Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] How can a young adult get into the world of Sudbury / unschooling?

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Wed Oct 29 16:39:01 2003

Hi Blake,

  It is my feeling that you will have difficulty
'incorporating' anything Sudbury into any sort of classroom
  This is because the basic philosophy behind a classroom
setting is the polar opposite of the basic philosophy of a
Sudbury school.

  Sudbury schools operate on the assumption that people are
able to learn best when left to their own devices. We've
learned that the very act of offering structured choices
(e.g. a teacher asking the question 'what would you like to
do now?') undermines the idea that the child is free of a
curriculum and that her/his life belongs to him/her and
nobody else.
  There are many schools that offer children choices. And
generally speaking, most people (children and adult) prefer
choices over no choice. But choice and freedom are not
  Likewise, if one did manage to 'incorporate' enough
Sudbury to actually undermine the idea of a curriculum, the
very basic premise of the school you are attempting to
hybrid Sudbury with would be compromised!
  In short, these are two different and diametrically
opposed philosophies and approaches to human learning.
You'll have to decide which you want to pursue because you
won't be able to do both -- education with or without

  If you are interested in exploring alternative schools
that offer children more choice, or the abilitity to select
their own curricula, you will find many opportunities. But
if you wish to explore schools with the Sudbury philosophy,
I'd suggest the following steps:
  1: Read, read, read!!! Check and
  2: Read some more!! Go back over the archived messages
from this mailing list. Questions that you haven't found
answers to, and comments or challenges you wish to make, can
be brought here.
  3: Sudbury Valley has an internship program. After you've
read more about the school, you may wish to address a letter
to the Sudbury Valley Staff Training Committee, to explore
the idea. Other Sudbury schools have their own policies
about visitors, and should be contacted seperately if you
wish to visit one of them.

  Now, it does seem true that by and large students in
Sudbury schools are more prone to elect older than younger
people to their staff. I suspect that, in part, the
students feel they have 'youth' covered as a virtue -- and
what they want are people on the staff who have more
experience with the world and wisdom.
  However, you should realize that this is a tendency of the
electorate -- not a rule or principle. Experience is only
one factor considered -- and not the most significant one.
More than anything, students want staff members who have
total respect for them, who have interesting personalities
and understandings of the world, and who are hard workers.
  Whoever advised you did well to warn you that youth is not
itself a selling point when applying for the position of
staff. But neither is it a detriment per se. I was hired
by Sudbury Valley in my early twenties.

  By and large, what Sudbury schools seem to want more than
anything are people with courage in their convictions, and
even tenacity. Sometimes, the warnings and caveats one
hears about 'why you might not be able to make it at the
school' are as much about the students and staff of those
schools checking your _reaction_ to and take on those
hurdles and obstacles, as they are an expression of honest
  What I'm trying to say is; if you wnat to involve yourself
in a Sudbury school you will need to take it and yourself
very seriously. You can't do this halfway. Either you will
honestly do your all to understand what the movement is
about and to let the school you're interested in get to know
you, or you won't meet much success.

  If you do want to find other people interested in putting
together a school in the LA area, write a message to -- someone there can tell you who else
from your area has been corresponding with us. I certainly
am always happy to hear people starting more good schools
out there.
  However, above all do not make the mistake of asusming
that starting a school is an 'easier' road to being involved
in the Sudbury movement than working for an existing school.
I may be more fulfilling, but it is definitely not easier.
  It's harder to convince 20-30 potential students (or
whatever your needed target number is for the school to be
self-sustaining) and their parents that your school and you
are 'for real' and that they should gamble their futures on
your ability to make it happen, than it is to convince an
already stable community to trust you enough to take a
similar gamble on you individually.

On Wed, 29 Oct 2003, Blake Boles wrote:

> Hi everyone,
> I've been following this list for a while and I feel it's
> my time to ask a question. I discovered the Sudbury
> philosophy and critical thought on the school system in
> general much earlier this year and I essentially found my
> passion. Making a long story short I became totally
> engaged in the subject, I changed my major (at UC Berkeley
> from astrophysics to an individually-designed one
> incorporating alternative education) and now I'm teaching
> a student- initiated class (at Berkeley) on critical
> thoughts on education, incorporating Sudbury, Summerhill,
> John Taylor Gatto, etc. I'm going to be graduating
> college soon, and I would like to get into the world of
> Sudbury/unschooling/alt.schooling as much as possible
> (after travelling a bit, of course). My question is:
> how?
> Sudbury Valley advised me to get a few more years of life
> experience under my belt before applying for work there,
> because students appreciate age and experience more than
> youth and enthusiasm/idealism. That I can understand;
> life experience is important, but I do not believe that
> youth/energy/passion/idealism can be totally discounted.
> I feel I could be a valuable addition & resource to a
> Sudbury-esque learning community. I have dreams of
> starting a school in the LA-San Diego area some day, but I
> need financial stability and (hopefully) experience
> working in a school first. One more idea I had was to act
> as a live-in unschooling "mentor" (or whatever you would
> like to call it) with an a family who desired a
> responsible, energetic, intelligent and driven individual
> to help their children/unschoolers find the resources and
> develop the attitude necessary to get the best education
> possible.
> Those are my ideas - I would love to hear more! Do any of
> the Sudbury schools out there hire young staff members?
> Remember, I would have to make a living wage at least..
> not much, but enough. How else could I get experience
> practicing the philosophies that are so dear to my
> beliefs?
> Please e-mail me with ideas, questions, comments, or just
> to chat. Thanks,
> Blake Boles (

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's 
just the opposite.
-- John Kenneth Galbraith
Received on Wed Oct 29 2003 - 16:36:56 EST

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