New Insights into the Sudbury School Model
The Thirtieth Anniversary Lectures
To celebrate the school’s 30th anniversary, a series of six talks was presented showing how the people who struggled to implement this new educational model deepened their understanding of topics such as play, conversation, and democracy. This wonderful book packs a big punch in a little volume. It is particularly valuable for parents considering Sudbury education for their children.
“We didn't focus on the relationship between democracy and other values of the school, even though we talked about its interrelatedness to other values. We didn't really grasp it. Last year, a lot of the pieces fell into place for me personally. It happened as one of those eureka experiences which really don't mean that much to somebody else who doesn't have it. The setting was an informal meeting with a group of parents and some students and staff members. One of the parents asked the students in the room, ‘What is the most important element of the school for you?’ The questioner didn't want to know what the staff felt was most important; she wanted to know what the students thought was most important. Without hesitating, one replied, ‘Democracy,’ and he talked briefly about empowerment. That was what democracy meant to him. The last thing I expected a student to say in response to that question was ‘democracy’. I expected ‘freedom’, ‘the ability to do what you want’ – but not democracy.
“I began to think hard about this. He was talking about democracy as empowerment; he wasn't talking about School Meetings as a socio-political process, as a method for deciding legislative agendas and governing communities. He was talking about something a little different, closely related to it. That's when I started focusing on the larger question: what is the significance of democracy in society? Understanding its significance in American culture must precede our ability to grasp its significance in the school.”