Friday, November 13, 2009

Sudbury Valley School - Empiricism



Last weekend I devoured yet another education book. This one detailed the *lives* of graduates from that *unschool* Sudbury Valley - the one that has absolutely no grades, assignments, or curriculum.

See that prior post - Book Rec - Withdrawn! - for the context explaining why I read this one.

This school has drawn an immense amount of curiosity from homeschoolers and all other *alternative education* types. Forget the unschooling *theory*, we all want to know how these untethered brats turn out?

Even after reading the 365 pages of testimonials, I still don't really know. These individuals have proven hard to generalize about with the information at hand.

Studies like these are *self-selecting*. Only about half of the graduates they contacted responded. Furthermore, it seems that for a school that's been around of 35-40 years, it seems that there weren't that many kids who went there for great lengths of time - never mind from start to finish. And I've read Greenberg say, elsewhere, that his school *has never been full*.

If it's so optimal, then why the heck not? This is a most germane question. What's also really needed is a book on the dropouts, their experiences, complaints, etc.

Most people's presumption or prejudice is that SVS is a hippy endeavor, nothing but a bunch of bohemian kids of bohemian parents. And the book, with a full slate of thirtysomething graduates still *in bands*, *acting*, and *in art* sort of corroborates that.

Throughout reading this book, I was all geared up to bash the crap out of the school...but upon further contemplation, I've decided to refrain.

Sudbury Valley definitely has flaws. IMO they are:

  • Inculcating radically self-centered living.
  • A deficiency of Classical education, esp. history.
  • Insufficient emphasis on family life.
  • Insufficient contact with the real, outside world, esp. economics.

At SVS, they are big on *learning by doing* - which is to be applauded as three notches above the book learning at government schools. BUT, a whole lot of people have tried to do things over the millennia; would it kill to read up on them a bit? While *doing* catalyzes ideals such as innovation and self-propulsion, jumping into something with present-tense blinders on can easily devolve into a waste of time and energy. Time and again, the SVS graduates came off as wholly innocent of history - the subject that both Napoleon and I see as the most important - and of real world economics.

For all the talk of becoming *independent* at SVS, a glaring number of the respondents went on to work for the biggest slave-driver on the planet - Big Government.

I'm sorry, but if my kid goes to work for the Feds....I've failed miserably in educating him.

I do not want my kid to learn, like I did, when he's 35 that he should have been on single-minded track towards self-employment and entrepreneurship his entire life. At that point, with maybe a family in the picture, a person's options - and not to mention energy level - are greatly reduced.

SVS apologists would counter that they teach children to self-motivate, to become lifelong learners, and that their graduates will be far better off at age 35 than those whose curiosity was snuffed out in age-graded, curriculum-bound government schools and the like.

And they are right.

Except, my kids, on my plan, will be well ahead of them. Economics and history are too important to *hope* students get around to studying them with application one day.

After all, what good is all this *intellectual liberty* if one has to toil away running a coffee shop to make ends meet (as one graduate did)?

I hope no one misunderstands this post. Sudbury Valley, IMO, does a lot of great things - and is probably ideal for some kids. I'm not deprecating the school here. I'm just being my normal Captious self.

I'm just not convinced that the appropriate reaction to our hidebound, age-graded, curricula-bound, government school system is total freedom for small children.

I think optimally, parents/educators can split the difference. Half of the day might be formal work and half of the time allow them to follow their own curiosities.

I've got one more book to read on Sudbury Valley. So y'all can expect one more post on this unschool.

31 comments:

Jess H said...

I suggest you read John Taylor Gatto's "An Underground History of American Education" if you haven't already. Some clarifications are in order: kids at SVS do read books, lots of them. Some kids don't read books, just like adults! And the reason the school is not full is simple and has nothing to do with the school itself (again, read John Taylor Gatto): freedom is scary. Trust is scary. I also suggest reading Naomi Aldort's "Raising our children, raising ourselves". The notion that your children will be "ahead" or better off or whatever as a result of your homeschooling versus any other model is sort of missing the point. We need to let go of our ideas of what their lives will be. Read also Kahlil Gibran's "On Children".

CaptiousNut said...

