DSM: Fast Company, March 2000

Mike Sadofsky (sadofsky@mediaone.net)
Wed, 09 Feb 2000 12:01:33 -0500

Fast Pack 2000
by Fast Company
illustrations by Adrian Tomine
first appeared: Fast Company issue 32 page 234

Can hope scale up? Can change scale down? Can
leadership grow from the grass roots? What's the
meaning of "Dotcom Mania"? Some of the best brains in
the Fast Company community convened on Nantucket for
the roundtable of the year.


For what it's worth, I read and just posted the following to
their article discussion forum:

I was attracted to the Fast Pack 2000 discussion based on
the opening question, "Can Hope Scale Up?" and its
implication for the way we provide schooling and educational
opportunity to our youth. Bill Strickland makes a telling
point. When writing about himself, he says "I want to learn
how to do that." That is indeed a key factor: when kids
reach a point of wanting to learn something, they soak it up
like a sponge. Steve McCallion notes that there exists a
lock of interest groups and the billions of dollars they
consume in our existing educational system. They aren't
inclined to give up what they have. Lisa Goursky says the
antidote for despair is "dignity and beauty." There is
little "dignity" extended to our youth in school systems
that deny them any of the precepts of citizenship embedded
in our US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Seth Godin
comments on the "knee-jerk" scale up reaction among the
panelists, and suggest that a more useful approach would be
to model a program that offers potential and replicate it
locally. Steve Portell notes that if the model isn't
attractive to people in terms of addressing their concept of
the future they won't participate. And in discussing the
question of Scaling Down Change, Barbara Waugh notes that
change that is valuable actually originates at the grass
roots; perhaps people ought to be looking for existing
innovations and encourage those that have been able to
demonstrate an ability to be effective.

My own interest is in an educational model that embodies all
of these features. I would encourage your panelists and
interested readers to visit the web site,
http://www.sudval.org and explore a schooling model that I
believe has a great deal of relevance to the questions and
observations raised in the Fast Pack 2000 forum.

At Sudbury Valley School some 200 kids between the ages of 4
and 18 learn and develop in an environment that fosters
self-motivation, self-regulation, and self-criticism.
Students are free to choose the paths that interest them and
to satisfy their own goals along those paths. At Sudbury
Valley, daily living in the community is a part of learning;
the freedom to choose one's activity and behavior carries
with it the responsibility to live with the results.
Students help to make and enforce school rules, and to see
that the institution operates responsibly in accordance with
its charter.

Since children are as individual as the adults they become,
they develop at different rates, pursue diverse interests,
and exhibit unique learning styles, all of which we are able
to see in this environment where they are permitted to
follow their personal inclinations while taking
responsibility for their behavior. One "secret" in this
model is age-mixing: the opportunity for 6 and 16 year olds
to interact with respect and curiosity.

In this school kids enjoy their time and frequently don't
want to leave at the end of the day. They master academic
material quickly (when they are ready for it) and have time
for sports, arts, crafts, work, and play. They learn to
know where their interests lie and go on to pursue careers
that satisfy them. And they hold and demonstrate the sense
of personal responsibility that make them the citizens we
should want for this millennium.

Sudbury Valley School was begun as the personal project of a
dedicated core group of individuals. Without public or
grant funding, tuition was initially pegged to the average
published cost of surrounding public schools. Today, with
frugal management by staff and students, tuition is about
1/3 that of the local public school per student expenditure.

The school model is thoroughly documented and this
descriptive material, including a new school start-up
package is being taken advantage of by numerous grass roots
start-up schools across the US and abroad.

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