DSM: "The purpose for which [Sudbury] is formed ..."

From: Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. (ardeshir@sympatico.ca)
Date: Wed Jan 30 2002 - 02:13:05 EST

Hi Mike,

You wrote:

> Thank you, Darren, for restoring a sense of rationality to this
> discussion.
> I have no idea from whence Ardeshir's idea that
> >> A lot of schools do have eduation as their goal. But SVS, as I understand
> >> it, does not. Its goal is freedom, and *nothing* else.
> came, but it doesn't ring true to me. Perhaps as, I think Travis
> noted, it has been taken from an earlier post by Scott. I don't know
> the context.

I got this idea, as I illustrate below, from this very forum, and the
exchanges of a month or two ago, especially those regarding the

If I remember correctly, both Scott and Bill expressed the idea that
Sudbury is *not* education. And that its goal was freedom, not
the production of a result. I remember reading statements like
"a child is not an improver".

At the time I was somewhat skeptical, but as I thought about it
I realised that Scott and Bill are right: a child should not be given
freedom merely in order that a certain "product" result therefrom.
A child should be given freedom because it is the *right thing
to do*, and *not* becuse it produces this or that result, no matter
how laudable.

For that, in fact, is also the reason why *adults* should be given
freedom! It is no more and no less than *the right thing to do*.

It is the right thing to do *even* if it results in anarchy, chaos, and
social unrest: and many have been the dictators who have taken
freedom away from people precisely in order to achieve the very
laudable goals of law and order and social harmony (let alone get-
ting the trains to run on time!) And the fact is that under the Nazis
and the Fascists the trains *did* run on time, and there *was* law
and order. That *still* doesn't make it right to take away people's

Likewise, children's freedom should *not* be taken away *even* if
it results in so-called "under-achievers" and parasites and layabouts.
Not that it does, of course, but *even* if it did, it would *still* be the
right thing to do to give freedom to children -- and it would *still* be
the wrong thing to do to take freedom away from them.

And if this makes me irrational -- as your words in your opening
line seem to imply -- then I'd be proud be called irrational for champ-
ioning the cause of freedom! Freedom *is* perhaps an irrational goal
-- *perhaps*! But that doesn't make it any the less worthwhile.

Apropos, let me quote from an earlier e-mail by Bill, dated
24 Nov 2001:


Dear Peter,

Thank you for your post and your general question at to whether Sudbury can
speak to some minimum or "essential" set of skills.

No, it can't.

Sudbury Valley is another view, a different paradigm, a separate discourse.
Sudbury Valley is not "for the purpose of....".
Sudbury Valley is not "so that the child will....".
Sudbury Valley does not "tend toward.....".
Sudbury Valley is life, lived. Period.

Education is the paradigm that attempts to speak to your question. Education
will offer a "treatment", it will define the child as an improver, it will
chart "progress", trumpet goals. And then it will finally judge, or as they
say, "apply a rubric". Sudbury will do none of those things. Sudbury and
education are two disparate notions, and we will not fundementally understand
Sudbury till we fundementally understand that it is not education.


And here is another quote from him -- in reply, as a matter of fact,
to an e-mail of your own (his e-mail is dated 22 Dec 2001):


But there is a second paradigm. Your statement : "We don't evaluate their
progress" is a near perfect statement of this second paradigm. Sudbury fails
to evaluate their progress, not for days or weeks, but years, decades even.
It is a stunning suspension of the education paradigm. Sudbury, for years and
years, is not doing education with the child, they are doing freedom. We are
assured of this when we look at the Plasticine work. Go to Sudbury and look
directly at the social and cultural production of free children. It is not
education. I have visited 80 of the other types of schools and taught in
three of them. None of them, in a thousand years, would show Plasticine. They
don't allow the freedom. It is freedom that defines the second paradigm.

