Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: child happy in public school

From: Carol Hughes <>
Date: Mon Sep 22 12:02:01 2003

Hi Heidi,
I just wanted to comment that while your daughter says she would be interested when she is older now, that her experiences between now and then might make that less likely. Often it is the social aspect of school - one's friends - that dictate the decision for children. If she starts out in the formative years being conditioned to learn based on other people's (the teachers) idea of what is relevent for her, then it is harder later on to go back and find her own voice. There is an enormous difference at a Sudbury school between those who have only gone to a sudbury school and those who jump in later. If your child is happy that's great. But is today's happiness the only and best indicator for what will serve her as a human being in the long run?

I would ask, is she creative - after school? How much of what she likes is social versus what ever the heck they are doing in class? Is she making this choice never having laid eyes on a democratic school? Do you find it thrilling what she is being taught?

Recently I spoke with a mother of a seven year old piano student of mine. I commented how very bright this child is. She asks for information every step of the way as to why I am doing this or that. ( I love it.) I said I hoped that the public school she was going to was good enough for this bright mind and had she heard of Sudbury Valley School. She said, "Oh, that's the school where they don't have grades or curriculum." I replied, "Isn't it interesting that it is always described by what they do not do." Ironically, this child is going to the McCarthy-Towne school which was fashioned after Sudbury Valley and has evolved more and more into a traditional school over time. In truth, I tell people that Sudbury Valley School is very very hard and wonderful. It is a veritable beehive, a tribe, a very real community. But, nevermind, this mom isn't going to step outside of this system until it's unbearable. She said that the school budget has cut way back and that special services are no longer available for gifted children, just special needs.

Recently I was called to jury duty and there happened to be a teacher from this town there also. We chatted about McCarthy-Towne and she said that she taught in the neighboring school and they shared the same cafeteria, but the teachers preferred them not to "mix" during lunch. Heaven forbid the children should be exposed to another way of thinking and studying! I couldn't even speak after she said that. And it really isn't even that different any more. I guess my point is that subliminally as well as overtly your child is being placed in a system that is based on the notion that children are empty vessels into which one must pour certain information or they will be doomed. That message is everywhere in a traditional school. I once saw a sign in a teacher's lounge that said, "If you can read, thank your teacher".

Call me an radical idealist. What I am seeing in very young children bothers me a lot. So I just can't sit by the way and have the notions not considered that any experience your child has that involves school has an enormous impact on her future. My advice is to not wait to visit a Sudbury school. 22 years ago I read the book 'Death at an Early Age' and recognized that while my school's buildings were better than those described in the book, my psyche's experience was not any better. I have four brothers who cannot pick up a book for pleasure. That has influenced me. I have seen students in gifted programs who are too petrified to play the next note on the piano because it might not be perfect. Some of my best music students have had a lousy time of it in school.

I have taught my children that the only thing they really ever have to learn is how they learn best... everything else is gravy. Okay, I'm through raving,
Carol Hughes

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Heidi Fogden
  Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 10:50 AM
  Subject: RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: child happy in public school

  My daughter is in kindergarden at a small public school (60 students K-6 grade) and is happy to be there. She knows about the concept of democratic schools and says she would be interested in it later when she is 8. I have been studying the democratic concept for a while and even visited with Jeff Collins in Woodstock,NY who is in the process of starting a school with the idea of Ariel attending and me applying to be on staff. My thoughts are visit the Hudson Valley Sudbury School in the spring for a week when it is open so both Ariel and I can experience it first hand and see what Ariel thinks after that. Any thoughts on this out there?
  Heidi Fogden

  Joe Jackson <> wrote:

    In our school, the School Meeting would be the body to decide that such
    a thing like chores is necessary, and appoint a person/persons who would
    see to it that the action is carried out.

    Then the person/persons responsible for seeing to it that chores are
    carried out well and completely would act in the best interest of it

    While I would argue in School Meeting that it is a rather significant
    "problem" that the chores are not being completed on time or at all, I
    do not believe in our school that the issue needs to get to School
    Meeting at all. It is up to the person/persons who are clerking the
    process to design it so it works.

