The Need for a New Model of Education
Education in this country seems to be moving further into a crisis. More and more children are being put on medications to be able to simply cope with school. Many are being labeled ADHD, learning disabled, lazy, or any other number of emotionally scarring titles. The natural creative abilities of children seem to be getting washed away under the presumed desperate need to raise test scores.
The roots of these problems are that our traditional system of education was designed for the perceived needs of the Industrial Age. The main emphasis was on a regimented curriculum to prepare students for work in industrial-type vocations. Creativity was not emphasized so much as ability to function effectively in authoritarian style organizations.
We have left the Industrial Age and entered the Information Age. New ideas appear constantly, changing the way things are done. The ability to thrive in the Information Age is based more and more on the ability to think creatively and take responsibility for one’s life. What type of educational model best suits this need?
The Sudbury Philosophy
The Sudbury philosophy is perhaps best stated by Daniel Greenberg, one of the original Sudbury founders, who stated, “The starting point for our thinking is the simple revolutionary idea that a child is a person worthy of full respect as a human being.”
The Sudbury educational philosophy is that an environment of freedom, respect and responsibility best supports a child’s creative potential. A child should have the freedom to explore their world, develop theories about it, and come to his or her own conclusions regarding any and every aspect of it. To allow children this freedom, it is necessary to give them the same respect you would an adult. Our philosophy says a child’s ideas are as important as anyone else’s.
With freedom and respect comes responsibility. If a student is unhappy or bored then it is their responsibility to change their situation. At Sudbury, boredom is, in fact, considered helpful to stimulate a child’s creative abilities. Think about it; if you were never given the time to think, you would never formulate any original thoughts. A brain is like a muscle, it must be used regularly in order to develop.
In a Sudbury school we recognize the importance of others to exist peaceably. It is critical that the students are allowed the freedom to self-direct, while at the same time, recognizing that they are part of a community and have to respect others’ rights. Inevitably, conflicts arise. Judicial procedures, in which all students take part, have been developed to address these matters. Students live the resolutions through warnings, mediation, and fair sentencing, instead of simply having punishments heaped upon them. No one is judged by their actions. Once an issue is resolved, the student is treated equally as all other members of the community. No student is ever labeled by their actions, and the judicial system is peer-operated as to be fair and without bias.
Each student knows their rights and what they are entitled to as a Sudbury student. The school is there to facilitate the students’ wants and ambitions, helping them develop and mature, while never damaging their natural love of learning.
To create the environment of freedom, respect, trust, and responsibility, Sudbury schools have the following characteristics:
- There are no mandatory curriculums or tests.
- Students are responsible for finding their own interests and pursuing them.
- The school is governed democratically, with students having an equal vote as adult staff members.
A Sudbury students’ life is filled with freedoms that are foreign to those in public education today; but it is not as simple as one may think. Being responsible for yourself brings complications that require maturity and personal growth, but it is well worth it. As any Sudbury staff, student, or graduate could tell you; Sudbury is an invaluable environment for any growing mind.
BVSS is founded on the American principles of democracy, rule of law, individual rights and due process.
The School Meeting, which is comprised of staff and students, meets weekly and manages the daily affairs of the school. This includes expenditures, hiring and firing of staff, use of campus, rules of behavior, dealing with other organizations and outside authority, chartering school corporations and all other day to day concerns of the school. Each School Meeting member has one vote and equal standing in the community and therefore share the right to fully take responsibility of the effective operation of the school and quality of life.
Self-governance and the fair administration of justice is a key feature of BVSS. Complaints of rule violation are handled daily by the School Meetings Judicial System in which all members of the school community participate. The J.C.(Judicial Committee) is comprised of an impartial group of School Meeting members of all ages. Throughout all phases of the judicial process, all School Meeting members are guaranteed basic, essential rights as citizens in a democratic community.
A Day in the Life of a Sudbury Student
At the heart of the school, is each students complete right and utter freedom to pursue their own passion and interests, and to create their own days.
Each day, throughout the school and campus, all students, regardless of age, can be found doing exactly what interests them. People can be found reading, talking and playing. Some may be playing cards or chess while others focus their attention on computers. Some create works of art while others build structures out of scrap materials. A group of students may be busy sellinghamburgers or cookies they have made in order to raise money for a project that they are involved in. People play music, play dress-up and pretend. They work on gardens, poems or building forts. Some work on building and maintaining an aquarium while others create marketing ideas. Some people study languages, math or prepare for their S.A.T.’s.
Everyday you will find people playing, laughing, and learning as they engage in activities both inside the school and outdoors and each day is as different as the individual creating it. The curriculum is virtually limitless.
Brazos Valley Sudbury School offers a high school diploma to students who have in the judgment of the school community, adequately defended the thesis that they have taken responsibility for preparing themselves to be effective adults in the larger community.
Graduates from the Sudbury model of education have gone on to a wide variety of post graduate activities, ranging from careers in art, business, trades, crafts and technical vocations to continuing education in colleges and universities all over the country and abroad. Most graduates of Sudbury Schools are admitted to their school of first choice, despite the fact that they carry with them no grades or evaluation of any kind.
A defining characteristic of many Sudbury School graduates is self-confidence. They know who they are, what they want and how to act upon this knowledge.
Sudbury School Alumni are entrepreneurs, doctors, professors, artists, musicians, business people, and more.