Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Some facts

From: Hilary Tuttle <>
Date: Fri Apr 8 07:36:00 2005

Scott, thank you for this post. I love it when the list starts buzzing
and I can almost hear the ideas banging around in people's minds..... It
is, however, SO hard for most of us to "get" the simple core of SVS,
namely that the kids are trusted and have the responsibility of self
determination in the framework of a democracy. You said it beautifully
in point #4. We're all so affected by our own experiences w/school and
education that the simple and radical notion of truly trusting children
to do what is right for themselves is terrifying. It DOES work though! I
see it every day in my son. He started at SVS when he was 5 and is now
in his forth year. Those of you who know him will agree that he is
flourishing and not one of us could name all his interests, they are
varied, changeable and HIS.

The most recent book put out by The Sudbury Valley Press "The Pursuit of
Happiness" demonstrates how successful an SVS education is. I recommend
it to anyone who is trying to understand the school.


Scott David Gray wrote:

>This conversation has devolved into a set of debates over
>words that is worryingly abstract and academic and off-base,
>and frankly bizarre. It has also led to some serious
>misrepresentations and misunderstandings, and also some just
>plain misquoting. A set of thirteen relevant items, in no
>particular order:
>1) Yes, in fact, Sudbury schools are very supportive
>communities for all School Meeting members -- staff and
>students. People of all ages find people who are ready to
>help them with various challenges and questions and projects
>in their lives.
>2) No, Sudbury staff don't actively advertise potential
>activities for students. We don't say things to students
>that an adult wouldn't happily say to an adult in a similar
>relationship. We *certainly* never announce to a mass of
>people something as artificial as "I am going to be working
>in the darkroom at X time. Anyone who wants to join me is
>welcome to do so." On the other hand, I might quietly
>mention to a kid who has *already* expressed an interest in
>working with me, that X time would be good for me because
>I'm working then anyway.
>3) Public activities do exist at the school. The activities
>directly related to the governance of the school (this or
>that meeting at this or that time) are placed on a common
>central bulletin board, just as local town meetings are
>announced in the paper. And social things (from plans to
>bake pies, to history seminars, etcetera) are sometimes
>arranged *by*students* and -- after the fact of the event
>being arranged -- announced on the board.
>4) At Sudbury Valley, people of all ages are sovereign over
>themselves. However, the students and staff are equally
>subject to the will of the community, as expressed through
>the School Meeting's laws. This is called respect. We do
>this, because we feel that respect is and freedom the ideal
>environment in which to grow up respectful, responsible, and
>fulfilled. We have not been disappointed. The act of
>violating that respect -- of treating a child as a different
>animal from an adult -- dooms that entire method. The
>presumption that adults know better for children than those
>children do, is at the heart of school systems oriented
>around curricula. But it is at odds with what we do at
>Sudbury Valley.
>5) It is just as disrespectful to carefully thought out
>philosophies of education which use a curriculum, to suggest
>that Sudbury schools could have *some* curriculum or *some*
>staff who are proactive on academia, as it is to the
>carefully thought out philosophies of education which are
>practiced by our School Meeting. I mean no disrespect to
>systems that use a curriculum when I say that the two cannot
>be combined. I do regularly criticize traditional education;
>but I at least respect them as operating under a consistent
>philosophy. When one talks about 'blending' 'elements of
>Sudbury' one is abandoning any clear educational philosophy
>for some sort of wishy-washy desire to have it both ways.
>6) Sudbury Schools *have* no doctrine. No formal definition
>of a Sudbury School exists, anywhere, to my knowledge. On
>the other hand, different people involved in schools define
>key elements of what they are doing. And different schools
>choose to have associations with one another. There are
>several schools that Sudbury Valley keeps an association
>with, and several that we do not keep a collegial
>association with because their philosophies and aims are too
>far from ours. And most of the schools that we keep
>associations with *themselves* keep associations with other
>schools -- which may or may not overlap to a greater or
>lesser degree with our list.
>7) Alumni from Sudbury schools seem to be doing just fine --
>by any measure. Whether you look at income or higher degrees
>(questionable measures of success), or self-reports of
>fulfillment and happiness, or numbers who get into career of
>first choice, our alumni do very well. The question isn't
>'aren't you harming those kids?' but 'isn't that neat, how
>does it work?'
>8) When you treat people with respect, they treat you with
>respect. This is why the staff hiring process is, as I
