Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Hypothetical Question Re. Commestibles in Sudbury Schools

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Fri Oct 31 20:20:00 2003

On Fri, 31 Oct 2003, Ardeshir Mehta wrote, quoting Mike

> > One of the factors that enrollees (and staff) must
> > consider when rules are made in the democratic process,
> > is how their decisions will be viewed by the larger
> > community. I guess they could vote to create serious
> > problems for the school, but would they do so? I've not
> > seen or heard of it happening yet.
> Maybe not yet. But it COULD happen. Right?

A condition for being incorporated in the State of
Massachusetts is to abide by the laws of the State of
Massachusetts!! Yes, the School Meeting of the Sudbury
Valley School in Massachusetts _could_ vote to break the law
-- but the school wouldn't last a week after such a decision
was made! It's testimony to the wisdom of the kids -- and
their unselfish desire to keep the school intact for other
children after them -- that the SVS School Meeting has never
contemplated going into open rebellion against the town,
state or nation at whose pleasure we exist.

The fact that Sudbury Valley School has sovereignty over
some things and not others, and that to date it has never
attempted to enter into open rebellion against the state,
does not make the Sudbury Valley School undemocratic. Not
any more than the fact that the state could unincorporate
the town, and the the fact that town does not control the
state police in its borders, makes the town undemocratic.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Sudbury Valley
exists in the real world. There is NO DEMOCRACY IN THE
WORLD that could make ANY decision it wished in perfect
security that there would be no repercussions that would
lead outside forces to demolish the democracy. Is the state
of San Marino (less than 25 square miles, population of
4500) to be judged 'undemocratic' simply because they know
that if they pissed off Italy enough they would find their
sovereignty threatened? If we use that as the working
definition of democracy -- that the democracy be powerful
enough that its members feel no need to ever check their
impulses against the desires of others in the larger world
-- then I assure you that democracy is impossible.

I'm personally glad that our students and staff don't have
their head so far in the clouds that our School Meeting
would consider dropping the rule from our lawbook that
requires School Meeting members not use our campus as a base
for breaking local law or statute.

You go on to ask:

> Would Sudbury have supported, or hindered, for instance, a
> staff member dodging the Vietnam draft? Would a Sudbury
> school in Alabama in the fifties have supported, or
> hindered, a black student enrolling in the school? Would a
> Sudbury school in the U.S.A. - as it is today - support a
> Muslim student or staff member arrested under the present
> P.A.T.R.I.O.T Act, even if it meant the closure of the
> school, or would it turn its back on him/her? Would a
> Sudbury school in Israel support a staff member who
> refused to serve his *miluim* (army reserves service)
> every year in the Israeli Army, as all citizens are
> required to do, because he/she considers it immoral to
> obey all orders issued by the Israeli Army?

I can't speak for any School Meeting. But as a staff member
in a Sudbury School, I would _hope_ that the school I love
and care about would not be so stupid as to go out on a limb
to allow me to use its campus to break the law. I also
doubt that the school would 'turn its back on me' if I did
break a law for reasons of conscience, and was decent enough
to keep the school _out_ of my dispute with the state -- I
would never expect or want the School Meeting to _assist_ me
in breaking the law.

This does not mean that there wouldn't be times and places
in which the school would draw a line, challenge the law,
and expect to prove itself in court. Not over issues that
are external to daily life at the school (such as whether or
not I pay my taxes or register for the draft). But if the
state passed a law requiring, for example, that children in
all schools be placed under constant supervision by members
of a professional teaching staff, I could picture the School
Meeting choosing to defy the law and test it in court;
because the school would have to choose between defying the
law, fundamentally changing the nature of the school, or
simply disbanding because one couldn't _have_ a Sudbury
school under those conditions.

In any case, Sudbury schools do have one overriding
_philosophical_ principal that would certainly keep them
from allowing any person from using their campus to defy the
law. Laws are by their nature political, and rebelling
against the law is a clear political statement (certainly
clearer than _following_ the law). Sudbury schools make
every effort to be a-political. To take a stand _against_ a
law which has been enacted by the wider political body is to
take a political stand. And taking a political stand
compromises the ability of a school to claim to have no
curriculum. Schools that, as institutions, take political
stands cannot truly offer freedom of conscience to all their
members -- while SVS for example takes no stand on the
draft, the students feel no pressure from the institution to
personally accept or reject the idea of the draft.

> It's a *hypothetical* question, of course.
> Ardeshir <>

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
The right to be heard does not automatically include the
right to be taken seriously.
-- Hubert Humphrey
Received on Fri Oct 31 2003 - 20:04:18 EST

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