DSM: Various thoughts on academics....

From: BBWIA13@aol.com
Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 15:36:46 EST

To all list members,
       Recently, there has been limited discussion about the idea of
academics in relation to Sudbury Valley.
       Certainly, Sudbury Valley has over the years been susceptible to many
generalizations about academics. The common comments of opponents to the
school are "Well, that might work for some kids, who are good students, but
not for me as a child!"
       The inherent problem with this all to common observation is that fact
that, as a precursor, the philosophy of the school negates the limited
admission of only "good students."
       This is of course because the philosophy doesn't judge. Indeed, how
can one consider academics an issue when attending a school that believes no
one should be forced to do them!
       I have always said that my vision for a perfect Sudbury Valley is a
place where two students, side by side, can pass each other in a hallway. One
might be busy performing various scientific experiments in a laboratory. The
other might be working on music in the Music Room. And that, and I really
mean it, there would be no judgment between them, only total respect for each
others choices in life. No special treatment (no matter how subtle; indeed,
that is the most prevalent kind), and no sideways looks.
       Another myth is that, to obtain optimum academic skills, one must
attend a school equipped with the latest technology in learning. Firstly,
what the hell does that mean? Is it not, contrary to the opinions of the
infamous "educational experts," a concept that is 100% up for interpretation?

       This campaign is, in a comical way, extremely analogous to the diet
market. In both instances, there is a movement pushing away from the method
of good old fashioned elbow grease. And in both instances, there is a
movement supporting easier ways to achieve the same goals. There is no end
result (in my opinion) that is better then the alternative.
       Sudbury Valley, for instance, is a massive library equipped with tons
of books. There are many Staff on the faculty who have college/university
degrees of varying specialties and levels. They are more then qualified to
tackle any academic subject, should the need so arise.
       And finally, the issue of the school's available facilities is a
tricky one. I remember being a youngster, and I remember how easy it was to
say "Why isn't there an indoor gym" and many other things.
       You see, it is a very tricky situation. This is something that is
crucial to understand, as it is key in differentiating this school from the
Public School system. Essentially, as a Public School Educator, you are
playing the devils advocate. Sure, you provide services and facilities which
the students do not have to worry about obtaining. But at what cost? The
freedom of community, and of self governance, that's what cost!
       Though it may be difficult as a youngster to oversee through & through
the legislative process that a motion to obtain funds for varying purposes
requires, in the long run, the benefit outweighs the cost.
       Specifically, I would rather attend a school where I am free, despite
the sometimes difficult nature of that freedom, then a school which coerces
you into apathetic relaxation, and then sucks all of your rights and your
ability of self governance right out of you.
       In summation, the issue of facilities/equipment at Sudbury Valley is
such that many people complain about the school's lack of equipment. There
are two arguments that run counter to this.
       The first is that it is common to exaggerate, in traditional
education, the needs of various academic subjects. but that is an abstract
argument. The immediate argument, and the one responsible for the
philosophical application to reality, is the fact that the democratic
government of the school prohibits anyone from purchasing, with school funds,
anything without the approval of the School Meeting, or a
Committee/corporation, ( or a clerkship's budget).
       There is no magic man, and believe me, in the long run, it is much
better that way. We are, as students, receiving an education that mirrors are
democratic country more firmly then any other available.

-Travis W.


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