Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] A City on a Hill, and a Thank You

From: Carol Hughes <>
Date: Mon May 17 07:02:00 2004

Make my day! You remind me that whenever I become aware of some situation among people that is dark and hateful, that the very best thing I can do to change the world is to raise my three healthy, whole, fabulous children to be strong, clear, and individual. They are truly beacons wherever they are. They are all grown and graduates of SVS. The world is a better place with them in it. What a terrific writer you are!
  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Monday, May 17, 2004 12:51 AM
  Subject: [Discuss-sudbury-model] A City on a Hill, and a Thank You

  Dear SVS-discuss community,

  I wanted to share a reflection and a personal experience about what SVS has meant to me. I think this bears relevance to a lot of the discussion on this list, but mostly I speak from a desire to express what's in my heart.

  I have not attended the Sudbury Valley School, nor do I have children there, nor have I even visited it. But I have gained an enormous gift simply from reading about it. My reflection is this: SVS serves an enormous function for a huge number of people in the world at large by being a beacon, and a living proof, a "scientific", empirical laboritory. Simply by being what it is--the realization of the idea of democracy applied to all regardless of age in a town-sized community--it shows what is possible for human beings, oppressions removed. And not in the way that one child genius shows us that, Oh, Mozart could write concertos when he was four but my kid will never be that smart or I'll never be able to be that smart--rather, in a way that is communal, and with a community that is heterogeneous to an extraordinary degree. Granted, one can wish for greater diversity; I seem to recall discussions on the list about concerns about disproportionate racial diversity at the school--if there are, of course this is an important issue, but not necessarily a problem that SVS can solve from within--and maybe there are other limits to the diversity, factors so hard to detect that they have not been generalized about. Perhaps there is a SVS "type"--and one day some scientist will isolate the SVS gene or the SVS energy pattern. But regardless, what is proved is that a far broader cross-section of the population than almost anyone in the USA thinks possible can teach themselves, take advantage of resources, choose what course to follow in life and prepare for it, participate in a democracy and take responsibility for their fates starting at age four. I think the common factor really is passion.

  It seems to be that nothing should be changed about the SVS model in order for it to change the world most effectively--not even changing the tuition requirement, for instance. The issue of our failing public schools in poor areas is a pressing one, and my heart can't but hurt to know what goes on there. But SVS needs to be itself in order to do the most important thing it can for those public schools: exemplify what's possible. The issue of going into the inner city and trying to save children from slow torture and brain-death is in many ways a separate issue. To the extent that it is connected, it is through reformers' looking back at SVS as a point of reference, a reminder of what a sane society would look like were one to recover it somehow in a public school context. SVS is there. One could air-drop leaflets in the schools and there would be a street address on it, not merely an idea. It seems to me that the opening of new SVS schools, while it ought to spare parents expense in any way it can, must remain true to what a school is, and must be adequately funded. (And yes, that's about %50 the cost of public schools.)

  My personal experience is this: reading about SVS my senior year in college was more important to me than any class I took that year. It was more relevant to my life at that point than knowing the history of New England's literature. And relevance to my life was absolutely more important than relevance to larger theoretical and historical questions--I needed to start taking responsibility for the space I take up on this planet. Reading about SVS allowed me to reassess my whole life, to feel a giddy joy, a sense of liberation, a freedom to do in each day what I thought best rather than heeding the voices of "conscience" (really voices urging a show of self-discipline). Actually, it's turned out years later that I am an indigenous person, and my nature is bound up with the schedules of the trees and plants as much as with the schedules of my fellow citizens. And I had never taken any interest in politics whatsoever until I learned that democracy was a thing sacred to children somewhere. What a revelation it was to begin to look at the beauty of the world outside me, as well as the horror: people all over the world are working for democracy in astonishing and life-affirming ways, while the unimaginative go about routinely repressing them. School and mainstream media had not given me a very accurate picture of the very world I inhabited. So I managed to "de-school" myself I believe to a great degree by reading about SVS (I read nearly every book from SVS press). I had always been a very good kid, and am, as Daniel Greenberg calls himself somewhere, a "recovering A-student." I hate school in my heart. Almost more than anything else right now in my life, three years out of college, I want to expunge every trace of false love for oppression from my psyche. I had always known in childhood that school was stupid and a waste of time, mind you. But I continued to believe because I had no other point of reference. I couldn't question the need to breathe or eat vegetables, could I? School was sacrosanct. I continued to believe because I needed to make my parents happy. I continued to believe because we were all victims of the traumatized society. So it was essential for me to read about SVS to learn that actually, No, if you take away the arbitrary restraints, you don't get _Lord of the Flies_, you get the America we were supposed to have.

  Had I not read about SVS, I might have travelled to rural Africa anyway, and seen what human beings do when not institutionalized. But reading about SVS was a transformative moment for me and for my destiny. It also meant that when I saw the kids in Africa, kids who are so astonishingly happy it made me want to cry at the severity with which my country hates and fears its children, I could understand clearly that their playing was itself a valuable activity, and not a guilty pleasure of the bad.

  This is from a desire to say thank you to all of the people who have risked and sacrificed and embraced their joy to make SVS a reality. I am a great being. What moves me deeply is truly good, and SVS is truly good. I want to thank the adults who started it and maintain it and keep their hands off, the kids who come with their love and their rebellion, the parents who support them, who dare, or at least open their minds up to questions and empirical exploration. We live in dark times, and this is a kind of war, and we need always sanctuaries of sanity.

  With best wishes,

  Yoho Myrvaagnes
Received on Mon May 17 2004 - 07:01:51 EDT

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