Jess H,

First off, I've read plenty of Gatto. He IS the patron saint of *alternative education*, IMO.

I've written plenty on him as well - so much so that he has a dedicated tag on the blog:

click here

Freedom is scary, I concur, and I confess to an extent.

You sound like you have some experience at SVS.

If you would, can you tell me what its weaknesses are as you perceive them?

I appreciate and will look into your other two book suggestions. Thanks.

Jesse Fisher said...

"Hi, my name is Jesse and I'm a recovering public school teacher."

I value freedom and self-government and believe that the BEST way to prepare students to become responsible citizens of a free society [the purported founding purpose of the public schools], is to provide them a smaller, safer laboratory where they can learn self-government firsthand, thus truly preparing them to be good citizens. SVS offers this, and, in my opionion, is why SVS SHOULD be the standard in a free, democratic society.

Children learn what they live -- if they live 6-8 hours a day for 12 years in a heirarchical, command-based social system (aka. public schools), they'll learn to be good subjects, not freedom-loving, self-govenors. Hence, the resultant rise of the nanny-state.

Biggest weakness of SVS's style:

>> No role models of voracious learning.<<
From what I've read, most SVS staff members (those that aren't running the office), sit around reading magazines -- what a waste!
Children come wired to learn from role models and do it amazingly well. Think of it! They learn to smile, speak, walk, run, fight, and love others all through role models. They don't need teachers, desks, homework assignments, or bells to learn any of the myriad of skills they learn before age 5.

Were I to start another freedom-based school, this time I would insist that all staff members be role models of people who thrill at learning AND applying knowledge. One might be way into history, for example, and entice children by her example to engage it along with her. Another might role-model finding joy in building useful gadgets and the budding engineers would swarm him. My experience tells me that children, in a free environment, are attracted like flies to purpose-filled adults taking action. If Sudbury's staff could grasp this principle, their results would be even more remarkable.

Speaking of their remarkable results, I pored over one of their books that reviewed all the studies done on their grads. I calculated that 40-something percent of SVS grads had started their own businesses within 10 years of graduation. I dare anyone to find any compulsory-based school that generates anywhere near that percentage of people courageous and self-confident enough to start their own businesses so early.
The 2 biggest ironies to me about education in America, is that:
1. We claim to value freedom, but we don't give our children the chance to learn to be self-governing politically or intellectually, and
2. In a free market economy where 70+% of new jobs are always created by small businesses, our educational system trains (ie. conditions) students to become employees instead of employers! Our system tells them, "Don't dream and explore! Follow orders!"
And we wonder why we struggle keeping our workers employed!

Phew! I feel better now. Thanks!

OneWhosNativeAmericanNameHad2DoWithButterflies said...

Hello, i'm a student of an svm school in austin, tx. a lot of people dont take my views on education seriously because i'm "just a kid", but as an "unschooler" i follow my interests in child psychology, alt. edu., attachment parenting, radical parenting, radical honesty, open-mindedness, empathy, community, evolution, the history of the universe, meta cognition, homo sapiens and just thought, relationships and the mind in general. I've read tons on svm, as well as other types of education.

I'd like to point out that I'm not just pro sudbury because i'm an svm student. I've been to public, private, charter and home schools of ALL sorts and my current school is relatively new. I have one came-from-a-bunch-of-rednecks, high school drop-out, autodidact, carpenter, writer father & one came-from-a-bunch-of-hippies, Ph.d, Principle, Yogi mom. I helped to found my current school (http://clearviewsudburyschool.org/) and i think i have a pretty fair view of all sides.

Also i'd like to point out that...

a. i lllllove reading and history and economics(of the Thomas J. Elpel sort, but that's as "real life" as it gets anyways)

b. doesn't it seem a little bit biased to say that schools "should" value family & entrepreneurial business and history just because you have a family and you wish you'd started a business sooner and you've found history helpful in being the kind of person you think your kids should be? The whole reason that sudbury schools are a bit wary of parental involvement is because of parents that feel justified in "instilling" certain values in their kids. The point is to be great at being whoever WE want to be, not whatever your definition of successful is. Some people want to live their lives working at coffee shops and being oblivious to "truth".

c. all humans are naturally self-centered. we are the center of the universe because our consciousness is all we can be sure of. Have you ever heard of "the selfish gene"? I've never read it but I've talked to people who have and I'm planning on checking it out soon. Also... what better way to "produce" courteous, thoughtful people than to model it(and that goes for history, economics, ect too), give them other people to interact with & not mess with their natural sense of courtesy by "telling" them what they "should do".

