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See that prior post - Book Rec - Withdrawn!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.