RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] questions about social atmosphere

From: Joe Jackson <>
Date: Sun Feb 16 17:12:00 2003

Hi Temple.
I am a Fairhaven parent of a 10-y-o boy and 8-y-o girl, and my wife
Linda staffs at the school.
> - how disputes are handled between individuals or within groups
outside of school meetings
I think this is a hard question, because the actual number of disputes
that get resolved by the parties involved are overwhelmingly not known.
So it's hard to form an overall opinion based on the big disputes that
actually get noticed and/or written up. But I'll try:
Outside of J.C. (which is what I interpret you meaning when you say
outside of school meetings): Most of the time the people involved
negotiate it themselves. This is not to say that both parties are
satisfied with the result. Occasionally other students or staff get
involved and try to help to resolve the disagreement. Sometimes the
student just storms off and writes it up for JC.
> - how do older kids tend to treat younger ones?
The interaction is almost universally very respectful between our teen
and preteen students and the younger students. But judge this in light
of the fact there are social lines drawn by age groups. (In other
words, the vast majority of group activities at the school don't involve
7 year olds and 14 year olds running around together)
I actually asked my eight-year-old daughter Josette and ten-year-old son
Jimmy about this (Linda and the kids accompanied me on a business trip
to San Anotinio and now we're stranded here because of the snow. All
the rotten luck ;) ), and they report the following:
[Josette] The older students don't really do anything. They don't talk
to the young kids that much.
[Dad] But what is the quality of the interaction? Are the older kids
mean or anything?
[Josette] No, It's usually people just coming to tell people they're
needed in JC or something.
[Dad] Do the older kids call the younger kids names or hassle them or
[Josette] No.
[Dad] Never?
[Josette] I've never heard any older kids call younger kids names.
[Jimmy] Yes they do, Josette.
[Dad] What have you heard, Jimmy?
[Jimmy] I don't know, like "stupid" or something.
[Dad] How often? Every day?
[Jimmy] Like sometimes every day, sometimes not.
[Dad] Is it usually boys?
[Jimmy] Yeah. Always.
> - what kinds of social groups do you see?
There are a very few large categories of loose, vaguely-defined social
groups. One might be the 6-to10 year old girls. Another might be the
6-to-12 year old boys. And one might be the 12-to-16 year old girls.
That's pretty much it.
> what age ranges do they encompass?
> are they cliquish?
As in exclusionary on a group level? Other than anecdotal opinion or
anecdotal cases, I would say no. I can't say that I see any clear
group-exclusionary behavior that occurs in any patternistic sense. But
there are other people at the school that could have a different answer
than I.
> - do you think the frequency of name-calling, excluding, teasing, etc.
is lower among democratic
> school kids than it is among their traditional school peers?
I don't know. While I work in a lot of conventional schools, I never
see students in them in their free-range social mode. I'm not sure any
adult does. So my only basis for comparison is my school experiences,
and I'm not going to try to represent anything based on that.
I would sum up by emphasizing what Carol Hughes said. We have many
parents that come in with young students that are very protective of
them. The reality is that groups of children, especially boys, like to
play and talk rough with each other sometimes. It really has nothing to
do with what kind of school it is.
I think that the difference represented by the Sudbury school culture in
regard to this issue is that there is profoundly MORE interaction, and
without regard to the comparitive proportion of respectful/rough/mean
interaction between boys at conventional schools and Sudbury schools, I
will say without any hesitation that the Sudbury schools represent the
absolute pinnacle in producing supremely socially-skilled young people.
> - among the five year olds, do you see significant differences in
behavior between kids who attended pre-school and
> those who did not?
I'm going out on a limb by saying this, as I don't sub at the school
nearly enough to authoritatively answer you, but I think so. There have
been a small number of very young students that had an adjustment period
coming in to the school wherein they might have enrolled, subsequently
shown they they were not ready, and had to be withdrawn or suspended
(usually returning later, sometimes not).
The few students we have had that went to preschool, in my opinion, were
better equipped to walk in and understand what is expected of them by
the culture.
By the way, I highly encourage you to email any of Fairhaven's staff and
ask them these questions. You can find individual email addresses at .
You might consider coming to a talkabout, which are monthly
informational meetings that revolve around specific topics regarding the
school and model, but are mainly aimed at general discussions about the
school for staff, parents, students, and prospective parents and
Also our new building grand opening is coming up in May, and if you are
the least bit interested in Fairhaven, that's definitely going to be a
really exciting event. We're still cooking up what will actually
happen, but if you get on the school mailing list you'll be informed
about what it's going to be....
Best of luck to you,
Joe Jackson
Received on Sun Feb 16 2003 - 17:11:19 EST

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