(By the way, it is not only the child that is free; when we (the children,
the parents, the staff, the founders and the assembly) fail to evaluate
progress, well then, that's our freedom.)

And this second paradigm happens the first moment the four year old arrives
at the "school" house door. It happens when, as Sudbury has done for 33
years, they are offered real and true freedom. It happens exactly in that
first moment, when we fail to anticipate.


What I have said is no more and no less than what Bill said in these

> In any event, I'll quote briefly from the SVS by-laws.
> >The purpose for which this corporation is formed is to establish
> and maintain a school for the education of members of the community
> that is founded upon the principle that learning is best fostered by
> self-motivation, self-regulation, and self-criticism;...>
> In this phrase, >members of the community< refers to those who enroll
> and the staff they engage to maintain the school.

Thank you for clarifying what the *declared* goals of Sudbury are.

I am very much disappointed however, to find that its *declared*
goal is *not* freedom. I think, perhaps, that there is no such thing,
then, as a *genuinely* free school in North America. A pity! A
very *great* pity indeed.

For it means that there is *no* group of people in North America
who feel that giving freedom to children is the *right thing to do*,
and should be done *for its own sake alone*, and *not* for the
sake of any anticipated result, no matter how laudable.

But I for my part will stick to my opinion, and say that if Sudbury
gives freedom to children *in order* that the freedom produce cer-
tain anticipated results, then shame on Sudbury!

For it means that if one day it is found and clearly demonstrated
that learning is *not* "best fostered by self-motivation, self-regu-
lation, and self-criticism", then Sudbury might even take away the
freedom hitherto offered, for freedom no longer produces the anti-
cipated results! In that case, what's the difference between Sudbury
and any other authoritarian school?

The only difference can be, that the authoritarian school does *not*
believe that this goal can best be fostered by giving freedom. And
if adequate facts and data prove them right, they would argue that
they were right all along, and Sudbury wrong all along. And their
argument would be logically impeccable.

Freedom *cannot* be a mere means to a goal, if it has to have a
chance of being a permanent feature of a society -- or of an insti-
tution. For means are always dispensable, if they do not achieve
the goal. The only thing indispensable is the goal.

If one accepts the view that the goal of Sudbury is fostering learn-
ing best, rather than freedom itself, there can be no other rational
conclusion. If the goals are *not* attained by giving freedom, then
freedom must go out the door, because the goals of an institution
are always its "bottom line".

And it may not be argued that the goals of Sudbury *in practice*
are such that freedom *is* in fact offered, and will *always* be
offered. For if the *declared* goals of Sudbury are different from
its goals in practice, then shame on Sudbury too, for not being
honest enough to acknowledge in its own by-laws what its own
goals are, as they are *in practice*.

One way or another, Sudbury needs to amend its practice, or else
amend its by-laws. But *something* needs amending here! Other-
wise it is *not* a free school, but merely masquerading as one.

> Much of the thread has revolved around the question of solicited vs
> unsolicited help, guidance, teaching, support, assistance, ...
> The position at SVS is that to best foster self-motivation,
> self-regulation, and self-criticism, unsolicited help, guidance,
> teaching, support, assistance is best avoided except in such
> pathological situations as, for example, immediate safety or response
> to physical accidents.

I agree, if you claim -- as I guess you do -- that Sudbury is a form of
education. (I feel exceedingly sorry, however, to learn that this is how
Sudbury views itself!)

Of course there is always the possibility that the by-laws were written,
not for us, but for the government authorities, who might never have
allowed Sudbury to funtion had the by-laws stated their goals honestly.

*That* reasoning I would accept: for it is necessary, sometimes, for
the very sake of survival, to hide one's true intentions from the
"authorities". If an institution cannot even survive, then neither can
its goals!

But *we* are not the authorities. The true intentions of Sudbury
should not be hidden from *us* -- i.e., from members of this list.


Ardeshir <http://homepage.mac.com/ardeshir/AllMyFiles.html>


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