Also...

you asked what the weaknesses as we see them are. I have a couple...

1. They aren't always very assessable since they aren't very supported, therefor they must support themselves through pricey tuition. I'm not really pro-vouchers, I just mean that the more students you have, the less you have to charge per student since the school has to have a certain amount of equipment/resources that everyone shares.
2. It's virtually impossible to give anyone, even svm students, an opportunity (and i mean opportunity like it's there but optional)to see EVERY way of life, so they don't exactly get a perfect chance to be WHOMEVER they want to be.
3. SVM staff believe in their model so much that they A. sometimes isolate themselves and are closed minded in their own way & B. don't take much time to learn about child psychology, which I think is super important for effectively communicating with kids. (yet, the whole point is being who you want to be and that extends to the staff)

all my other issues lie with society and parenting.

and ditto on what Jess H & Jesse Fisher said (minus the "recovering public school teacher part") :)

-Kaya

CaptiousNut said...

Kaya,

You wrote:

doesn't it seem a little bit biased to say that schools "should" value family & entrepreneurial business and history just because you have a family and you wish you'd started a business sooner and you've found history helpful in being the kind of person you think your kids should be?

Of course MY OPINION IS BIASED!

It suffers from the limits of my personal experience, a finite information set, and the (slight) imperfection of my brain.

To say it's biased is to say nothing at all.

Allow me to clarify or rewrite....

I think history and economics are vitally important for MY CHILDREN.

I'm not starting a school here (yet!) or jawboning some ideal educational environment for others. I'm just raising two precious kids as best I can.

When you have kids of your own, you WILL see things in a different light. Life really does inflect upon parenthood. (Yeah, I absolutely hated hearing that when I was an addled youth, too.)

Five year olds should not have *free rein* over their education because, well, they are not INDEPENDENT. Granting someone something that they didn't earn or deserve....how is that preparation for the real world? That's prep for Fantasy Island!

Giving kids votes on everything?

I'm 35, pay a boatload in taxes, obey roughly 75% of the laws, but still, the reality is my vote DOES NOT COUNT in the current democratic *system*.

So in a sense, I'm glad no one deluded me, as a child, into thinking that I really had a say in *most everything*.

Having said all that...

For a 14 year old, you are one impressive young lady!

And your obvious precocity is the most trenchant argument I've seen yet in favor of the SVM model.

I'll continue my response...when I get a chance.

Anonymous said...

http://mises.org/daily/3864

Harvard professors claiming copyright protection for notes on their lectures. What a crock!

kfell

Jess Haugsjaa said...

My five year old is currently a student there (his second year), and yes, he can see to his own education. People are forever underestimating children. He is teaching himself math. Why? Because he loves it. How? I'm not really sure, to be honest, but he's doing it. And my husband and I encourage him and join him when he wants and leave him to it when he wants. He is also teaching himself to read. Why? Because he sees everyone else at school reading in order to do all kinds of things. How? With much patience and persistence. All of this without coercion, without worksheets, without subtle bribery and pushing. He is learning out of pure love for it. And he is learning something even more important, IMO: what to do with every minute of every day that he's there. The democracy at SVS is not about giving kids a false sense of control over their future lives (said like a true victim of schooling, I might add). It's about giving them the freedom to control their present and prepare themselves AS THEY SEE FIT for the future. Again, read Naomi Aldort. It is not up to us to decide what is the best course for them, because we simply can't know what the best course is for another human being.

CaptiousNut said...

Jess,

I'm glad you're happy with the Sudbury Valley experience (thus far). I would very much like to have sat in on a day there - but alas, I'm moving out-of-state.

Everything I would say to you in this comment I've already said in my post and in the comment thread.

All the best to you and yours.

Check out Hold On To Your Kids for some insight into the environment 5 year olds should ideally be in.

David said...

