Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] SVS=Elite? AND Urban Students

From: Alan Klein <>
Date: Thu Dec 5 09:56:01 2002


Individual anecdotes such as the one you share here are wonderful, glorious
tributes to the importance of the work our schools do and of the sacrifices
we all have made to create and sustain them. They are what I and, I suspect,
others, live for and from which we gain much sustenance of the spirit. They
are incredible measures that, at the individual level, we are working as
hard as we can to make our schools accessible to as wide a variety of people
as possible.

They do not, however, change the fact that, at the group level, we are part
of an "elite", which can afford to worry about such things as choosing the
type of schooling we want, rather than having to choose between feeding our
kids or providing medicine for them.

"Elite", as I have read it in this discussion, was originally introduced at
the group level. It has been fascinating that the responses to it have all
been from the individual level and, therefore, have been quite rightly
outraged and defensive. At the individual level, you, Joe, me, and all of us
who have been working and sweating to make democratic schooling a reality,
are anything but elite. It is a fact, however, that, at the group level,
those 25 years in which SVS's "survival depended on a substantial financial
sacrifice by the staff" were made possible because the group of folks who
started the school had the financial means to make that sacrifice (i.e.,
were part of an "elite" in terms of global economics). This is not "a
pejorative". It is simply a reflection of a larger reality in which our
schools are embedded.

~Alan Klein

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Sadofsky" <>
> Indeed, attendance at a private, financially unendowed school is out
> of reach for many people. And so are many alternative expenditures in
> this society as they also are in every modern society I've had any
> exposure to. And probably most families sending their kids to SVS
> (and other similarly funded sudbury model schools) have more money
> than some others.
> Taxes pay for public schools; tuition pays for SVS. When SVS was
> started, tuition was set equal to the funds local schools reported as
> per capita spending. Today, SVS tuition is approximately half of the
> amount local school districts report on a per capita basis. This is
> what we've been capable of achieving since we instituted a reasonable
> staff salary funding plan about a decade ago. (For the first 25 years
> of the school's life, survival depended on a substantial financial
> sacrifice by the staff.) Perhaps SVS will consider an alternative
> tuition plan at some point. Some sudbury schools have, and others may
> be looking at those examples. Meanwhile we do what we can. People
> sometimes reach out to extended families for support; private
> scholarships have sometimes funded tuition.
> Whenever tuition costs are discussed and placed in the context of "who
> can afford this?", I am reminded of an incident that occurred some
> years ago. I was walking out of the barn at SVS after a thesis
> defense and was approached by a man and woman. I didn't know them,
> but they obviously knew my role as President of the SVS Assembly.
> They were the parents of the diploma candidate. Their command of
> English was limited. They were immigrants. He worked as a
> construction laborer; she as a house cleaner. They were obviously of
> very limited means. Yet, they had enrolled their son at SVS because
> they wanted him there. They found a way to pay the associated costs.
> They approached me to say "thank you." They understood what their son
> had obtained from SVS and were pleased that the school was there and
> available to them. They did not regret the sacrifices they had made
> to send their son. They were certainly not "elite" as the term has
> been introduced in this thread. I read that only as a pejorative
> applied to SVS staff on the mistaken impression that one must spend
> unpaid time before an opportunity might arise for a salaried position.
> And even after several clarifications of staff compensation policy,
> that mistaken impression has been reposted as if it were fact.
> I find most parents at SVS (and other sudbury schools) to be "elite"
> in having selected this school for their child. These schools are
> "elite" or "selective" because we have a very different view of the
> way children learn and grow to be adults. We are far from the
> mainstream of cultural acceptance. Hopefully, that will change, but
> until it does, our efforts are best spent on staying open and alive.
Received on Thu Dec 05 2002 - 09:55:38 EST

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