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

From: Elizabeth Marrin <e_marrin_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Wed Oct 29 18:34:01 2003

I feel compelled to thank you for not judging my character and
instead looking at the text that was written.

I hope that someday someone will be able to think of a new way
to view the SVS community. I see it is all about outsiders vs.
insiders. It feels as uncomfortable as a gang initiation to me.
 Or fraternity/sorority pledging. That's something that should
be looked at, according to my instincts. With all eyes on the
children's development, advocating for them... we must at least
be aware that the only kind of people who can really afford to
deal with this process are not those on the financial fringe.
Yes, it is a given that no SVS institution has money growing on
trees --- still, that shouldn't be the excuse to only bring in
those who can somehow manage the burdensome cost of working
there. Basically, without saying it, I want to be able to see a
classless staff.

I don't think SVS can claim a classless staff, and if the staff
are there assisting the kids, we are still setting up a strange
unreal dynamic. What democracy doesn't take all members? It is
a limited democracy, with its eyes on the students. That's all
I'm saying.

I'm also done saying this. Thanks for chatting, Bruce et al.

See you in another realm someday,
Elizabeth

--- Bruce Smith <bsmith_at_coin.org> wrote:
>
> This is Bruce at Alpine Valley School.
>
> I hesitate to join this thread, because it seems to me (I
> readily admit, I
> could be wrong) that Elizabeth is reluctant to hear Joe's
> perspective; that
> she is so firmly tied to the impressions she gained through
> her interaction
> with the Sudbury community as to have difficulty seeing that
> community's
> point of view. And, yes, I have some concern that she will
> take anything
> critical that I say personally.
>
> (I do know Joe, and I perceived his response to Elizabeth as a
>
> straightforward and reasonable attempt to address -- and
> defuse -- a
> contentious topic. That would be in keeping with previous
> posts of his, and
> reflects a combination of honesty and restraint which I
> respect. It is
> unfortunate that Elizabeth took Joe's comments so personally:
> if she knew
> Joe, she might understand that, as I see it, he was not trying
> to engage in
> a flippant or dismissive _ad hominem_ attack.)
>
> It is clear that Elizabeth had a negative experience with
> Sudbury personnel
> and proponents, that her initial expectations unraveled in
> what to her was
> an intensely negative way. While I respect her process, I
> doubt that
> Elizabeth's depiction is the only, or a complete, account. I
> am writing
> despite my concerns, because I believe that if someone were to
> take only
> Elizabeth's word for it, some inaccurate and misleading
> impressions could
> be formed.
>
> I will try to be respectful, and I ask for the same treatment
> from any who
> may respond to this post.
>
> At 01:43 PM 10/29/2003 -0800, you wrote:
> >There is no true democracy in this gig because they're only
> >democratic with those inside the community.
>
> I believe this is a misstatement. At Alpine Valley, we have
> clear and
> detailed procedures guiding our interactions with people
> outside the
> school. All those interactions are handled either by School
> Meeting vote,
> or through officials democratically elected by School Meeting
> members.
> Moreover, those officials are expected to act in a consistent
> and fair
> manner, to be good representatives of the school. Due process
> is
> *extremely* important to those in Sudbury schools, both within
> and with
> respect to the outside world. It is unreasonable and unfair,
> not to mention
> grossly inaccurate, to generalize that we have "no true
> democracy" here.
>
> > You can't just go on a site visit and then be voted in.
>
> I would say this depends on what is meant by "a site visit."
> Our procedures
> at AVS call for an extensive visiting period before a
> prospective staff can
> be nominated and voted on. But we try to be as accommodating
> as possible.
> We recommend a minimum of one 30-hour week, and a 2-8 week
> period of
> approximately 20 hours per week. Every visiting period is
> voted on
> individually, tailored to meet the prospective staff's
> situation and the
> school's needs.
>
> It is critically important to understand that an extensive
> visiting period
> is normally called for in the Sudbury hiring process because
> the job itself
> is so unique. For example, and by way of contrast, when I
> interviewed for
> public-school teaching positions, a relatively brief interview
> (or two or
