DSM: Prompting discussion


Todd Robinson (tsr@speakeasy.net)
Sun, 26 Nov 2000 10:38 -0800


Greetings to the DSM email list. I am a parent of a 4-year-old and am looking into schools for him. I recently came across Sudbury Valley School somehow, and immediately fell in love with what I read. I have since joined the DSM list, read some of the archived DSM messages at www.sudval.org, ordered a few books written by SVS founders, and made plans to visit the Clearwater School here in Seattle.

As I've been digesting this information, several questions have come to my mind which I have not seen addressed. Therefore, I'm going to list them below to prompt discussion on this email list. If any of the issues has been discussed in a book, a periodical, or a prior thread on the DSM list, please let me know and I will look there for more information.

(1) A few of the other points I raise will relate to the affiliation between SVS and its "sister" schools. What is the nature of this affiliation? If it is formalized at all, what are the parameters to decide which schools can be affiliated, and who sets these parameters? Is there coordination of any kind across the various sister schools? If so, what types? Are there any types of coordination that don't exist but which anyone feels should exist?

(2) Is there a scholarship fund at any of the schools or generally across multiple schools? I would like to contribute what I can to help families pay for a Sudbury-style school who believe in the concept but who might otherwise not afford it.

(3) For the people involved in Sudbury-style schools, what portion of their time is spent on disseminating the model's ideas beyond the schools? Do any of the schools have organized outreach programs of any kind? Is there any organized outreach that is coordinated across multiple Sudbury-style schools? I know that people visit SVS and other schools, that books have been written, and that by SVS founders and people involved in other Sudbury-style schools speak publicly about the model. My main interest in asking about outreach is in conjunction with outreach to other schools (public or private) or educational organizations (e.g. teachers groups). For me, my interest in student democracy and non-forced learning is a combination of (a) my desire for my son to have what I didn't have, and (b) my desire that all children have the best "school" possible. I am fairly sure I can find something that will work for my son (and me!), but I also want to work towards democratizing the!
 existing school systems around me. I am wondering what sort of outreach has been done to "regular" schools and to teacher
organizations, in order to disseminate the Sudbury-model ideas. [NOTE: This idea of disseminating democratic ideals is somewhat of a pie-in-the-sky issue for me personally, because I am raising my son by myself and rarely find time to do my
laundry, let alone find any free time for outreach/activism. However, SVS has been around for over 30 years so I am guessing some of the people on this list have tried outreach and can speak to its positives, negatives, and future possibilities.]

(4) I saw a mention on a prior DSM email of the lack of grants available to Sudbury-style schools. Is there a fundraising group at individual schools or across schools? What portion of operating revenue typically comes from tuition? Are there schools that either can't start, have to close, or can't operate effectively due to funding problems? If so, what ideas do people have for the group of Sudbury-style schools to support each other economically?

(5) To what degree do families involved in Sudbury-style schools seek alternative living or working situations in addition to alternative schooling? By "alternative living situation" I mean anything from communal living to coops to cohousing to just moving from the city to the country, and by "alternative working situation" I mean anything where you are outside of the rat race. Is this issue widely discussed and considered to be intimately related to the kind of school the
families' children are in?

(6) How do the democratic prinicples of the Sudbury model extend to the world outside the school? For example, do the bulk of the parents and staff believe in democratizing processes other than the school? As the students, the staff, the school as an entity, or the parent Assembly interact with the "outside" world, do the democractic principles of the model color affect interaction? If so, how? For example, let's assume a new structure has to be built, and it will require an outside contractor. In the discussion to decide which contractor to select, is there a formal "bill of rights", so to speak, or perhaps an informal code of conduct, that guides the School Meeting or Assembly or another group to select (if possible) a contractor whose business functions in a more democratic fashion. Another example: if a student engages in an apprenticeship or outside work program, is there anything that formally or informally leads the student to evaluate the work's social, political!
, and economic context? I'm probably not expressing this well, because it's 2:15 a.m., but I guess I am trying to understand the relationship in the Sudbury model between personal freedom and democratic principles, once the outside world is factored in.

Thanks for reading this very long email.

Todd Robinson
tsr@speakeasy.net



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