DSM: RE: sudbury questions

Joe Jackson (shoeless@erols.com)
Sat, 20 Nov 1999 08:32:20 -0500

Hi Liz!!

> Did you ever notice students that just didn't
> respond well
> to the atmosphere,

Many of our students here at Fairhaven School have a hard time developing
the internal discipline needed, but so far those who stick it out always

> or whose parents couldn't handle giving them
> the freedom
> they need to find themselves?

There was one case of a family with three students who pulled them out for
that exact reason - the parents basically freaked and had apparently not
really thought out what the school was about when they enrolled.

> What about staff members that were too
> authoritarian?

We have not had to deal with that, but in any case authoritarian staff
members would not be reelected. Staff elections is one of the great
failsafes of the Sudbury Model.

> How much are the staff expected to help students,

Staff are expected to help students when the student asks them to.

> or are
> they simply expected to help students ask the right questions and then
> allow students seek out their own answers?

Actually, the way I look at it, it's kind of the reverse of that: The
students find their own right questions, and the staff is there to help them
find the answers if needed (and usually _not_ needed). Staff is also there
to sort of serve as role models, but that's a real subtle thing and we try
not get too carried away with it. We also clean the toilets, which I
personally consider the most valuable contribution staff make to the school.
Just kidding.

> How does Sudbury's school
> meetings/assembly respond to these problems, if they exist at all?

Well, our school meeting can deal with staff problems through elections, and
the staff meetings can kind of address them too through ombudsmanship.
Neither body can objectively identify, or do much about students and
families who, either overtly or subvertly, want to leave.

> I hope you all don't mind me asking these questions, but I just want to be
> prepared for the practical reality of starting a free school. I read about
> the downfall of a free school in Durham recently, and it makes me
> reluctant
> to go into this without anticipating certain common problems.

I wish you tremendous luck - this group is here to help you. Two things:

-While a Sudbury school has aspects that resemble a free school, its method
of governance produces an environment unlike any free school in the world,

-If you undertake starting a school like this, most of the time it will seem
as if the whole world's against you.

-Joe Jackson
Check out Fairhaven School's website at

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