DSM: Graduates without essential life skills

From: Peter Shier (pshier@mindspring.com)
Date: Thu Nov 22 2001 - 11:41:55 EST


Let me begin by saying I am extremely pro-Sudbury model schools. I have
read five of the SVS Press books (including one with interviews and
studies of graduates) and I do not need any convincing. I have visited
multiple Sudbury model schools and loved each one of them. I have even
lectured to a local senior group about the phenomenon called Sudbury
Valley School and democratic models of education.

My wife, on the other hand, is far less convinced and she has brought up
an interesting question: do graduates of Sudbury schools have the
essential skills to thrive as an adult in our society?

IMHO, essential skills are minimally:

- Reading at a level that permits following directions (e.g. recipes,
prescriptions), reading contracts (e.g. leases), and generally
interacting with the world at large without having to request the help
of another person to read for you.

- Writing at a level that fulfills the minimal needs of an adult such as
signing contracts, writing a simple note.

- Enough math to use money and determine whether you are paying a fair
price for goods and services.

- Sufficient social skills to interact with other adults on a level
expected by people one must come into contact with in order to provide
for basic needs such as food, shelter, and employment.

For me, to "thrive as an adult" means to have the skills to find your
happiness while maintaining satisfying fulfillment of physical needs.

There are several discussions that may ensue here such as:
- What exactly are essential skills?
- What does it really mean to thrive?
- Does it matter if they have been in a Sudbury model school since
before minimal reading/writing/math skills were acquired?
- Why would this question be more interesting with regard to Sudbury
model schools rather than traditional schools?

I am not concerned with the exact answers to those questions. I am
really more interested in a getting a feel for whether there is an
interesting number of cases where graduates were not prepared to meet
the world with at least similar skills to those from a traditional
education. I firmly believe the answer is that other than a few
exceptional cases, all graduates have had the essential skills and much
more, but I would really like to hear from staff and parents in the
field who have had the real world experience.

Peter Shier
Seattle, Washington
USA

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