RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Desperadoes

From: Lynanne Fowle <>
Date: Sat Apr 29 08:35:00 2006

I'm starting a democratic school in North Carolina, but have spent the last
3 years running a charter high school in which we had many "desperados."

But like any other classification of children, desperados came in many sizes
and shapes, and we were able to "save" many more of them than we let go. For
students who have been damaged by the public school system, especially those
that came to us in their teens with plenty of bad experiences behind them,
it sometimes takes a long time for them to "deschool" and find value in the
educational environment.

In many cases, the SVS model would have been very beneficial for them
because it allows them the freedom to chart their own course -- in many
cases for the first time. The charter school environment, although better
than traditional schools for children who can't cope with the intense
structure, still wasn't perfect because the state requires tons of
coursework before they will certify a diploma. Many of my kids needed to
have positive experiences and find their niche before they could concentrate
on "schoolwork" and a career focus, and we barely had time to make that

But, in my experience, if your staff is compassionate and your school is
centered around the primary value of personal respect, it won't matter if
you are a small school or a big school, because even desperado children are
children and are usually just looking for an environment where people take
them seriously and they can have some control over their lives. If you stay
true to your mission and not waver once you open the doors (and continuously
reinforce your values through your school meetings and communication with
parents/community), you will be successful regardless of who attends.

It is also my experience that the parents are usually more of a problem than
their children in some of these "desperado" cases, because their own
experience has been more traditional, but you can be very firm with them
about what your school does and does not do and then just let the children
"deschool" at their own pace and find their own way. The other issue we ran
into was board members who wanted to change the charter school's mission
because they thought we were TOO compassionate and TOO respectful of our
students, but that's another story entirely! :)

Lynanne Fowle

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Richard Berlin
Sent: Saturday, April 29, 2006 1:57 AM
Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Desperadoes

Wasn't there a conflagration, early in the history of Sudbury Valley,
caused in part by a significant number of students who enrolled
expecting something closer to anarchy than democracy? I don't see how
it can be wrong to admit that the Sudbury culture can be spoiled by an
excess of individuals who enroll without due consideration about
whether they are able to commit to the basic tenets. Neither does it
seem wrong to point out that a fledgling school is both (a) more
susceptible to this harm than a large, stable school, and (b) less
likely to make the hard choice of enrolling only students/families who
can make the requisite commitment to the model.

And it is fair to label it as "failure" if a student leaves after a
couple of years? The pattern--of individuals who are severely damaged
by other schools coming to a Sudbury school and staying only a short
time--is certainly not something that is isolated to Cedarwood. E.g.
the concluding paragraph to Daniel Greenberg's essay on "Why Sudbury
Valley School Doesn't Work For Everyone: Real Learning Disabilities"
seems to describe exactly the same thing:

> Let me conclude by addressing the question of why Sudbury Valley isn't
> for everyone. The answer is that Sudbury Valley is for everybody in a
> stable, self-sustaining, post-industrial society where everyone is on
> board. It's not a special kind of school for special kids. It's really
> a place where people in their natural state can flourish. But because
> there are so many real disabilities that exist during this transition
> period in history, the full benefits of the school are basically
> available only to mavericks, to those who haven't sustained a lot of
> damage that's made them incapable of living in their evolutionary
> natural state. To be sure, a lot of people who have sustained some
> damage, if they stick it out, seem to get considerable benefit from
> being here. That's more than a little consolation. In a sense, they
> get a glimpse of the Promised Land, like Moses on the top of Mount
> Nebo, just before he died. He looked at the Promised Land and then he
> died. They get a view of what the school is about, and then they move
> on. We often hear that from former students, even those who have been
> here a very short time. It's our hope that as these benefits become
> more widely recognized and accepted, the whole culture will adapt, and
> the disabilities and damages will fade away.

-- Rich

On Apr 28, 2006, at 5:06 PM, Tay Arrow Sherman wrote:

> Hi, Stuart--
> I'm saddened to think that someone on this list would encourage anyone
> from turning away or avoiding students such as myself from schools
> such as the one it took me more than ten years to convince anyone I
> needed. No wonder your "desperadoes" left and failed... I'd be
> uncomfortable at best with any organisation that regarded me as a
> "problem" due to circumstances in my life over which I had no control.
> Cheers,
> Tay Arrow Sherman, SVS alum, desperado class of 1996


       . | "But there must be a way | .
      (i) | To have our children say: | (%)
    CC @ 33 | | CC @ 33
    (e) (:) | 'There are so many colors in a rainbow | (?) (})
     ` \ ' | So many colors in the morning sun | ` \ '
       | | So many colors in a flower | |
     \ | / | And I see every one.'" | \ | /
      \|/ | | \|/
     ~~~~~ | -- Harry Chapin, "Flowers are Red" | ~~~~~

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