I recently graduated from MLSS and will be entering the next phase of my life. I wish to say one more thing before I go. I have spent the last fourteen years of my life attending MLSS. It’s hard to express all that the school has been for me; but I want to give it a try.
First, I would like to thank all of the staff at MLSS and Sudbury schools across the world, my fellow Sudbury students and their parents, who make the kind of education I had a possibility. It is the kind of education I have had that I think we could use more of within our culture. We as a society have decided that freedom and democracy are what is best for our citizens, save for those who have not been alive for long enough. I had the pleasure of becoming who I am, for the most part, in a free, democratic community. While my same age peers were experiencing the thrills of compulsory education, I was arguing about philosophy, playing games with my friends, learning the language of the Aztecs and deciding who I want to be. The freedom afforded to me by my education has not only enabled my personal and academic success, but given me a life experience which is simply better than the one I would have had, had I been restrained by a compulsory education. I would choose to live life as a child in a Sudbury school rather than a compulsory school, just as I would choose to live my life as an adult in a free nation, rather than a non-free nation.
Growing up in a Sudbury school, I have seen myself and others grow, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually; in a free and positive environment. It is widely believed that many young people are immature because they are young, and thus immature. I have seen that many young people are treated as if they were immature, and are thus so. Children are robbed of one of the most important elements of growth: the ability to make bad decisions. They are forced into every important decision of their life until they are an adult, at which point they are expected to be able to make decisions for themselves.
There is one more thing I would like to mention. There is another danger to the loss of the ability to make personal decisions beyond personal growth: quality of life. People are prone to make decisions they perceive as better for other people, than they would make for themselves. This combined with the authoritarianism inherent to the concept of compulsory education creates a negative and often hostile environment. It seems logical to state that a negative environment made up of people forced to be there will become more negative. Given that the rate of depression among children and adolescents is five percent, I don’t think the question of quality of life should be overlooked.
I will be graduating soon (hopefully), so I have been thinking a lot about the graduation process. At MLSS to graduate you must write a thesis about why you are ready to join the adult community. You also give a presentation about a topic and in a fashion of your choosing. In a traditional school at graduation you are given a piece of paper for having had the ability and willingness to follow orders for four years.
Which of these processes seem more logical?
Liam Marshall-Butler is currently a student at MLSS.