Re: DSM: The Sudbury model -- appropriate for all children, yes or no?

From: Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. (
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 21:05:59 EDT

Hi there:

Joe Jackson wrote:

> ... In a Sudbury school,
> the School Meeting sets up a list of rules democratically in order to keep
> the culture from falling apart, and decides some method for seeing to it
> that individuals, regardless of whether they are staff or students, can't
> harm the culture by ignoring the standards the community they have chosen to
> be in have agreed to.
> If a student decides they cannot (or are not willing, depending on how you
> look at it) live by those standards, they cannot stay at the school.
> Whether or not that is best for the suspended student (I believe it *is*
> best for them) is irrelevent; the school cannot afford to have students on
> that always "get one more chance" unless everyone always "gets one more
> chance", and then you don't have a school (at least one my kids would want
> to go to).

I agree that giving "one more chance" is not productive. But
is expulsion any more productive?

I am sure there is an alternative to either of them.

> In the "adult" world (ha, ha), if one cannot or is not willing to live up to
> our laws, they are put on probation or behind bars or something like that.
> This is the more accurate analogy that I believe Ardeshir was looking for,
> and so the answer to her question is, the school is sending the message that
> you are responsible for living up to what the culture you choose to live in
> agrees to. That is "taking responsiblity for yourself" - satisfying an
> agreement you made when you decided to join a group of people. Integrity.

The answer of putting people behind bars is also not, I think,
something that is productive. How many people who have been
put behind bars, once they get out of prison, straighten out their
lives? I would venture to say, only a small minority. The majority
do not.

> This other idea, that there are students that "can't handle" the freedom of
> the school, is an idea that's been invented by a few people on this list
> within the past week (actually, I guess it's realistically been around for
> centuries - only "revived" on this list). Since the coop days before
> Fairhaven opened, I have seen nothing to even suggest that these students
> exist. And frankly, the very idea that these students exist only leads to
> justifying the further subjugation of children.

Here I agree.

> I realize that there are lots of people that would look at a student
> floundering or "hanging out" or "stagnating" at our schools and say, "that
> is not working", they "can't handle" freedom; this would be an incorrect
> interpretation. Perhaps the adult in question doesn't, as per puritan work
> ethic or something, approve of allowing a student to "stagnate; perhaps they
> have never seen a student allowed to "flounder" long enough to see the
> changes that follow extended "floundering": what kind of person the student
> becomes when given space.

Quite right.

> ... Then we move back to conversation 1A, which is based on the idea that
> Sudbury schools and conventional schools have ostensible differences in how
> they "deal with" students that can't take responsiblity for themselves. In
> the Sudbury school, the students and staff get together and decides what's
> OK and what's not, and if a student can't help but repeatedly do things that
> aren't "OK", they have to leave. Conventional schools set hard limits as
> well, but when a student repeatedly bumps into these limits the school
> diagnoses the child and attempts to do what is necessary to "cure" them
> (please chime in on this one, public school people).

Well, I would hardly put "cure" in quotes. We surely need to find a
way to integrate *all* people into a democracy. It is, IMO, hypocritical
and offensive to claim that democracy is not for everyone. Smacks of
fascism, to me.

> So my reaction to conversation 1A is that I believe that the schools that
> respond to students who are not willing to take responsibility for
> themselves by treating them as mental patients are not doing them a service.
> And that the Sudbury environment, which will not "engage" in that game with
> students who have not yet decided to look at themselves for their
> unwillingness to take responsibility is, in my experience, much more
> effective in leaving the student with no choice but to look inward for that
> unwillingness (or inability).

It might be instructive to know what happened to students who
were expelled from a Sudbury type of school. Did they get better,
or worse, at taking responsibility for themselves when they grew

In any case, consider the ideal situation: when *all* schools, every-
where, are of the Sudbury type. To which other school are we going
to expel such students, then?

Ardeshir <>



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