> three, if things went well) could suffice, because my
> prospective employers
> and I had a well-established, common understanding of what the
> job
> entailed. Also, a very small number of people _make_ the
> hiring decisions
> in most places, so it doesn't take that long.
>
> This is simply not the case with Sudbury schools. The job is
> so unique,
> with so much latititude and discretion, such high expectations
> for
> initiative and responsibility and teamwork, that our schools
> need to get to
> know a prospective staff member much better than in a
> conventional hiring
> situation. Also, since everyone at the school has a vote,
> everyone needs
> the opportunity to fairly assess each candidate.
>
> Many people express an interest in becoming staff who turn out
> not to have
> a solid understanding of the model. Many schools have hired
> people who
> turned out not to be supportive of the model. Thus we have a
> reason for
> establishing a fairly rigorous screening process, one that is
> firmly
> grounded in experience and as reasonable and consistent as
> possible.
>
> >The onus on the potential young staff outsider is to
> sacrifice healthy
> >living.
>
> Here is where, at the risk of assuming things about
> Elizabeth's beliefs, I
> see a reluctance to view things from a Sudbury school's
> perspective. Many
> of our schools struggle for years to make ends meet. Many
> simply do not
> have the funds to pay *any* staff, new or long-timers, a
> living wage, one
> that does not require some sacrifice. That is a fact of
> establishing a new
> business. It is not sufficient cause, in my view, for anyone
> to take a
> diminuitive payroll personally.
>
> Another fact of Sudbury schools is that it takes far fewer
> adults than many
> other educational models. Thus, many Sudbury schools do not
> need more staff
> than they already have. There is some benefit to incumbency,
> as a given
> school is more likely to vote back in a staff they know and
> like than they
> are to take a chance on someone they don't know. But that does
> _not_ mean
> there is an active bias against new candidates. There _is_ a
> cautiousness
> and wariness at times, because those of us who have been at
> our schools for
> a while tend to be protective of them. I'll admit that freely.
> But we try
> to remain open to new staff candidates. (I'm afraid you'll
> have to take or
> reject that one on faith.)
>
> The onus _is_ on the prospective staff member to demonstrate
> what they can
> bring to the school. If the School Meeting believes a
> prospective staff has
> skills that they need, and if the money is there, the new
> staff member will
> likely be hired and paid. It does happen sometimes, believe it
> or not.
>
> >It doesn't matter to them how many academic papers you've
> written,
>
> Well...yes: that doesn't matter; at least not directly.
> Current students
> and staff want to know whether a candidate will be an asset to
> the school.
> Having written academic papers may or may not demonstrate
> that. Plenty of
> people have written plenty of papers, yet might not be strong
> staff candidates.
>
> No one is asking Elizabeth or anyone else to make sacrifices
> before
> becoming staff as some sort of perverted character test. The
> simple fact is
> that because Sudbury schools need to get to know staff
> candidates unusually
> well, an extended visit is necessary. Also, because many
> schools are not
> well off financially, and because they do not require many
> staff members,
> there are not a lot of open positions or a lot of pay
> available. That is
> simply the reality we're faced with here.
>
> I agree with Elizabeth that is difficult to attain (and make
> financially
> feasible) a staff position at a Sudbury school. (Believe me,
> many of us
> wish that staff could be paid more!) But I hope it can also be
> agreed that
> there are justifiable and understandable reasons for this. And
> strangely
> enough, and fortunately for our schools, there are enough
> people who for
> various reasons can make it happen, who can become staff
> members. I applaud
> those who can, and I refrain from criticizing those who
> cannot, or who
> choose otherwise.
>
> Bruce Smith
> Alpine Valley School
> ------------------------------------------
> “Even when one denies God, to serve music, or painting, or
> words is a
> religious activity…There can be no categories such as
> ‘religious’ art and
> ‘secular’ art, because all true art is incarnational, and
> therefore
> ‘religious.’”
>
> -- Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith
> and Art
>
>
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Received on Wed Oct 29 2003 - 18:33:10 EST

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