[Discuss-sudbury-model] democracy and entitlement (was How can a young adult get into the world of Sudbury / unschooling?)

From: Bruce Smith <bsmith_at_coin.org>
Date: Wed Oct 29 21:33:01 2003

This is Bruce again. One more post, and then hopefully I, too, can withdraw
from this thread.

I am glad that Elizabeth was willing to hear what I had to say in my
previous post. However, while I do respect her perspective and regret that
she has had a negative encounter with Sudbury, I still do not believe she
yet understands what we're about. We are private organizations: however you
feel about this, no one is entitled to membership in a Sudbury school
simply by virtue of wanting to be a part of it. Those who can pay tuition
and become students and Assembly-member parents. Those who are voted in and
accept the terms of employment become staff. Others are voted in as
Trustees and Public Members of school Assemblies, as each individual school
decides on a regular basis.

You can question this, of course, but you would be criticizing us for being
something we cannot or do not endeavor to be. We simply cannot accept
everyone who says they want or deserve to be part of the school, in
whatever capacity they seek, regardless of how passionately they seek it.
We are schools, and small communities, and businesses that are not bent
primarily or directly (or, in a sense, at all) on reforming society; as
such, we are not inclined or able to take in all comers simply because they
wish it.

Our top priority is rather to establish and maintain environments in which
young people can prepare for adulthood in what we believe is an
exceptionally sound and healthy manner -- that is to say, as they
themselves see fit, within a framework based on both freedom and
responsibility. That is the beginning and end of what we do, our sole
purpose. Hiring decisions, as all decisions, must fall within that
framework, and the hard reality is that not everyone who wishes to join the
staff of a particular Sudbury school can do so. There are limits and there
are (fair and consistent, IMHO) standards.

We are not about allowing anyone who wishes it the opportunity to come to
our schools and pursue their own agendas, or find themselves, or make the
word a better place: if they are students, then yes, there is great
latitude; but the participation of staff, parents, and other Assembly
members is defined less by their rights, and more by their duties and roles
vis-a-vis the students.

Anyone who approaches a Sudbury school with the attitude that they ought to
be hired, or that the school would be foolish or irresponsible not to
acknowledge and welcome their passion -- anyone whose predominant reaction
to being turned away is to insult the school or question its integrity --
is viewing things in what I find too egocentric, or even narcissistic, a
perspective. There is little about a staff candidate that would turn off a
school more quickly (other than obvious problems such as a criminal
background or beliefs clearly contrary to the philosophy).

Also, I must say this: that I believe almost anyone who truly wants to
become part of a Sudbury school happen can make this happen -- perhaps not
in the manner or to the degree they most prefer, not easily or quickly, but
it is possible. This is entirely consistent with something that most
Sudbury students learn: it is first and foremost about one's choices, and
what one does with what one is given. If you want something badly enough,
you can most likely achieve it; but why blame others if it doesn't work out
the way you want? Democracy doesn't mean everyone gets everything they
want, after all. Instead, decide what you want, make your choices, accept
responsibility for their consequences, and keep moving along toward your

"To be an American is to move on, as if we could outrun change. To attach
oneself to place is to surrender to it, and suffer with it."
-- Kathleen Norris, _The Cloister Walk_
Received on Wed Oct 29 2003 - 21:32:39 EST

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