RE: DSM: Graduates without essential life skills

From: Joe Jackson (
Date: Thu Nov 22 2001 - 15:33:08 EST


> Still, it does close a lot of doors to young folks who do not
> have the stomach for these things.

Sudbury grads take on life pursuits (like undertaking a law degree)
based purely on passion rather than money or what someone thinks they
ought to be doing. And since they have had much more experience in
taking on (and succeding and failing in) large undertakings and projects
than their conventionally-schooled counterparts, they have a
dramatically more realistic understanding of the amount of commitment
and dedication it takes to succeed.

Perhaps these are two reasons that can explain what I continually
witness, which is that our students have at least as much "stomach" for
pursuing big-time dreams as people from other backgrounds.

> This means that the doors
> that ARE open for earning a decent amount of money as an
> adult are fewer and less accessible: such as starting one's
> own business; going in for some risky profession such as
> acting, painting, writing or music (especially music
> composition);

That's interesting; everything that I have experienced in my life as an
artist and entrepreneur convinces me of the precise opposite.

As a professional musician, music educator, published composer and
arranger, I feel authoritative in stating that most of a person's
ability as a musician or composer is what they have when they emerge
from high school. There's just not much development over the age of 20
at the professional level. Sure, there's some that can be learned about
style and arranging and orchestration, but beyond the age of twenty
you're talking pure refinement only with regard to playing and composing
[I would never tell a student that, of course ;)].

With that in mind, I could not feel stronger that conventional schools
simply do not give students the time to develop as artists (or whatever
they want to be). I was fortunate enough to attend Arts Magnet High
School in Dallas at a time where 7 out of 8 of my courses were music -
this is not the case now, as that kind of "freedom" is viewed as a sham
by conventional schoolers these days.

In my opinion, the follow-up cases of Sudbury Valley grads reveal that
the school produces an *inordinate* number of artists. And what we are
seeing at Fairhaven seems to reinforce this trend - out of the
half-dozen students we have graduated in three years, we already have
one studying art & fashion design (she just won a commercial art show, I
hear), one studying filmmaking, and one just about to complete her
degree in web design (does that count as art?) at their respective

Also, it is inconceivable to me that someone could examine the
literature and case histories of Sudbury Valley and not conclude that
Sudbury-schooled people are not substantially more entrepreneurial than
public schoolers. How have you arrived at the conclusion that they are
less, when the entire Sudbury experience is *predicated* on

> or taking the chance that during a job
> interview your skills as such will be recognised (which is
> often not the case.)

I think it is pretty well-established that one of the reasons a lack of
GPA and class ranking has not historically kept Sudbury grads out of
colleges is that they interview extremely well in the admissions
process. My experience is that in general, the verbal skills of Sudbury
students are light years ahead of students coming from any other

You folks know that I will not argue that Sudbury schoolers are
automatically better in any given academic or techinical field than
their conventionally-schooled counterparts. However, I am puzzled by
your post, Ardeshir. The precise dynamics you have brought up are
exactly the factors wherein even most critics admit the Sudbury model
and Sudbury students eclipse conventional schools.

Joe Jackson
Fairhaven School parent


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