Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] compulsory element of sudbury model

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Fri Oct 7 13:16:00 2005

On Fri, 7 Oct 2005 wrote:

> Scott wrote:
> The test of anything
> that the state makes 'mandatory' is not whether it is
> burdensome to most people, but whether the system itself is
> unduly burdensome (a 'Hell') to *any* of it's members.
> Scott, in light of this last statement, can you please help me better
> understand how the compulsory component of the Sudbury Model can be justified. I am
> already aware of the rationalization that minimum attendance is required to
> enhance school culture, however, I have difficulty with the mere fact that any
> kid is being forced to attend during those times when his or her passions or
> interests lie elsewhere in the community. I am referring to a potential scenario
> in which a person may become interested in being involved in a project
> outside of the school, but the school mandates that he or she attend the school a
> minumum number of hours per week. That seems to protect the institution over
> the rights of the individual.
> Wouldn't the sudbury model, with its pure adherence to democratic principles,
> better serve the needs of its individuals, if it trusted the individuals to
> decide for themselves when the school was an appropriate place for them to be
> and when it was not? Shouldn't we question the concept of the
> institutionalization of children?
> Thank you for helping me probe this question, Molly Mancasola

As a citizen of Massachusetts, I am given liberty *with* and
*within* certain obligations (jury duty, taxes, etcetera).

Written from the POV of someone at the Sudbury Valley

Within a sudbury school, people are given liberty *with* and
*within* certain obligations (JC duty, tuition, trash duty,
attendance requirements).

It is worth noting that our attendance requirements are
voted in place by our School Meeting. However, as has been
noted elsewhere, *democracy* and *liberty* are far from
synonymous -- it is possible (at least in theory) for a
School Meeting to violate liberty. But it is also worth
noting that our attendance requirements were voted in, in
part because of a recognition that our school exists within
the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and at the
whim of the Commonwealth.

Technically, the state makes the *parents* and not the
*school* liable for truancy. Nonetheless, the existence of
truancy laws is certainly a component in our attendance
regulations. The decision to remove the burden to fulfill
the law from third parties (the parents), and to place that
burden within the context of the school squarely on the
student, is a decision of our School Meeting, and to most
School Meeting members feels consistent with our desire to
make sure that each person take responsibility for

I may not feel that truancy laws are fair (I actually
don't), but if they exist it is better for that burden to be
felt by the student (who is actually the one that may or may
not comply) than by the parent. This is much the same as my
sense that it's *unfair* serious illnesses while others
aren't -- but that doesn't allow the person with the illness
to shift the burden of responsibility to remember her/his
medication to someone else.

I do think that it is important to distinguish between
*liberty* and *choice*. Liberty is a state in which people
are free to do anything *except* that prohibited by statute
as long as they fill other temporally and physically limited
social obligations. *Choice* can accurately describe many
so-called free schools -- places where students have a
pre-approved set of menu options 'pick your classes today!'
or some such.

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
Liberty means choice. Not between two, five, a dozen, a
hundred, or a thousand alternatives; but the right to choose
any one of the infinite paths that may have never been
contemplated or foreseen. Giving a person the right to
choose between a handful of alternatives may be more
pleasant for that person than telling her or him precisely
what to do, but it is not the same thing as actually
respecting that person's right to liberty.
Received on Fri Oct 07 2005 - 13:14:12 EDT

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