RE: DSM: Re: Greetings...

From: Dana M Bennis (
Date: Wed Jan 16 2002 - 16:34:49 EST


You left out one important part: That it is not the fault of the students
in non-democratic schools that they act differently from students at
Sudbury schools. Once given respect and trust, one will respond with the
same. If one is not given respect and trust, one will not respond with
the same.

Dana Bennis

At 01:23 PM 1/16/02 -0500, you wrote:

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-----
[] 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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