"OK, SO YOU'RE SORT OF LIKE..."

. . . HOMESCHOOLING OR UNSCHOOLING? There is a particular philosophy of homeschooling, often referred to as "unschooling," which shares many similarities with the Sudbury model. John Holt was its best known proponent, and his writings have been invaluable to us in helping to explain just how learning can happen without teaching, and why on earth a child might choose to learn arithmetic or some other supposedly dreadful subject. Unschoolers believe, as we do, that children are born curious about the world and eager to succeed in life and that kids learn best through experience and experimentation rather than by being told how and what to think. In the words of John Holt: "Real learning is a process of discovery, and if we want it to happen, we must create the kinds of conditions in which discoveries are made. . . They include time, freedom, and a lack of pressure." But unschoolers, for the most part, see the family environment as the best place for children to grow, while the Sudbury model believes that, as the African proverb states, "It takes a village to raise a child." Children and parents have complex relationships and interdependencies which make it harder for children to discover true independence within the family. In the environment of a Sudbury school, children face direct personal responsibility for their actions, without the emotional baggage that family-based accountability can sometimes carry. In addition, children are more able to develop some important social skills in a democratic school -- the ability to tolerate diversity of opinion, to speak out against inappropriate behavior, and to develop and carry out group projects, for example. In most homeschooling families, the parent sees him or herself as ultimately responsible for the child's education, while at Sudbury schools, that responsibility rests squarely with the child.

[Excerpt, "OK, SO YOU'RE SORT OF LIKE...," by Romey Pittman, http://www.fairhavenschool.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57&Itemid=176 ]

CaptiousNut said...

David,

Thanks for that link. Though I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to say with it.

I'll reiterate that I believe the *family* to be important - as is real world *work*. Sudbury Valley, if attended 5 days a week, is more like kid camp, a fantasy land. Heck, in America no one's vote really counts. So why create that alternate reality in a school?

David said...

Family is important but, the kind of character Sudbury Valley School seeks is not needed in any other kind of society or institution for the socialization of children. Where the State, or the father, reigns supreme, people are needed who are capable above all of obedience, of submerging their individual selves in a larger or specific pattern. Dependence, not independence, is the quality most suitable to authoritarian states and institutions.

Sudbury Valley School, on the other hand, seeks independence. The independent man is Sudbury Valley School's ideal.

On the other side, I think it is safe to say that the individual liberties so cherished by our ancestors and by each succeeding generation will never be really secure until our youth, throughout the crucial formative years of their minds and spirits, are nurtured in an environment that embodies these basic American truths:

• be democratic and non-autocratic;
• be governed by clear rules and due process;
• be guardians of individual rights of students.

Children and youth growing up in schools having these features have the best chance to be ready to move right into society at large -- and to contribute to it.

Democracy must be experienced to be learned, practiced and improved!
.

Lucy said...

David wrote:Where the State, or the father, reigns supreme, people are needed who are capable above all of obedience, of submerging their individual selves in a larger or specific pattern. Dependence, not independence, is the quality most suitable to authoritarian states and institutions.

I know this is an old thread, but not so old as Davids' argument ;-) I have heard other people state that Nazi Germany happened because of parents who disciplined. That is to say, the Jews did not mount a rebellion because their family life taught them to be subservient to authority.

There is simply to way to equate the authority of a Father in a home with the authority of a Government, unless the Father himself is making that equality.
Fathers' guide children to independence. When the children become adults, they leave the home and are independent.

Or they would be, if government allowed people to be independent. The authority of a Father or a Mother is temporary, and most kids recognize it. My own teenage years were filled with mutterings...can't wait till I have my own house, can't wait till I am my own boss. Independence was just around the corner.

When parents do not parent, and instead turn their children over to government schools, who abdicate "authority" to the government itself (police officers stationed at every school, arresting kids instead of detention or paddlings), lifelong dependence is a highly prized trait indeed.

Here is another opinion of Naomi Aldort's work...Un-parenting v. Liberty

Lucy said...

Para. 2 in my original post should have read "There is simply no way.

Lucy said...

Okay, I have no idea what happened to my original comment. Hopefully someday the gods of the internet will release it back to us mortals.

