Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Is there such a thing as a semi-democratic school ?

From: <>
Date: Sun Jun 20 11:01:01 2004

In a message dated 6/20/2004 10:32:53 AM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

You have provided us with an excellent set of vignettes that share the
wonder that is a democratically run school well.
You also prove Jerry’s point that there is nothing that is 100% democratic:
· You refer to some things that need to be approved by the
Assembly, which means that the SM does not have 100% control.
· You mention that YOU didn’t have to say “You can not make that
motion”, which implies that there are some motions that are outside the bounds
of what the SM can do.
That said, I think we are all in what some call “violent agreement”! Our
schools are truly places at which all members can exercise their democratic
rights and responsibilities. However, since we are all embedded into a larger
system, there are some ways in which our democracy is curtailed. This is not a
put-down of our schools, it is simply a bow to reality.
In addition, what I take from Jerry’s assertion is that sometimes we waste a
lot of time bickering with each other and with potential allies by engaging
in pissing contests over whose democracy is “democraciest” and whose
democracy is really un-democratic.

This is Dan Greenberg from Sudbury Valley.
    There is something strange about this string of postings.
    Of course one can quibble about democracy, and about its definition.
But to say a democracy isn't "100%" because another, inclusive democratic body
makes some decisions, is like saying you can't have levels of democratic
government in society, such as town, state, and federal, or something like that,
which is nonsense. Layers of democratic governance do not mean absence of
    As for "motions that cannot be made", any society that has a
constitution places its own limits on its freedom of action; and that includes every
democracy that ever existed, whether its constitution is written or, as in
England, oral. To say that this is not democratic is again absurd. Sudbury
schools are embedded in a larger democratic framework wherever they exist, and
take cognizance of that fact.
    So to measure purity is indeed a vain exercise, often. However, that
does not mean that everyone who says they are democratic is in fact a
democracy. Unless one believes that the various "Democratic Republics" of the Soviet
eras were, because they said they were, and because they held elections (one
party ones, of course) with 99.9% of the population approving everything they
    Nor is it, in my opinion, a democracy if there exists, outside or any
accountable agency that is democratically set up, an authority that can make
decisions for the entity involved. For example, a school director who can hire
and fire staff, or make budgetary decisions (while the "other decisions" are
made by a general meeting), does not meet my definition of a democracy in
any way. If this is quibbling, so be it. That is what I firmly believe, and
where all the Sudbury schools I know firmly stand.
Received on Sun Jun 20 2004 - 11:00:10 EDT

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