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

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Thu Dec 5 12:43:01 2002

About hiring people who are broadly interested in changing
the world:

  Every Sudbury school I know of was created with a single,
simple goal. To provide, for those families interested in
it, a place where their children could educate and govern
themselves in freedom and dignity.
  Though many people involved in Sudbury schools would
_like_ to see wider change in education in the rest of the
world, such change is not the principal aim of any Sudbury
school. Sudbury schools are out to serve their own,
current, student populations.
  To be blunt, hiring people costs money. Sudbury schools
which are able to offer something like a living wage to
staff (such as Sudbury Valley) are not in the business to
give a job to people whose eyes are looking OUT away from
the school at the worlds of politics or academia. Sudbury
schools want talented, committed people whom they can trust
to be in the School for the long haul and whom the community
feels brings something of value to the community.

On the ability of financially strapped but otherwise
qualified persons to become staff in Sudbury model schools:

  A candidate's financial stability has never EVER been a
factor considered by the School Meeting of any school when
looking at a candidate. But the school obviously _needs_
enough time to get to know the candidate to make an informed
guess at the time of the election -- this is why serious
candidates are advised that they may be better served if
they could devote some time so the students and current
staff can get to know them (would-be employers will never
vote in favor of a candidate they don't even know).
Fortunately, serious candidates have been able to make
themselves known to the school surprisingly quickly.
  I have known a number of persons living
paycheck-to-paycheck with no funds, capital, spouse or real
estate to fall back on, on first deciding to run for staff
at Sudbury Valley. They had to tighten their belts a bit
for a couple months, in order to successfully run for staff;
cutting back hours at work for a couple months can be rough
but it is doable (if need be avoid the movies and other
expensive pastimes for a couple months, and live off dried
beans and root vegetables).
  When you walk into a job interview, do you expect to be
paid for the time spent at the interview? Do you think that
for the next two years, every 2004 Presidential hopeful
ought to pull a salary out of our tax dollars?

On the notion that any person involved in any form of
alternative education is in a better position to understand
a Sudbury Model school:

  It is not unusual for people with an interest in
alternative education to pick up our books and totally
misunderstand the core philosophy of the school -- they
think they have found a kindred spirit and so read into our
words what they want to see there. There is a funny kind of
widely held belief that if two people are doing unusual
things in education they must have a lot in common -- but
Sudbury Model schools bear as little resemblance to
Progressive or Montessori schools as they bear to Military
  Every school has an educational philosophy that informs
it. Traditional schools have a philosophy that their
curriculum can be best taught by direct intervention.
Montessori schools have a philosophy that there is an ideal
time to present each part of their curriculum based on the
child's development. Progressive schools have a philosophy
that children should have a set of choices as to how to
pursue the curriculum and that staff should offer a steady
guiding hand. Military schools believe that direct work in
a high-stress environment where it is clear what is expected
of one is the best way to teach their curriculum. Sudbury
schools don't accept the concept of a curriculum.

On the Sudbury schools elite:

  The enrollment in any school will always be self-selected
(by the parents, and by the children to some extent).
Likewise with any endeavor. Doing _anything_ carries with
it some costs, and the people who choose to meet those costs
-- economic, social, or temporal -- are an elite.
Enrolling one's child in a Sudbury school carries a higher
financial cost _to_the_family_directly_ than enrolling in
the local public school, but lower than enrolling in any
other private school that I know of. It should be noted,
though, that the cost per child incurred to us through our
taxes is much higher in public schools than in Sudbury
  The question to ask is, has the financial burden been kept
at a level that allows a person to enroll for whom enrolling
becomes a priority. The answer to this has been "yes" for a
_very_ wide range of the populace -- one only needs _one_
example of families that are operating below the poverty
line to point out that a school is in reach of people at
that income level; and there are many many such examples.
Sudbury Valley has always kept its tuition at a level which
could be reasonably met by a person holding a part-time
minimum wage job -- and indeed several of our students have
paid their own tuitions by taking such work. Other Sudbury
schools have similarly low tuitions.
  I suppose we can call anything that the consumer has to
purchase directly (as opposed to through taxes or otherwise)
"elitist" but that seems an obscene stretch of the word. I
guess I could call the local shop elitist because gum costs
50 cents a pack there -- I suppose that advertising is the
only egalitarian product around because it's the only
value-added product that the consumer doesn't have to pay
  Is it a good thing that people must work/pay for the good
things in life? Well, no, but it is a fact of life. The
entire history of civilization has been the march to find
less expensive ways of getting the good things in life.
Everything costs something. I find it astounding just how
low Sudbury schools have kept their costs given just how
good a thing they are.

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
Be not anxious about what you have, but about what you are.
-- Pope St. Gregory I
Received on Thu Dec 05 2002 - 12:42:27 EST

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