Have you ever noticed how often children in public schools are
micromanaged? It’s not enough that they go to the bathroom and wash their hands. They have to read explicit instructions that give step by step by step guidance. It’s not enough to sit in a theater and listen with respect. Adults have to determine where they sit and with what posture. It’s not going from one place to another, but teachers have to form the specific line at what specific spot on the ground, while deciding when and where they stop to wait so the teacher can make sure the line still conforms to their expectations. What does this accomplish? It certainly does not prepare them to make their own choices and live their own lives. Not when every choice is made for them, down to the smallest detail, and they have no practice in decision-making. It does, however, prepare them to be controlled. To do as they’re told without question, to obey in an instant no matter how unnecessary or arbitrary the rule. The thing is, they’re unlikely to find much micromanagement in their adult lives. Adults wouldn’t stand for it, to start. And more and more, the workplace has become increasingly “flattened,” such that disparities in power decrease. They’ll be expected to participate in an environment where the manager tells the employees the end goal and the due date, then leaves the rest to them. A boss, unlike many teachers isn’t going to tell them every step along the way, no matter how picayune.
Which would you rather have your child grow to become? A child raised
in freedom with long practice in running their own lives? Or a person
who knows how to be micromanaged?
No matter how many times and how many different ways we describe our school, inevitably we find someone who joins, only to discover that we aren't what they imagined. They're shocked to discover that we don't prepare activities for the students unless specifically invited to, that we don't leave interesting tidbits around to manipulate them into learning what we have decided for them, that we really do let them play if that's what they want, that we don't tell them who they can and can't spend time with. We explain what and why in no uncertain terms, but some people after hearing us speak of freedom are still surprised to find all this freedom.
We want to avoid that shock. So, let us reiterate it yet again. We believe in educational freedom for students. Freedom is not us telling them what to learn. Freedom is not us interrupting their
activities. Freedom is not determining their associates for them. Freedom is not artificially limiting choices to a few approved activities. Freedom is not leaving activities around for them to
artificially discover on our time table. Freedom is giving all choice and responsibility to the child.
We hope this makes our model's philosophy abundantly clear. We'd like to avoid confusion if we can.
Most people probably think of praise as innocuous, or even beneficial. After all, what could be wrong with telling someone they're doing well? Still, there is a type of praise that is damaging. And that's the kind of praise meant to control behavior. When a teacher, for example, praises a student not because they're truly impressed, but because they want to reinforce that behavior for both that student and the other students that hear that praise.
Why so damaging? Because it makes the work about the praise, and not about the work itself or the work's logical outcome. People read not to learn from the reading, but to hear someone tell them they've done well. It destroys motivation. Effort becomes about pleasing someone,
not about accomplishment. So they will become less likely to put in that effort once that praise is removed from the equation. You may hear Sudbury staff speak well of the students, but you won't
hear us walking around to make sure we praise anyone's efforts. Those are their efforts, to choose or abandon freely without any input from us. We aren't here to influence their activities in any way, and to thereby take away their own inner drive. It may seem unkind to some, to refrain from broad praise. But we know it's far more kind to let them live their own lives without outside
Liam Marshall-Butler is currently a student at MLSS.