We hear plenty of excuses from prospective parents about why the school is fine, but they can’t do it. Their kid (like every kid) has some flaw or some issue. It’s a longer drive. It will cost more money. Work is just so hard. If only we weren’t in an urban environment. If only we had our own building. If only we had more students, or more teens, or more girls.
There’s a virtue in Sudbury education of going after what you want no matter the obstacle. You can make plenty of excuses not to even try, but at the end of the day, they’re all just excuses.
Naches is a Yiddish word that can mean pride in a student’s accomplishment. We experience it a lot. Let us share some of the naches we feel for our alumni.
Nick recently graduated from Hampshire with a degree in economics. He now lives in DC, where he works for social justice.
Alexandra spent time in India to expand her horizons, and now studies at the American University in Paris.
Emily opened her own business, a vintage store.
Adrienne attended Guilford, her first choice college, where she is studied education in the interests of a career in educational reform. While there, she spent a semester abroad at Oxford.
Jacob tried his hand at stand-up comedy for the first time and left the audience in uproarious laughter.
Let no one tell you a Sudbury grad can’t make it in the world. As you can see, they can and they do. You can see why we feel all that naches.
In colleges, professors of education are often concerned with the “research-to-practice gap.” In essence, the gap happens when research shows that an educational strategy is superior to others, but it takes a long time to adopt. Meanwhile, our children are getting an education that we know is subpar.
For example, research shows no real gains from homework, yet teachers are required by the administration to give homework every night. Those who score best on standardized tests do so when they haven’t aimed for the test, nor is there any established correlation between test scores and life success. Yet the public schools still emphasize high-stakes testing. We know that cramming is the worst possible way to learn, yet many teachers still encourage their students to study the night before a test. We know that grades reduce motivation, yet traditional schools still have them. The list goes on quite a ways.
It only makes sense. The incentives in a compulsory system discourage innovation. Teachers do as they’re told, because they don’t want to lose their jobs.
But in a Sudbury school, we don’t have the same problem. We can act without awaiting permission. We don’t have to worry about tests and homework. We can just help the students learn what they choose to learn, the only tried and true method for lasting learning.
Tenure began as a tactic to prevent abuse by employers. In an authoritarian hierarchy, teachers didn’t want the whims of one person to threaten their job security. Thus was born tenure. Whether it has been effective or justified, that is its rationale.
We don’t have tenure in Sudbury schools. There is no one person to answer to, so the rationale is invalid. A majority of the school can vote to remove any staff member at any time. It’s how we make sure our staff truly meet the needs of our students.
It only makes sense. If we truly want kids to have a choice in their education, they have to have a choice in their educators, too. If we want them to have that choice, we have to do without tenure.
Liam Marshall-Butler is currently a student at MLSS.