Re: DSM: Is democracy for everyone?

rhonda goebel (
Wed, 04 Aug 1999 13:25:54 +0000

Scott, It's nice to meet you, though not in person. I believe you
co-authored a couple studies done at SVS that I'm including in my thesis
research lit. review. Read below for responses.

Scott Gray wrote:
> The building of a structure which is truly safe for people who are
> confined to wheelchairs is a large and expensive undertaking. It is not
> something which a small start-up school can easily do when going through
> the daunting process of trying to find ANY sort of building.
> Different sorts of "special needs" are, indeed, very different and call
> for very different approaches. NO school can realistically declare in
> advance that it can accomodate ALL special needs.
> Sudbury Valley recognizes this limitation.

What do you think is a fair way to include every person in democratic
schooling, and have as equal opportunity as reality permits?

 We do NOT turn away students
> at the door whose schools declare them as "special needs" students.
> Rather, over the course of the interview and visiting week, the very
> particular needs of each student are explored. It is a very rare thing
> that the school does decide that a given individual would not be safe or
> well-served by the school, but it does happen.
> On the other hand, it does happen sometimes that a public school declares
> itself incapable of educating one of its "special needs" students, and
> decides to pay the student's tuition to Sudbury Valley.

> The implication of what you write, is that each and every school has a
> personal responsibility to bankrupt itself whatever the expense, to
> accomodate any particular student; the other 210 students be damned along
> with her/him.
> To give you an extreme example, would you advise that a small school with
> a $150000 budget take a student who needs the school to pay for
> round-the-clock supervision from a doctor? If so, then how would the
> school reconcile this with its budget? If so, then how would a Sudbury
> Model School reconcile this with its intent to NOT have special
> supervision for its students?
> Sudbury Valley is not unable to make reasonable accomodations. But we
> refuse to compromise the student, the community, the programme of
> self-direction.

Does this mean that democratic education is not a possibility for all?

> To answer your question directly... Sudbury Valley is not about people
> adapting to a rigid framework, OR about going to great lengths to reinvent
> itself for each student. Sudbury Valley has made a community where people
> must be able to find a way to fill their own needs, adatping either
> themselves or the community around them to do so.
> Even the state, which has a CONSIDERABLY higher budget than a tiny school,
> doesn't pretend that it can accomodate every voter. There are many people
> who declare themselves physically unable to get to the polling place in
> the town where I live -- some of which are accomodated by the state, some
> are accomodated privately, and some of whom get no accomodation.

I know that this is reality, but can you explain further about your
ethical analysis of it? Do you see 'community' primarily as individuals
getting what they need through it, or as individuals working together in
ways that enable everyone get what everyone needs, or some combination?
How do you see social responsibility in a free, democratic school?
These are questions that have developed for me as I have researched free
schools. I don't mean to put Scott on the spot, anyone can answer.

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