Rather than retype the whole thing, I'll just put this link about Aldort and Montessori up Un-parenting v. Liberty

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI as I see Naomi Aldort getting mentioned frequently here.

Aldort is a fraud. She is not a psychologist nor does she have a Ph. D. as her book claims on its cover - it is a false claim that she has been making for years that has only come to light in the last week.

CaptiousNut said...

Anon,

I don't have a clue who Naomi Aldort is. Sorry.

But in general I don't give a hoot about credentials. I know plenty of Morons with Phds...

CaptiousNut said...

a person,

Google deleted your comment (*marked as spam*) automatically because you put too many links in it.

But I was going to delete it anyway.

I don't care about that woman and I don't care about anyone who ostensibly bought her products/advice on account of her credentials. Please go bad-mouth this woman, again whom I don't know in the slightest, elsewhere.

Isabella O'Connell said...

Its hard to generalize Sudbury school students because it's hard to generalize people in general. There is no "typical" human being, as there is not "typical" sudbury schooler.

CaptiousNut said...

Isabella,

You are kidding about *people* being beyond generalization, right?

I just watched millions of people run out and buy water, milk, bread, and eggs because of a forecasted non-hurricane. (Hurricane Irene)

I watched millions of people buy houses during the housing bubble.

I watch millions of people go into extreme debt to send their kids to worthless colleges.

How many millions of fools dump money into the stock market (mutual funds!) each month?

How many millions of idiots believe that a *magic pill* can solve their lifestyle-induced health problems?

FreedomMom said...

I have to say it was chilling to read David's comment that put government and father in the same category. The staff at Sudbury Valley school are strongly opposed to parental involvement. Parents who attempted to get involved in school governance (which was allowed until a year ago) were treated like scum, and in some cases, the children of these parents also suffered. Family has no place at that school unless they are in lockstep agreement with every detail of school policy. Originally I just thought the staff were overreacting to meddlesome parents, but the animosity towards family is deeply ingrained in the philosophy of the school and was a great disappointment to our family.

The stated argument in the SVS literature is that children naturally want to please their parents, so in order to allow a child to grow up free of stultifying psychological constraints, parents should be completely out of the picture in terms of the education of their children. Other characterizations of parents in the SVS literature are that we are fearful, confused, unwilling to accept our children's freedom, jealous of that freedom, etc. This never applied to me and I always wondered why it kept appearing in the literature. I still wonder why, but now I see how that characterization has played out.

I also think the idea of children being able to run the school, which was the main argument for eliminating the involvement of parents (and trustees as well) in school oversight, is impossible. There are some things that children must learn do before they can do them, and these things are in effect done by the staff. The staff has used procedural methods to acquire the authority to do many things that staff do in normal schools such as telling children they can't come back to school and firing staff. The school meeting, consisting of staff and students, functions as a democratic body, unless there's a so-called emergency, and then it doesn't. Sound familiar?

In spite of this my children have benefitted from an environment in which they had plenty of freedom to make decisions about how to manage their time. They seem to me to be emotionally mature, comfortable with all kinds of people and self-aware to a degree not found in most adults. I still have a tentative agreement with the freedom aspect of the school's philosophy. I say it's tentative now because the extent to which I was wrong about the other aspects is astounding, and my blindness can only be explained by my desperation to save my kids from the misery I experienced in school as a child.

CaptiousNut said...

Hi Freedom Mom,

Aha! So they are expressly *anti-family* and *anti-parents*....this is all starting to make sense now.

