I Just Found Out About Sudbury Schools
bullshitting doing research on reddit the other day, when I came across somebody talking about going to a school with no grade levels, no classes, no grades, and no tests. The students just did whatever they wanted to do. All day, every day.
What in the world?
Yep, its called a democratic school. Also, known as a Sudbury school. Apparently, they exist all over the world.
The Sudbury name comes from the most well-known and prominent such school in North America. Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Kids show up in their pajamas. Play video games all day. Some play basketball. Some chill and play cards. They just do whatever. They. Want.
I honestly think… it’s freaking awesome.
Naysayers will say… oh, but how will they learn reading? How will learn math? How will they learn these sorts of academic topics without teachers and without being forced to learn them?
Well, they’ll probably learn them the best way possible… when they, themselves determine that they want to and are ready to learn them.
But, No!! We’re supposed to force every kid to wake up at 6AM, get to school at 8AM, sit in each class for the same 45 minutes, learn the exact same things as the rest of the class, raise their hands when they want to go the toilet… blah, blah, blah
Why should kids do all of these things?
What benefit is it to force information down kids throats that they don’t care about?
I can’t believe I’m just now hearing about Sudbury schools. It sounds like a genius idea.
So, some kids sit around playing video games all day. Or playing card games all day. Your point? I had friends that did both of those things in college. [READ: My 5 Biggest Regrets About Going to College]
I’m actually quite sure the Sudbury model works. Allowing kids to learn what they want to learn, at their own pace sounds loads better than forcing subjects on them and forcing state-wide tests on them.
Kids don’t care about state-wide exams. They don’t. It’s a joke to them.
The biggest problem with the current education system is trust. Adults don’t trust kids to make their own decisions. Which is a bit sad. At 27, I’m no more capable of making my own decisions than I was when I was 7.
Now, you can say I haven’t matured at all in 20 years, but I would say you’re wrong.
No, I’m quite sure the Sudbury model would work for any kid. And, be more beneficial for any kid.. than traditional education. And, I’ll give personal examples from my life and refute any issues the naysayers have with such a “school”.
Of course, one common “concern” is…
What if the kids just played video games all day?
To that my response is: that’s great. Now they have more time to play video games without school getting in the way.
Think about it.
Kids were going to do it anyway. My high school generation was one of the first to have cell phones – guess what we did? Sat in the back of class and played snake on our phones and tried to beat each other’s high scores. If it wasn’t for those crazy teachers in the front of the class telling us to pay attention and turn off our phones or they’d confiscate them, I’m sure we could’ve done even better. Gotten even higher scores.
Hell, even when I got my MBA, most of the classes at Hult seemed to have theme song. Funnily enough, they all had the same theme song. It was the Angry Bird’s theme.
So, really school just gets in the way of our video game playing anyway.
And whose to say you don’t learn anything from playing video games?
Video games increased my vocabulary… much better than vocabulary tests or even the SAT ever did. Why do you think I know words like “Exhibition” and “Fatigue”? They were in my first NBA Live games, back in 1995.
Also, in all honesty here – video games were much better preparation for my first job out of college than anything I ever learned in school was. But, that could just be me. I mean, my job was in finance – which basically a just a big video game involving money anyway.
More About Why the Sudbury Model Works
In some ways, when school wasn’t getting in the way, we did participate the Sudbury model in my elementary school days: we had recess, and the after-school program.
Guess what I remember more about my time in elementary school?
No, it’s not anything I learned in any of the classes. It’s recess and the after-school program.
It was great times.
When we wanted to play basketball, we played basketball. When, we didn’t have a basketball, we played Octopus (“You may now swim across my ocean!”).
Sometimes we sat around and drew pictures. I loved to draw. Pencil sketches. I was quite good. But, one kid was definitely better than me – I think is name was Jon. He was a year younger than me. I wonder what happened to him. I hope he kept drawing. I hope school didn’t get in the way of his talent.
Sometimes we would play games like Connect 4 or Guess Who? Sometimes we would even watch movies. Sometimes we’d get in fights.
It was awesome. I made friends for life.
What’d we do in the classroom in elementary school? Well, for the most part I don’t remember much.
But, I do remember one thing.
In 3rd grade, and especially in 4th grade, we actually had a math class where you learned math at your own pace. There were books in the back of the class, and you would go through the books at your own pace, and take the test on book when you were done. It was great. Everybody was on all different levels of books of course. I was pretty competitive. I was 2nd in the class, behind only one girl. By the end of 4th grade, I was all the way up to pre-algebra. And, chomping at the bit to learn algebra next year. I liked math. It was fun. [On Similar Lines, Read: How I Used To Ace Accounting Courses; And What It Means For How People Learn]
Then, something stupid happened.
Our 5th grade math teacher chose not to continue with the books where everybody learned at their own pace. She said doing so “left some people behind.” Oh okay.
