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

From: Jesse Gallagher <>
Date: Tue Oct 11 11:55:00 2005

Hi Molly,

I've been following this discussion and thought I
might drop in my own coupla cents.

It seems like the last several days' posts have
illuminated a gulf between unschooling and
Sudbury-style "freeschooling" that one might not
suspect exists. On the surface they seem like very
close neighbors in the community of educational
theory, but a closer look reveals foundational
differences. While both "models" recognize the
importance of child-directed learning and both present
opportunities for young people to (inevitably) take
responsibility for their choices and actions,
unschooling is actually less related to Sudbury
schooling than Sudbury schooling is to traditional

Sudbury schooling is without question vastly superior
to traditional schooling, but it is still
schooling--it still exists as an institution that
serves to mediate the experiences of growing human
beings. Like schools have always done, it serves as a
training ground for life, and like the finest schools
of the past--and unlike today's traditional schools,
both government and private--its well-designed
landscape offers relevant and compelling lessons.

Unschooling--whatever else it may be in its countless
permutations--is not schooling. It doesn't act as a
filter or simulator for life's experiences. It *is*
life. Where Sudbury trains folks up so they'll be
more able to successfully be themselves when they hit
the wide world, unschooling refuses to acknowledge the
distinction between learning and living. All there
*is* is the wide world--get to it.

As someone who unschools his children (11, 8, 1) I
completely understand your interest in the Sudbury
model. I too have contemplated merging the two, and
in fact tried unsuccessfully to start an unschooling
cooperative here in Connecticut. The plan was to have
a physical space, with resources, that was available
to kids like a Sudbury without the attendance
requirement. I still haven't figured out exactly why
it didn't work, but I suspect that it's this
difference between the models that I mention above.

The hardcore unschooling families couldn't figure out
why they should pony up cash to do what they were
already doing at home (which, as every unschooler
knows but which every non-unschooler seems to doubt,
means everywhere *but* home--and sometimes there too!)
and the unschool-leaning homeschooling families who
*really* wanted the space and resources couldn't
imagine paying for their kids to "play" all day long.

My experiences convinced me that the primary
difference between unschooling and
Sudbury-schooling--"no-school" vs.
"very-cool-school"--is a function of choices that the
parents make, not the children. The decision to
remove (or omit) all layers of institutional mediation
from between one's children (and oneself, ultimately)
and the world is a decision heavy with responsibility
and uncertainty. It gets ugly at times, and it isn't
always easy to navigate without the readily available
maps. Unschooling is not for everyone, and I say that
with absolutely no judgment or criticism implied.

I strongly suspect that Sudbury attendees will end up
being the kind of parents who choose to unschool their
own children.

My point--which I'm pursuing with my usual
canteloupe-sharp focus--is that the gulf between the
unschooling world and the Sudbury world is, I think,
unbridgeable in a practical sense. We share enough
common ground to enable us to champion each other's
work, but that's about it. I think we'll continue to
see interchange of ideas and personnel between the two
camps, as individuals grow and change and pursue new
challenges, and that can only be good.

The Sudbury model continues to be a source of
inspiration for me.

Thanks to all for this stimulating conversation!


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Received on Tue Oct 11 2005 - 11:54:18 EDT

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