for themselves and
being responsible for those decisions. The degree to which children can
make good decisions usually depends on how long they've been allowed to,
and in the case of a public school student, that's no time at all. >>