Re: DSM: attracting relatively free kids to a Sudbury school

Ben Robins (
Tue, 27 Mar 2001 08:16:29

Hi Mimsy [and Mitch, see below),

>even in these families the parents tend to control the space a LOT more
>than the kids, and there is a lot less space. The least-coercive parents
>tend to be seen as (by their kids) more judgmental than the most judgmental
>staff and students in a school.

I wrote:

"the community is likely to be smaller (namely the family, and maybe some
friends, and you'd have to see non-coercive parents in action to decide if
they truly are non-judgemental)."

so it looks like we agree.

A self-proclaimed non-coercive parent is not the same thing as a
non-coercive parent. Just like there are many hundreds of self-proclaimed
free schools but only a few handfuls of schools where kids are, by SVS's
definition of free (no, I don't want to play the semantics game either),

>Kids can use resources freely in the world?

If you are refering to something other than the following, please paste it
in for me, but I think you are refering to when I wrote:

>As for 3), kids in non-coercive families have many resources available in
>their home and in their home town.

The poorest family I've ever stayed with was in Cuba, and I'd say even they
"have many resources available in their home and in their home town."

>What world do you live in, Ben?

In the last couple of weeks I've mostly been in Academic World. For $50 a
year I get unlimited borrowing privileges at a fantastic university library,
and their free internet access puts me in touch with world experts in my
field of interest (who usually respond to a serious question within 24
hours) - of course the library is chock full of those experts' opinions, so
I rarely contact them. Any kid who wants to read economics, law, medicine,
math, engineering, literature etc at any level can get that for $50 a year.
  Comparing that to a Sudbury school tuition, you've got a lot of money left
over for taxi rides (freeing you somewhat from your parents). Besides
Academic World, lately I've also been in Art World, Drama World,
Broadcasting World, Music World, Journalism World, all free and all a short
walk from my home. If I got the urge, I know how to set-up a free jaunt
into Carpentry World or Cooking World etc etc. If parents are willing to
put up the cash for a Sudbury school, it's not too outlandish to think that
they are willing to find a set-up that offers such opportunities (if I can
do it, almost any family can).

>Kids can generally, unless they are older teens, only get to most
>if they are home-schooling, just like they can only get to other kids, if
>their parents make an effort. Thus they are totally dependent on their

At the Sudbury schools that I've been to, a lot of the kids were totally
dependent on their parents for getting to and from school.

>In home schooling the possibility of interactions on a day-to-day basis
>a real community of people, outside of the family, who are fine with
>you are doing is very limited. Not non-existent, but much more limited
>it is in a five day a week school.

so you agree with me :)

>Family is what you have in both situations; a community is what you need!
>That is more than a nuclear family, and to be a real community must be
>present a lot of the week.

Which is why I applied to be a student at Sudbury Valley.

It sucks that when I'm at the library surrounded by amazing books, the only
conversations I hear are some version of "Stuck in the library, eh?" "Yah, I
can't wait to get this learning over with, so that I can go drink myself
into oblivion." It bites. If you charted the deep conversations I've had
in my main area of interest over the last year, they'd match up remarkably
well with the times I spent at democratic schools.

So I'm compromising right now. Now that I'm engulfed in Academic World I
wouldn't want to leave. I'll put off until another time developing social
skills, self confidence, real-time discussion skills etc etc.

I'm glad to hear that even relatively free kids see the wonderful
environment when they visit Sudbury Valley. More and more parents are
cluing in or at least getting out of the way, and I'm super glad that while
I laze around up here with my books, so many people are making Sudbury
schools happen.


P.S. I'll answer Mitch's question down here out of the way, since I don't
think I'll be relating it to the Sudbury model.

Mitch wrote:

>Under what circumstances do you see kids "gaining more freedom?"

There's a yin-yang thing going on.

The movement for universal standards is crescendoing, kids aren't allowed
into many stores by themselves - there's a whole lot of yinning going on.

But the yang is there. Two measures of freedom are how much freedom kids
have within their sphere, and how big their spheres are ('sphere' meaning
the reach of their day-to-day life).

The freedom kids have within their spheres:

Back in the day, many kids didn't have freedom of religion. Their families
had to be clean, shiny and in the church Sunday morning (no synagogue, no
temple, no firepit. And definitely no papists). To do business you had to
be the right religion. Period. Now many kids are growing up with more
religious freedom. Same with acceptance of different clothing styles and
sexualities (of course we ain't there yet). Birth control, etc etc.

I know, I know, before compulsory education, kids had a lot of freedom and
responsibility in their daily lives on the farm. That was in some previous
swing around the ol' yin-yang. The change from farm life brings me to the
next point,

How big their spheres are:

Back in the day, first-born boys expected to take over the family farm, or
for those urban folk, signs like "McDonald and Son Grocers" were
commonplace. Not so much anymore. Girls too have greatly increased job
opportunities and freer expectations. Employment mobility and flexibility
are greater than ever before.

The sphere of daily life is also much larger. In the comfort of our own
homes we can listen to the best music in the world, we can easily get a copy
of the thoughts of great thinkers around the world and throughout time, and
we can communicate with my brother in Hong Kong quicker and cheaper than
ever before (if you do that, tell him I say hi).

And to top it all off, the number of Sudbury schools is larger than ever
before, and it's going to be in the high hundreds within 10 years.

I know, I know, I gave a very euro-americo-centered and incomplete history.
And I didn't even get into the indicators of why this growing blissful yang
may be followed by a nasty yin down the road. But hopefully in there
somewhere I answered your question.

Once again, this is

Ben "Once you start posting, you just can't stop" Robins signing off

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