Re: DSM: Interest increasing?
Fri, 5 Jan 2001 23:08:12 EST


This is Stuart Williams-Ley from Cedarwood Sudbury School, with a couple of
thoughts about Summerhill and about starting democratic schools.

Those of us involved with democratic schools owe Summerhill a debt of
gratitude for taking student freedom and democratic governance much further
than schools had done previously. The example of Summerhill has served as an
inspiration to many of us.

That said, the idea that Summerhill is more democratic than a Sudbury school
strikes me as laughable. When someone broke a rule, for example, A.S. Neill
himself decided whether to refer the matter to School Meeting or to handle it
himself. If he chose the latter, he could subject the student to (Wilhelm)
Reichian analysis. Neill handled problems in some pretty weird ways, such as
giving students money for having broken a rule (!), breaking a few windows
himself (!!), or prescribing masturbation (!!!). Neill also hired and fired
staff, determined the budget, and overrode the School Meeting when he deemed
it appropriate. In sum, Neill was more a benevolent king than a member of a
democratic assembly.

As for whether startup groups should call themselves Sudbury schools, doing
so has several effects:
1. People who don't want a Sudbury school may drop out of your group. Every
group--even every Sudbury school founders group--has people with somewhat
differing visions. The more the group defines its vision, though, the fewer
people with incompatible visions will remain. Startup groups might feel they
can't afford to lose anyone, but a much greater risk is endless divisiveness
that ends only with a bitter split.
2. In particular, adults who want to impose their agendas on children will
find that the SVS model makes this difficult. Some parents like the idea of
their children being free in theory, but still would want the school to
require students to learn to read or take math classes.
3. Founders' efforts become more focused on the mechanics of founding the
school than on deciding the school philosophy.

I personally would hate to pour a lot of work into a school startup, only to
have the school turn out to be significantly different from what I

Take care,


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