Four score and seven questions ago

Bruce L. Smith (bsmith@midway.uchicago.edu)
Wed, 19 Feb 1997 21:09:30 -0600

Okay, well I only have four questions, but I simply can't resist the
temptation of a catchy subject field. <g> Anyway...

1. THE '76 TROMBONES/SINGIN' IN THE RAIN' QUESTION. I'm very eager to
hear of the creative variations many of you have no doubt found within the
following scenario: let's pretend I'm insanely interested in music;
specifically, band and choir (actually, we really don't have to pretend :).
Were I a student at a Sudbury-model school, satisfying this interest, this
part of Me, would be a primary concern. I wouldn't hesitate, of course, to
seek out other students at my school, and musicians in the community at
large, for assistance in finding an outlet for my interest. And indeed, I
would be far more free to develop this aspect of my Self, to acquire the
necessary skills and experience. Yet, to the extent that I need (or think
I need) a "real" band/choir director, and a few dozen (or more) fellow
serious musicians -- not that I can't develop on my own, obviously, but
there's a lot to be said for access to large ensembles -- well, how
receptive would a trained director/teacher be to working with me? I can
imagine that any Real teacher would be thrilled at my interest, but would
s/he have the time and resources to accommodate me? Would I even want to
consider working with the local school district in anything approaching an
official capacity? Obviously, this is by no means a major obstacle, but as
I said, I am interested to hear from any of you who have thoughts or actual
experience in this area.

2. THE 'SIZE DOESN'T MATTER' QUESTION. Do you see -- again, in theory
_and_ practice -- anything you might tentatively venture to say were
"limits" to the size of a Sudbury-model school? Understand that I use that
term very advisedly: my main curiosity has to do with whether there might
ever be such a thing as a school whose size poses any sort of obstacle to
the rich, community aspect of the model.

3. THE SOAPBOX/EVANGELIST QUESTION(S). One of my ongoing concerns, as
those who have been following this list might have observed, involves my
ability to explain and promote the model. I am making some progress, as I
continue to read Sudbury literature and as I'm becoming involved with the
Liberty Valley School Founders Group. Two quick examples: I am fortunate
to live a house with several grad students, one of whom takes great
interest in probing my belief in and understanding of the model; also, I
just started a dialogue with someone who saw my comments in the Puget Sound
Community School's electronic Guest Book. Yet this remains a critical
concern for me, and so I turn to the participants in this discussion: can
you recommend any more specific things I could be doing to enhance my
familiarity with the Sudbury model, and more precisely my ability to
communicate my understanding of it to friends, neighbors, and more random
encounters? Or is this primarily a function of time (i.e., it will take
time, I could devote more time to my reading and working, etc.)?

4. THE PURE CHOICE QUESTION(S). With all the pseudo-reform babble
generated since the recent presidential campaign, I'd like to throw out the
question of the advisability of enabling true financial choice. Call it
tax credits, or vouchers, or something you wouldn't say in front of your
parents. <g> *What if* the public schools lost their monopoly of public
support, if they had to compete on a more-even basis with the myriad of
alternatives which pay-as-you-go educational funding would enable? They
wouldn't have to -- and wouldn't, very likely -- close. But they would
finally be forced (ha ha) to attract students with a viable, humane
tructure. Or would this open the floodgates a bit too widely? Would we
face serious separation-of-church-and-state infractions? Would a majority
of citizens accept such a thing? What limits, if any, would you place on
the right to educate young people?

I hope you enjoy today's smorgasbord o' questions....and eat up! There's
plenty more where that came from.

Bruce

-------------------------

"If a person is determined to learn, they will overcome every obstacle and
learn in spite of everything...but if you bother the person, if you insist
he stop his own natural learning and do instead what you want him to
do...between 10:00 and 10:50 and so forth, not only won't he learn what he
has a passion to learn, but he will also hate you, hate what you are
forcing him to do, and lose all taste for learning."

-- _'And Now for Something Completely Different':
An Introduction to Sudbury Valley School_