Core Ideas of the Sudbury Model

A talk by Daniel Greenberg

“Sudbury Valley School was consciously modeled on the American experience. Our first publication, The Crisis in American Education, was written around the theme that this school’s values parallel those of American society. Back then, we were naive enough to think that this fact should make the school an easier sell than if it were in conflict with American values. As time went on, and the entire public school system didn’t convert itself to the Sudbury model, we had to face the fact that massive change wasn’t happening, and try to understand why.

“Why is it so hard to explain the school to Americans? Why is it so hard for Americans to accept its premises? And why is it such a hard sell to the rest of the world?

“While we’re at it, we may well wonder why American values and American principles are such a hard sell to Americans even beyond the realm of education? Why are so many Americans so conflicted in relating their practices to their ideals? We read a lot about that in our history books, which often convey a sense of disappointment, and often contain accusations of hypocrisy. How could the Founding Fathers be serious about these ideals and have slaves? Were the high-sounding phrases they wrote just a cover for the evils they perpetrated? Why is there so much discrimination in our society today, even though our ideals clearly militate against it? I feel I have finally come to the point where I have some insight into why this happens. To explain this, we have to really look deeply into the ideals of the American system, which are reflected in the Sudbury model. It turns out that some interesting and unsettling facts emerge that shed considerable light on the situation, both in this school and in the country.”