I appreciate very much your firsthand account. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My child went to a Sudbury school for about a year. I was attracted to the independent, open-minded approach. However, over time I saw that (a) 90% of the students played and goofed around most of the day, every day, throughout the entire year (b) the adults were benignly neglectful of the students' needs (at our school, with one adult per four children, a 4 year old got locked outside on a cold day and no one noticed until I found her out there crying when I came to pick my own child up-she had been there for over an hour)(c) the adults are so in love with the Sudbury dogma that they do not see or care about the proverbial individual trees (i.e, children). They have no grounding or interest in child development, socially or emotionally. Therefore, if there are issues, they are left to the student committee to resolve. The student committee is a groupthink popularity contest--yes, some kids will disagree with the group, but the group always prevails. And that is NOT intellectual freedom or independent thinking in any way, shape or form. A consensus develops and everyone follows it to get the meeting over with. The kids themselves will tell you that after a year, they HATE having to sit in on and resolve all the petty complaints that students file against each other. An inordinate amount of time is devoted to this process. One thing your child will definitely learn at Sudbury is how to file complaints. Last, but not least, the leadership has the same social blinders and manipulation you see at any other school. There is nothing special here, just the same human nature of protecting our own. At our school, the director's own children attended (this is pretty common) and it resulted in they and their friends receiving favored and protected treatment, at the psychological expense of other students. Sudbury operates under the sense that their philosophy is so wonderful, that as long as they follow it, they can't be wrong or questioned. It was an interesting experience, but in the end it is a neglectful approach that does more harm than good. I think Sudbury schools appeal to a certain kind of adult (you cannot call them teachers) in terms of having an easy job with a lack of accountability. It doesn't pay well,which they will use as evidence of how 'devoted' they are, but in my experience, none of them were enthused or excited about doing or accomplishing anything. In fact, I would sum it all up as "Not much ado about anything."

FreedomMom said...

"Children and parents have complex relationships and interdependencies which make it harder for children to discover true independence within the family." From another quote by David. This is the kind of thing I was talking about in the SVS literature. But what exactly is true independence? I am not independent of my family of origin. My sisters and their kids and my parents are the most important people in my life after my own husband and kids. After that comes cousins, in-laws, and stepson's family, then friends. I hope someday that list will include grandchildren and spouses of kids. I feel blessed to be a part of a family even though many of them drive me crazy because they have all kinds of problems. (Well no more than others, but I happen to know them well enough to know about their problems.) What kind of independence are we talking about? I did decide about college on my own and have always been financially independent as an adult, but in my extended family, we help each other out when there is a need with gifts or loans.

Really, nobody cares more about my kids' independence than I do. Above all I want them to succeed as functional human beings who contribute riches of their choice to society using their skills in a career filled with enjoyment. i.e. exchange their own productivity (not someone else's forcibly obtained) for whatever lifestyle they are able to attain - hopefully the one they want. My older daughter wants to go to college far away - good for her. My younger wants to stay close to home - good for her too. We will help them do these things if they want and need us to, which is always their prerogative. At the school, they are of interest to the teachers only as long as they are enrolled. After that what? They're still in a family for the most part, or off at college usually supported by family. Sure some of them are on their own, sharing apartments, earning money and paying the bills, but is being on one's own really the criteria for success? What about being able to be comfortable among kin, sharing some of the housework, sharing the car and the groceries while at the same time pursuing dreams?

To me it seems contradictory to claim that kids are at some kind of disadvantage in the family because of "complex interdependencies" and then think they will achieve wonders of fruition among strangers that they gradually get to know in a limited environment. I think all people who care about a kid will interact with him or her in a way they think will be good for the kid to the extent that they can, and that the kid will learn to sort out mixed signals and ulterior motives as their thinking (and the behavior of adults towards them) becomes more complex.

One other criticism I have about SVS has nothing to do with the way the school is run or the people running it. There is a problem in that it is not a community-based organization. Families come from far away and often pull up all ties to the community they were in before (if any) in order to attend the school. We did, as well as did many of our friends. However it is a large and spread out suburban metropolitan area, so the families don't live nearby. So the school is not a part of any community whatsoever. They call themselves a community, as do many similar organizations, but in reality it is a school, and as such, it is a rather isolated school. There really is no community base which I think has led to some of the problems that have arisen over the years.

Thanks to Gatto I am attuned to this and have set about making connections in my actual community, not easy to do these days. I know when I am looking for belonging in all the wrong places and am able to make choices subsequently. Not easy to do in our fragmented society.

Anonymous said...

