RE: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom

From: Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Date: Sat Nov 17 2001 - 15:29:42 EST


Hey William.

Great post.

If I am to understand you are stating that there is a great deal of
self-selection in terms of the students coming to Sudbury schools, and
the same traits and factors bringing them there make them destined for
"success" regardless of the school they are in.

I think this is a brilliant point, yet it is inarguable either for or
against. It is simply not possible to measure what the model does for
students, just as it is impossible to measure what other schools are or
are not doing for them.

One can administer the goofy academic measurements championed by the
mandatory testers in this world, but I think most of us here would agree
that these devices attempt to measure but a small fraction of what makes
a person prepared to live as a responsible member of society (I hate
putting the "goal" of Sudbury schooling in words, can't you tell? To me
the whole point is that the student finds the "goal".).

There is one thing in your post with which I disagree. There are many,
many alternatives for public school students, and many of them do not
involve additional expense to the family. Public magnet schools and
charter schools. Attending a school in a neighboring district (some
systems charge nominal tuition, some don't, some on a sliding scale).
And private schools (including Sudbury schools) with or without tuition
assistance.

Many would say that low-income families are locked into whatever
government-run school their kids are in. My response is that everyone
balances their desire to be in or get out of a schooling situation with
how strongly they feel about the merits of that situation. The no-cost
and low-cost alternatives are there; it's simply a matter of knowing
they are there and desire. The "knowing they are there" part is where
practically all our PR energy goes at Fairhaven.

So I DO believe public school attendees have a choice. But your
original point is still valid: the families that pull up their roots and
come to Sudbury place the quality of the educational experience as a
very high priority, and there is certainly a possibility that families
that are willing and flexible enough to make these kinds of drastic
changes are more likely to find whatever it is they want than those that
don't.

This alone is enough to confound any statistical evaluation of the
efficacy of the model in producing any quantifiable result; but by the
same token one cannot quantify the results of any school or educational
system. That's why the educational choices of people are based entirely
on subjective factors (like, one thinks a particular school is more
likely to produce environmentally couscious adults or financially
successful adults or creative thinkers or great artists or whatever).

As a parent, the reason I support my children's decision to attend
Fairhaven is that the school can be exactly what they want. If they
decide a regimen of mathematics, physics and engineering classes will
take them where they want to go, they can create that school experience
and Fairhaven will provide the resources to make it happen. If they
want to be an artist, likewise. They are not locked in to someone
else's idea of how to become what someone else wants them to be.

I'd like to speak to your questions:

> Does Sudbury accept (or get applications
> from) students with mental retardation (including Downs
> Syndrome) or other severe physical and/or cognitive
> disabilities?

As a matter of fact, a Downs Syndrome student recently applied to
Fairhaven. The answer is that Fairhaven does not reject students based
on physical or mental handicaps. What happens is that in the interview
the school representative makes it very clear what the school is and
does, and tries very hard to pose scenario which could happen in the
school. In this particular case, my last understanding (a couple of
weeks ago - I've been on the road since then) is that the parents were
not sure if the school was going to work for this student.

> The public schools are required to accommodate
> these students.

Private schools like Fairhaven are, too.

> Would these students even benefit from the
> freedom at a SVS?

My feeling is that all students benefit from living in a real-life
community like Fairhaven of Sudbury Valley, as opposed to the jail-like
existence of public schools. It is merely a question of whether the
disability of the student would impair them to the point that they
needed assistance or supervision all or most of the time.

> The point though, is that the
> Sudbury model would not work for every student.

Agreed - the model is not for students who need a level of supervision
and assistance that our school cannot supply.

-Joe

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