Well, when she made that choice, I made a choice too. I chose to become an asshole. I sat at the back of her class, talked to my friends, ignored her, made fun of her, etc. She never respected me as being good in math. Even when I got questions right, she wouldn’t acknowledge it. Her and I never got along. Silly lady. She was wrong about everything anyway.
And, that leads me to my next point…
Teachers don’t have real power.
Even in a traditional school system. The teacher is in front of the class teaching to the students. Who has power over what the students actually learn? The teacher?
No. Kids don’t care about the teacher.
The kids care about… their peers. Peers have influence. Teachers don’t. If I’m 10 years old and I make a bad joke about my 5th grade math teacher, all my friends laugh, but the teacher gets pissed off and sends me to the office because she thinks I’m a brat. Guess what? I think she’s a dumb teacher. So, she thinks I’m a brat, I think she’s a dumb teacher. That power struggle never gets rectified. My friends think I’m hilarious, so I don’t give a shit anyway.
That’s why I find the democratic power of the Sudbury type schools interesting. If a students behavior pisses off the other students and they vote on it. He has to listen. Or he has no friends. So, he’ll make the behavioral change. His peer group has influence, whereas a teacher never would.
Nobody wants to be the teacher’s pet in that model – because there is no such thing. You live with and through your peers. And that’s really how it should be.
What else? Oh… the kids won’t learn? Right.
Sure they will. They learn how to make decisions for themselves, and they learn how to make friends and work in teams to get stuff done. They learn how to fight for things they believe in and persuade their peers that they’re right about something. And those skills matter way more in life than math, science, and reading do anyway… [Similarly: Keep Things Simple, And They Will Be Easier]
Oh, but they still will learn math, science, and reading… they’ll just learn them whenever they feel like it.
For the most part kids actually like learning – especially science. Have you ever met a kid who didn’t like sharing new scientific facts he/she just learned? No, you haven’t. The world is fascinating to them, and they love learning about it. Until school ruins the fun.
So, yeah, I just found out about the Sudbury model, but I am very intrigued by it. It sounds great. I gotta do some more reading about it. Maybe talk to some people who run some of these schools.
What else?.. what else?
Oh yeah, there was something in my title about Derrick Rose. I almost forgot. I saw someone on the internet the other day, presumably from Chicago, who was condemning Derrick Rose as a bad role model. Saying he cheated on his SATs and he never faced any repercussion for it, and that that makes him an evil, bad person and things like this.
Which is just silly. Derrick Rose is hero, a genius, and a true American.
As talented as he is at basketball at only 6’1″ only speaks to his years of handwork and dedication at his craft. What better role model than that?
As for the cheating allegations, well, think about it, with that much basketball talent, do you want to waste away playing for some Juco program? No, you want to play for a top basketball school like Memphis. For a top coach like Calipari. Derrick Rose is just a great businessman. A great strategic thinker. He knew where his talents lie – in playing basketball. And, he knew where his talents didn’t lie – in taking standardized tests. So, he outsourced the part that he wasn’t particularly skilled out – just like a true American. Genius.
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4 thoughts on “Kids Should Do What They Want (And Why Derrick Rose is a Genius)”
Hey GP! I liked this article a lot and I too had never heard of such a school. I disagree with a few things about the teacher, because I was a teacher and I was definitely able to influence a few of my students over at BTW….only a few lol but I thought the article was very informative and will continue to check out the website! Kudos to you friend! I’m very proud 🙂
Hey Chaston! Thanks for stopping by.
Yeah, fair enough. Teachers can definitely have some influence. My point was more that the peergroup tends to have the greater influence. And this is not just in school, but throughout our lives. Law of propinquity and all of that.
So, I don’t know.. thinking along those same lines, the teachers who do have influence and for teachers who want to have influence, a lot times I would imagine they would be better off reaching a group of students, said student’s social group or “clique” or what have you. The power is in the peer group.
(Looking back to when I was in school, the teachers I loved, the ones that had the most influence vs. the ones I didn’t like for whatever reason..they were boring, stupid, whatever…. if you look across my peergroups in those classes, my closest friends in those setting – their viewpoints about those same teachers would be similar to mine)
Also, the flip side to that is the kids that the teacher probably would have the most individual influence would be the kids without a peer group, ostracized from the peer groups, (the classic “teacher’s pet”, nerd, etc.). I would say that’s not healthy…
Very interesting article! I had no idea that such schools even existed! I find your argument interesting and also witty. Sadly I doubt that this type of schooling is likely to catch on anytime soon :(. Sounds awesome though!
Thanks Katie. Yeah, it probably won’t happen on a grand scale anytime soon. But, this type of schooling model does seem to be expanding – in particular it seems that its the graduates of these schools who are opening up newer, similar schools.