    And then I told you my "design" suggestion; I'm sure there are many
    other ways to address it. I'm not sure if you have a tool such as JC to
    allow the community to present the op! portunity for students to come
    directly face-to-face with their behavior as it has impacted the school.
    It works well for us.

    By the way, I heard you in another post expressing your staff's desire
    to combat the perceptions of students (in such a young culture) that the
    staff is "really in charge" or that "this is some kind of joke, and just
    when you think you have power we're gonna GET YOU!!!". I want you to
    know that this is really admirable and I acknowledge you for being in
    tune with this.

    But I invite you to try on the concept that this prejudice about schools
    and the role of adults in their lives is *their* story, and only *they*
    can stop listening to the interpretation they are operating with.

    Whether these "stories" are historically correct or not is irrelevent -
    they can only learn to live in the here and now based on what's REALLY
    going on if the culture is incredibly, extraordinarily AUTHENTIC.

    Where I am leading! is that in our school, we say students are 100% the
    equal of adults in the operation and ownership of the school. The
    EQUAL, not MORE powerful, or LESS powerful - the equal. And our school
    is only as good as the integrity of our word.

    So that is why in our school staff do such a wonderful job of expressing
    and leading and following and *being a culture* with our students -
    because that statement, "A school run democratically by students and
    adults" is SO powerful, but it is only powerful if our words have
    integrity. And if staff back off and try to become less than *equal*
    members of the culture, we are not standing true to ourselves.

    I hope this sheds some light on how we do things, of course there are
    many, many ways to do it and I am certain that your culture will find a
    way and be wonderful.


    Joe Jackson, Parent
    Fairhaven School

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of terri
> Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 5:41 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Advice
> >>My one suggestion is that I would advise the chores or cleanup clerk
> to set a deadline by which cleanup *must be done*, instead of
> stating when it will *start*.<<
> I agree that something like this would help, but is it our
> place to *advise*at this point since no *problem* has even
> been recognized by the school meeting. And since no parent
> has scheduled a conference at this point, we really have no
> part in this, correct?
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of
> Joe Jackson
> Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 8:41 AM
> To:
> Subject: RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Advice
> Hi, Terri.
> You mention that you are operating as a democratic school but
> you did not mention if you are structuring the school and the
> staff duties according to Sudbury - which is no problem, I
> just want to qualify my answer as coming from my direction,
> which has been heavily influenced by what I think should
> happen in the model.
> You are completely correct that it has nothing to do with Staff.
> If School Meeting decided everyone will clean up, it is then
> each individual's responsibility. If a parent complains to
> students, it is between the parent and the student. If a
> parent complains to a staff, offer to schedule a conference.
> At our school you cannot have more! than a cursory/light
> conversation about a student without them present.
> The meat of the conference should be to respond to the
> parent's complaint by saying, "School Meeting determined that
> each student will complete their chore by 3:20 (or whatever).
> I have noticed that X has had trouble meeting the deadline,
> and has had to go to JC a couple of times." Firmly put the
> transaction between school meeting and the student. when the
> parent says, "well haven't YOU da da da?" you need to steer
> it back (because the person is expecting you to respond as a
> typical adult-run school) by harping on the fact that School
> Meeting says yada yada and JC yada yada and I am concerned
> but I know s/he can do it".
> My one suggestion is that I would advise the chores or
> cleanup clerk to set a deadline by which cleanup *must be
> done*, instead of stating when ! it will *start*.
> Then if students have not completed their responsibility by
> the deadline, they can get written up and let JC deal with
> it. The writeups can happen as strict or as loosey-goosey as
> you want (e.g. write everyone up who has not completed the
> tasks they signed up for the
> *instant* the deadline passes, versus walk aroud and remind
> certain folks five minutes before the deadline, and let the
> "real" deadline slide 'till about 3:30). But loosey-goosey
> is not the way I would go.
> This way you are allowing the student/staff-run structures of
> the school to deal with it rather than interceding and
> furthering any perception that the whole democratic thing is
> a joke and that the staff are actually responsible for the students.
> Most parents will probably understand that it is entirely the
> student's responsibility. Those that d! on't and are not
> willing to learn or suspend disbelief do not belong there.
> Good luck,
> Joe Jackson
> Parent
> Fairhaven School
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Received on Mon Sep 22 2003 - 12:01:53 EDT

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