Re: DSM: Re: Greetings...

From: Susan Starling (
Date: Wed Jan 16 2002 - 14:11:23 EST

MessageHi Travis, Hi Joe,

Here's a comment from a long-time lurker:

I just want to say that I entirely agree with Joe as to the difference between kids at Sudbury schools (or at least Fairhaven) and other schools. I visited Fairhaven for a day about three years ago when I was considering moving to the area. At some point during the day I wanted to go get a bite to eat and was asked if I would mind driving a few of the teenagers down to the store with me. This proposition made me slightly nervous, as I just automatically expect teenagers to treat me as an adult as some sort of idiotic non-entity at best. However, I was quite pleasantly surprised. Joe's absolutely right about the mask kids that age put on when talking to adults, and it was almost a shock to me to have these kids talk to me without that, in a perfectly normal fashion. I was treated simply as another human being, no more and no less, not as an "adult." And they were amazingly polite. I suppose it does not say much for our society that it's an unusual occurance when someone of a certain age group is friendly and polite (without seeming condescending or like they're trying to get something). Anyway, that made a big impression on me. (Maybe they send all prospective parents out with the kids, who knows, it wouldn't be a bad idea!)

I ended up remaining in Germany, where there are no Sudbury schools available, but I hope that it will be possible for me to move at some point so that my kids (now 6 and 9) can experience this type of environment too.

Susan Starling
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Joe Jackson
  Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 7:23 PM
  Subject: RE: DSM: Re: Greetings...

  Joe Jackson, a parent from Fairhaven School in Maryland.
  I found it interesting that you state that "those who operate with the impression that the students at Sudbury schools are so different from others... are simply fooling themselves".
  I work in lots of public schools each year, performing musical clinics, and I have visited a half-dozen or so Sudbury schools. As a result, I have formed a firm opinion that students at the public and conventional private schools at which I have worked are *entirely* different from students in Sudbury schools. (I _do_ think that teenagers today in all situations are vastly underrated by adults, however.)
  I find these differences manifest themselves in a variety of ways. I find that when conventionally-schooled student are attending even a non-mandatory class or clinic, they have a much harder time focusing than Sudbury kids. I also find that conventionally-schooled kids often know only how to relate to kids their age. They often have a special way of relating to adults where they put on this mask and basically speak a different language. I find that teens from other environments often have a need to destroy public property or hurt people; "raise hell" to a larger extent than the teens I've encountered from Sudbury schools, who similarly like to have a good time, but not by messing things and people up.
  My experiences with young Sudbury students leaves me with the general impression of people that speak with forthrightness and candor. I am always amazed to hear them speak from the heart with no regard for the age difference between them and I. I rarely experience this with children from other environments.
  While these are my observations, they are just that. My children attend Fairhaven because they want to go there, they are obviously so happy there, and because I see them learning what matters to them so much more rapidly than I learned what mattered to me, and doing it without having to endure the agonizing dog & pony show of trying to memorize what matters to someone else (which is what their friends in public school are going through right now).
  In other words, my goal in supporting their decision to attend is not necessarily driven by wanting them to be as obviously self-possessed, creative and persistent as essentially every graduate of a Sudbury school I've ever met is, but because I support and respect their decisions and trust that they have what they need to get to where they want in life if I can just stay right behind them, but never in the way.
  But given that, I sure do notice, in general, a huge difference in my experiences with Sudbury students and conventionally-schooled kids.
  - Joe
  -----Original Message-----
  From: [] On Behalf Of
  Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 12:22 PM
  Subject: Re: DSM: Re: Greetings...


           Thank you for your reply. To my knowledge, there is no prevalent movement among students here that pertain to parents. That is, if it does exist, it most certainly is not obvious to me.
           To further pursue this issue beyond your question, I believe that there are important concepts to keep in mind when addressing the parent/student relationship in general. I believe that students at this school, in terms of common characteristics all teenagers (or younger children) embody, are not unlike students in any other school. This must be taken in context. It is in the context of, as I mentioned, common characteristics, because it is obvious that all schools at times attract unique individuals. Those who operate with the impression that the students here are so different from others of their likeness, are simply fooling themselves. Indeed, I assume that all kids feel the same emotions at different times, and act in similar fashion every so often. It seems likely that they would all feel rage, love, contempt, envy, admiration, and many other feelings and emotions. I have personally experienced some of these emotions, a! nd it seems likely that they are extremely prevalent among all children, with little exception.
            I do understand that I am not a parent, and as a result I cannot begin to comprehend what it is like to have a child attend Sudbury Valley. It most certainly requires a tremendous leap of faith for all parents, something I sense too often goes unappreciated. I would imagine that there are parents who must feel similar. However, it seems to me that this "leap of faith" must be self-sustaining. Though it may be hard at times (I wouldn't know!), it seems to me that the role of parents, in the context of the school itself, does not include attempting to effect their child's experience or education within the confines of the Sudbury Valley. This is a concept that is extremely evident when one understands the baseline philosophies that Sudbury Valley operates upon.
           Again, I am not a parent. I would like to think that I take pains to be careful on the subject. To make sure not to say things that can only be said with validity coming from a parent, from their own perspective. I hope I have satisfied your request for information.

    -Travis W.


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