Re: DSM: Re: Is democracy for everyone?

Matthew Alexander Wolf (
Fri, 06 Aug 1999 13:21:09 -0400

I am a recent graduate of Sudbury Valley School. This is my first post to this
list. I took select peices of your post, and replied to them specifically. The
opinions expressed in here are mine, not that of SVS or anyone else.

My understanding is that the Sudbury model strives to be an example of a democratic
community in action.

Sudbury Model schools are not democratic for the purposes of modeling ourselves
after a democratic state, we are democratic because democracy is the best way to
ensure freedom.

> The only thing that bothers me is how I have heard some advocates of the
> model justify certain exclusionary practices.

    Obviously, there is a certain level of independence needed to successfully
become part of a community that is based on personal responsibilty and freedom.
While it is unfortunate, Sudbury Model schools cannot accomodate all people who
would like to attend. Some people simply are not mentally capable of functioning on
their own. If a Sudbury Model School were to begin practicing supervision of
certain members of the school, due to disabilities, then the rights of those
supervised students would be secondary, which would be contrary to the principles
of the Sudbury Model.
    In cases where handicapped students wouldn't need supervision, and would just
need certain physical conditions of the school to be certain ways (i.e. ramps for
someone with a wheelchair), sometimes it is simply impossible for the Sudbury Model
school to pay for the alterations necessary. Despite the fact that SVS, and
presumably schools like it (although I've never been), are truly wonderful places,
they do not have special abilities to pay for things they cannot afford. So,
unfortunately, people sometimes have to be excluded, and justifiably so.

> I would not have a
> problem if these people were striving toward fair inclusion

They are - fair for the community of the school.

If the tenants of this community model justify exclusion based on special needs
that involve not being able to be fully self-directed, I question the humanity of
the tenants.

How is that inhumane? It simply puts freedom as a priority over accomodating EVERY
applicant. At a Sudbury Model School, freedom is so essential, to sacrifice it,
even if for full inclusion, would contradict the idea behind the Sudbury Model. Is
it inhumane that Harvard University doesn't allow mentally retarded people to go to
their law school? Is it inhumane that someone, who doesn't know how to program on
computers, wouldn't be hired by a software development company, as a programmer?
No. I contend that it is just a fact of life that some things aren't for everyone.
I contend that this aspect of reality, unfortunately, has to apply to Sudbury Model
schools as well.

Matthew A. Wolf

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