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

From: Bruce Smith (
Date: Fri Feb 01 2002 - 08:52:52 EST

>The adults in the
>Sudbury model actually have no more or less of an agenda than those in a
>traditional school framework with a documented curriculum, it is just
>transmitted in a very subtle and different way.

I had pretty much resolved not to rejoin this debate, as it has strayed so
far from the actual realities of Sudbury schools, and instead become mired
in philosophical hair-splitting (don't get me wrong: under most
circumstances, I love to split hairs, shoot the breeze, etc.).

Yet my five years' experience in traditional schools, and nearly the same
amount as a Sudbury school staff member -- plus Ardeshir's ready agreement
with and use of the above statement to indict Sudbury -- compels me to
respond to this point.

Whether or not one identifies what we Sudbury adults do as an agenda or a
curriculum, there is one absolutely critical difference between what we do
and the agenda of traditional schools: they have two agendas, one promised
and one hidden. In traditional schools, the promise is that in exchange for
following orders, students will acquire all the facts and skills needed for
a successful adult life. In my opinion, this is a lie, compounded by the
hidden agenda of traditional schools, that order -- maintaining the peace
and finding one's rank in an authoritarian hierarchy -- is the ultimate
goal. Traditional schools claim to mold well-rounded learners, whereas in
fact they force young people to fit a narrow range of pre-approved molds.

Sudbury schools, on the other hand, offer students a far simpler and more
straightforward scenario: it's your life; do with it what you will. Indeed,
our schools are governed democratically, with high expectations for
responsible behavior, and some might see this as a curriculum. Yet so long
as students are willing to conduct themselves responsibly, that initial
offer stands, unmitigated by some devious hidden agenda.

It is the traditional schools that have the "very subtle" curriculum, to
the considerable detriment of so many children.

Bruce Smith, staff
Alpine Valley School

"The American disease -- and I'm quoting someone I can't recall --
is forgetfulness. A person or people who cannot recollect their past
have little point beyond mere animal existence: it is memory that
makes things matter."

                        -- William Least Heat Moon, _PrairyErth_


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