>mentioned before, very gentle and respectful. Placing power
>in the hands of younger people does not make animals of
>them. Particularly when it is *equal* power. People who
>manage and govern in unequal environments do sometimes
>relish their power a little much, but when an entire
>community is taking care of it's own the process can be much
>more human.
>9) Students at Sudbury schools are 'exposed' to plenty of
>things. They are not missing out, because they are not being
>formally introduced to them by an adult, in a classroom
>setting or otherwise. A review of classroom policies in
>*any* traditional school gives the lie to the idea that
>people are exposed to more in that environment than in a
>Sudbury environment. In a traditional environment, you are
>listening to one stream of factoids from one person, without
>counterbalancing opinions, or the free market of ideas. In a
>Sudbury school, you have dozens of conversations you could
>be part of -- many of which are in earshot of your other
>conversation so you can't help but be 'exposed' to the
>biology/theology/ethics/whatever discussion going on 'over
>there.' You also have Internet computers not behind the
>*exceeding* restrictive CIPA firewalls that prevent students
>even from viewing want-ad sites, and TVs, and books books
>everywhere on any subject you could dream of. On the other
>hand, traditional schools do everything in their power not
>to *present* information but to *limit* information. Their
>philosophy of eduction is 'tear down and build up' -- remove
>*everything* from the child and then rebuild the child with
>a set set of factoids. Sudbury's philosophy is in my opinion
>more humane and more realistic -- the child has already
>started growing, let him/her continue!
>10) Do critical stages of development exist? Yes, they do --
>Todd's critique of another post notwithstanding. Most of the
>evidence is in language. For example, deaf children in
>Nicaragua(?) were denied sign language for several years
>because of A) lack of funding for a massive amount of
>deafness that passed with a particular virus and B) some
>wise-acre educationists' horrible life-destroying idea that
>it would keep them from actually learning to read lips. The
>children who never were allowed to be exposed to signing
>were otherwise treated very well -- but the ones who didn't
>get any exposure to signing before age 6 simply never were
>able to learn grammar *at*all* even after being intensely
>exposed to sign language. And deaf children who got to spend
>time together before age 6 but had no language access, and
>were *allowed* to do so, actually *developed* a sign
>language with grammar and all. Does this mean that people
>should be sure to be 'taught' language before age 6 comes?
>No -- it means that the mental processes for acquiring
>information (play, curiosity, role modeling, watching) are
>innately wiser than any professional educators. We may know
>a lot about the mind, but there is *MUCH* more that we don't
>know, and not only do people learn more when their own minds
>set the theme and pace, but in fact people are happier.
>11) Yes, students know how to make use of the democratic
>process. I didn't do a head count in School Meeting today,
>but there were at least 80 people of all ages. The meeting
>dealt with several difficult issues, but was respectful
>throughout. The debate from all corners was at the highest
>level and very interesting. And everybody understood the
>12) Democracy means -- government by the governed. Equality
>before the law means -- all people being held to the same
>standards. Liberty means -- the governing authority only
>takes from people's time to meet a clearly defined need and
>then only does so in a limited way and/or with a heavy heart
>(jury duty, or a military draft), and activities are only
>limited from very clear cause and only with a heavy heart.
>These three together are the foundations of Sudbury Valley;
>I personally feel that this is what people of all ages
>deserve, and because it doesn't get in the way of their
>learning and in fact seems to help, why the blazes not treat
>children with this same human respect and decency?
>13) When expenditures of resources are done, they are not
>based on whim. They are based upon the desire for
>this-or-that in the school, balanced against it's cost. When
>the school decides to get x86 computers that run windows and
>Linux, it is expressing a decision based upon the relative
>demand for different products by persons in the school,
>balanced against the relative costs (not only money, but
>also space and time). The school meeting is neither
>discouraging people from or encouraging people to play with
>Macintosh or VMS or Alpha computers by these choices. To be
>sure, when a community decides to find something to serve
>the common good (building a public park, or a library) some
>individual people get more benefit than others -- but that
>does not make the community any less pluralistic. On the
>other hand, when a community actively supports the idea of
>people paid with it's resources knocking on the doors of
>people to try and actively cajole them to do this-or-that,
>the community is most certainly *not* respecting differences
>of opinion or pluralism.
Received on Fri Apr 08 2005 - 07:35:36 EDT

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