Alpine Valley School, Colorado's only Sudbury Model School, has been like a second family for me and my 15 year old son. I am incredibly impressed with the staff, parents, students and alumni/graduates. My son has been there for a little over 4 years. He is constantly learning, has brilliant social experiences and even has started a corporation/business within the school. His knowledge and ability to engage in intelligent conversation on subjects such as history, economics, politics and the interplay between those subjects far outweighs my own. The environment there is utterly stellar in what it provides. It is the only school I have ever had involvement in as student or parent where I actually look forward to participating in the activities and socializing with other members of the school community. I have always felt welcome. Every staff member is a fantastic role model for my son. My gratitude for what Alpine Valley School has done for us is enormous. This evaluation comes with some context since my son has lived in 4 different U.S. states and Australia since his birth, giving us personal experience in a number of different schools. I am sure there must be a difference among the various Sudbury Model Schools. We have had fantastic experiences with two--Alpine Valley School in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and the Clearview School in Austin, Texas where my son prefers to spend his Spring Breaks when the schedule permits.

CaptiousNut said...

Anon,

Glad to hear it's going well for your 15 year old.

But you didn't send him until age 11, right?

I maintain that the young'uns (ages 5-10) need parental attention more than faux freedom.

Anonymous said...

If SVS school kids learn not to put white text on a black background, and especially not long essays, they are already doing the world a favor.

Anonymous said...

Every person I know that's been imprisoned has or has started their own business. Although the ideology of owning your own business sounds good, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will be able to provide a living for their families. The study of history may be benefitual to some degree, but will the true history be taught. I've come to believe the ethnic background of the author of the curriculum determines the direction of the history being taught. Also what's considered "successful" is different to the different backgrounds . In my opinion the education of the grades K-12 should include real life necessity. Understanding and knowing our finances. Credit, interest , interest rates, pitfalls of interest, ownership, equity, depreciation. This would help to make this a stronger country which of course is a benefit to us, the citizens

Zachary Zarko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zachary Zarko said...

I am a public high school teacher, and I am interested in the Sudbury model. But despite the fact that Sudbury has been around for about 50 years, there are very limited formal research and statistics available (presumably because Sudbury doesn't measure student performance with tests and grades).

I have a tough time trusting schools that tout anecdotal evidence of success because there are gifted kids who are going to become geniuses no matter how poor their educational experiences.

I also find it somewhat aggravating how Sudbury fans describe public schools as if they were prisons or forced labor camps.

In MY public school, we are focused on involving students in developing their own curricula, setting their own classroom rules, and learning the four Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creative problem solving). Essentially, we are doing many of the same things that Sudbury schools do - but students are still required to attend classes, and teachers are still required to prove student learning by assigning grades and administering standardized tests.

I wonder how Sudbury students would stack up against students at my school when it comes to constructed response writing, reading comprehension, mathematics, economics, and technology.

It seems to me like Sudbury kids only learn what they want to learn. So Sudbury parents might think their kid is good with computers because he knows how to download and play Minecraft. But at graduation time, their kid still has no clue how to write a college essay, format a spreadsheet or create a multimedia presentation - skills that young people must possess to succeed in college and careers.

Also, I wonder how many Sudbury kids become disillusioned once they leave the school and find out that the real world doesn't often allow them a vote or let them decide things for themselves. Once they find out they have few choices and limited control over their real-world jobs, it seems to me that Sudbury kids would get very frustrated and burned out. (Maybe that is why so many of them go into government jobs where they simply have to do what they are told.)

CaptiousNut said...

Hi Zachary,

It's wrong to compare schools to ONLY the Sudbury model. That is *building a strawman*.

The fact is, schools fail spectacularly against parent-led education *outside the system* (often misnamed as "homeschooling").

Have you read John Taylor Gatto's book?

Read free here.

Take at look at my kids who've never set foot in a school - here.

kitty heite said...

These comments have been great! I'm considering our local SVS for my oldest kid who is literally dying in school. And she goes to a magnet school! I just don't think she can make another year of the kinds of restrictions and impositions being put on her there.
It was interesting reading the comments about lack of family engagement. When we toured, they were very clear that family gets to decide things for younger students like whether they can go out of the building, see mature content shows, etc. Some friends of mine are on the board, and their experience has been very family coordinated. Maybe because it's an urban school rather than a suburban or rural school, it seems that community has happened around it.
But honestly, I'm really looking forward to not having to fight with my daughter about homework anymore. I'd rather just enjoy her as a person for these last few years before she goes out into the world.