Re: DSM: [SVS Discussion Board] Re: Child Safety

Scott David Gray (
Tue, 11 Apr 2000 21:35:03 -0400

Andrew Smallman wrote:

> I appreciate the fact that some of the older students at SVS took a stand
> that, in essence, indicates that they feel the standard at SVS should be
> greater than that set by the society as a whole, that age-based standards
> may be antithetical to the SVS philosophy. I suspect, and hope, that
> their stance gave everyone pause to think. And, to be frank, I am
> disappointed that the decision to create an age-based standard at SVS was
> determined by a precedent set in the greater society.

You are not doing a 6 year old any favors by denying a 12 year old certain
privileges. That six year old will be twelve soon -- why shouldn't s/he enjoy as many
activities as our society will allow her/him? It is certainly not the fault of twelve
year olds that our society will not allow six-year-olds to do certain things.

Is it evil for you or me to make use of our freedom simply because those rights
haven't been given to others who we feel also deserve it? If you were an abolitionist
white man living in Virginia in the 1830s, would you stay away from the ballot box
simply because your African American neighbors were denied the vote? Would you go
toil in the fields and insist upon being beaten, simply because your African American
neighbors were similarly restricted? Do not expect any thanks for this stupidity from
your African American neighbors. I, for one, would rather exercise my rights while
arguing for an extension of those rights -- I do not want to carry a cross for the
rest of my life for the sole purpose of appearing to be noble.

The Sudbury Valley School protects the freedoms and equality of its students on
campus without question, and offers freedoms to enjoy an open campus to the extent
that we are able to do so. Is it surprising to you that it is easier for us to offer
an open campus to nineteen year olds than it is to offer one to five year olds? Would
it be better to tell the 14 year olds that they cannot enjoy an open campus because
we're unable to find a way to offer an open campus to 7 year olds? Can we say that
with a straight face? Could we say it to the 14 year olds who have been enrolled in
the school for 10 years, patiently waiting until it is possible for the school to
allow them an open campus? Should we all live as cloistered monks because we perceive
wickedness in the world?

To summarize: I see no value in making every member of the school community wear a
hair shirt because of short-sightedness in the larger community -- they frankly would
be happy to see all of our students kept on campus all the time. Sudbury Valley is
not a guerilla organization, prepared to break the law and take up arms -- we exist in
the context of a wider community and are bound by the laws and traditions of that
wider community. The school does more good for six year olds by surviving, than it
would by martyring itself in their name.

-- Scott David Gray
Phone: 508/650-9639
ICQ: 27291292

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Tue Sep 26 2000 - 14:58:31 EDT