DSM: Periodic review


Scott Gray (sdg@aramis.sudval.org)
Tue, 6 Feb 2001 09:40:39 -0500 (EST)


Hi all,

This is my periodic reposting of the "introductory" message that is sent
to new list members. Some of you have been online for a long time, and
may wish to review the message to view majordomo commands.

Please note that a short list of written rules has been added to the
introductory message. These are pretty straightforward, and have been
mentioned in less formal emails in the past. However, it has been
suggested that this code of conduct be promulgated in the first message
seen by each listmember, and I have taken that advice.

Take care,

--Scott David Gray
reply to: sdg@sudval.org
My page: http://www.unseelie.org/
The school's page: http://www.sudval.org/

========================================================================

[Last updated on: Tue Jan 6 09:45:00 2001]

INFORMATION ON THE SUDBURY VALLEY SCHOOL (detailed rules, and information
on the mail-server follows).

     I work at a School called Sudbury Valley. The school has been in
operation for more than 30 years now, and several other schools around and
outside the country see our school's success and are modeling their
schools on ours.
     The school accepts anyone from ages four and up, and is
accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges to
award a high school diploma (more on that later). It is a private
school, which relies upon tuition (the tuition is less than half the
per-pupil cost of the local public schools) and refuses grants or
government money. Studies of our alumni show them to be "successful"
by any criteria; most have gone on to their first choice career or
college, most have a comfortable income, and (the best definition of
success, in my mind) most are happy people.
     The physical plant is a beautiful Victorian mansion on a
ten-acre campus. It is furnished like a home, with couches, easy
chairs, books everywhere (rather than hidden in a library), etc. The
grounds are excellent for sport and games, and the school has several
facilities; a chemistry-biology lab, a darkroom, a piano, a computer
lab, a stereo, a pond great for fishing, several computers, etc.
     Students (from age four on up) are free to do as they wish
during the day, as long as they follow the school rules (more on
school rules later). The campus is "open" and people may come and go
as they please, without having to check with an office or other such
nonsense. No one is required to attend classes and, indeed, classes
are rare and bear little resemblance to the usual notion of a
"class". There are no tests or grades of any kind. Students and
staff (teachers) are equal in every regard. The students and staff
refer to each other by first name, and the relationships between
students and staff can't easily be distinguished from the relations
between students.
     The school is governed democratically, by the School Meeting.
The school meeting meets weekly, and is made up of students and staff
(one vote to a person, following Robert's Rules of Order). It
decides all matters of consequence; electing administrative officers
from among its own members (yes, no distinction is made between
students and staff as far as eligibility for an office), deciding
school rules (enforced by the Judicial committee, see later), making
expenditures, submitting the annual budget to the Assembly (see
later) for approval, hiring firing and re-hiring staff (there is no
tenure, all staff are up for re-election each year), etc.
     The school Assembly meets annually, and is made up of students,
staff, and parents of students (as most parents pay tuition, it is
considered only reasonable to give them some voice in the use of
their money). It must approve the budget (submitted by the school
meeting) which includes tuition rates, staff salaries, etc. It also
votes on whether or not to award a diploma to any students that have
requested one. The Assembly is the broad policy-making body of the
school.
     Within the school, the rules are enforced by a judicial system
which has been re-defined by the School Meeting several times over
the last 30 years. Its most current incarnation revolves around a
Judicial Committee (JC) made up of two officers elected every two
months (always students, ever since the positions first opened), five
students selected randomly every month, and a staff member chosen
daily. The JC investigates complaints of school rules being broken,
and sometimes presses charges. If the JC finds someone guilty, and
(s)he pleads innocent, there will be a trial. If a person pleads
guilty or is found guilty by the trial, the accused will be sentenced
by the Judicial Committee. Verdicts and sentences deemed unfair by
the accused (or others, for that matter) may be brought before the
school meeting.
     All school meeting members are equal before the law. In fact,
the first guilty verdict ever was against staff members. Typical
sentences are things like "can't go outside for two days", "can't
enter the upstairs for a week", etc.
     Democracy alone is not enough to create a stable happy
community. The revolution-torn democratic city-states of ancient
Greece are testimony to this. It is also important that personal
freedoms and rights be respected. As such, the school grants the
freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to its students; normally
in American society students are not given freedom of thought or
religion (a parent may force his/her child into Sunday school), free
assembly (they're not even allowed to leave their seats to go to the
bathroom in traditional school, without permission from a teacher),
etc.
     It is understood that the "purpose" of schools is to educate. So let
me put forward the reasons why persons in Sudbury Model Schools believe
that freedom and democracy is the best environment for children to learn.
     People are born with an amazing capacity for knowledge -- the
brain. It makes little sense to assume that such a thing could have
evolved (or been created, or whatever) without the means of USING it
also being natural to human beings. Let me list some of the more
obvious "natural" mechanisms by which children (and adults) encode
information about their world. Curiosity (crushed in a classroom
where you must study what others wish, rather than that subject which
you are burning to know), role-modeling (not easy when the only
person older than you is a teacher whom you probably dislike and is
almost certainly NOT practicing the profession you would choose) and
spontaneous play (that's right out the window, for children are so
restrained by school that even "recess" becomes a time for working
off violent energy rather than exploring one's world).
     People sometimes ask how Sudbury Valley students are "exposed"
to different things. I find this a very odd question, for in reality
how can a person KEEP from being exposed to things? We are in an age
of endless information, and it takes a cell (like a traditional
school) to KEEP a curious person from finding out anything and
everything (s)he wants to know.
     People naturally learn to deal with the environment in which
they are placed. In a place with grades, where knowledge is
spoon-fed to them and they never have any reason to make use of it
apart from passing a test, students will learn to GET GOOD GRADES
(whether that means learning to cheat, or learning how to "cram" for
a test). In a place where people do what they want, they find the
INTRINSIC value of knowledge. In a place where people are treated as
adult human beings they learn that they must live up to certain
community standards, but when they are treated as prisoners (read:
traditional schools) they learn only that they are untrusted, and
they learn to wait for the instructions and orders of others. It is
testimony to the strength of the human spirit that there are so FEW
apathetic and helpless people that come out of the public school
system. (Sudbury Valley alumni, by the way, often become quite
politically active in later life, and often go into helping
professions.)
     If you have any questions or comments about SVS which you would
like to direct to a large number of people who are familiar with the
SVS community (including students, alumni, staff, parents, friends
and critics) please feel free to write to the mailing list address:
discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org To join the mailing list, a one-line
message "subscribe discuss-sudbury-model" to message "subscribe discuss-sudbury-model" to majordomo@sudval.org.

     Please note that this mailing list is a private mailing list,
maintained by Scott Gray. It is an accident that Scott's Internet
access is on the sudval.org server, and this mailing list is neither
maintained nor endorsed by the Sudbury Valley School.

  --Scott Gray, The Sudbury Valley School, 2 Winch Street,
Framingham, MA 01701 (508)877-3030

Mailing list: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org (to join: write to
majordomo@sudval.org, and put "subscribe discuss-sudbury-model" in
the body of your message.)

The mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives/

Private email (to Scott Gray): sdg@sudval.org

URL for the school: http://www.sudval.org

========================================================================

  Basic rules of this list are as follows:

  1: You may not post an attack on another member of the list to the list.
It is acceptible to critique the position of other list members in the
context of discussion, but it is not acceptible to criticize the _person_
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but may also be done if inappropriate material is posted to the list, or
for other reasons.

========================================================================

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Thu Mar 29 2001 - 11:16:35 EST