Add uniforms to the list of school policies that we don’t concern ourselves with. It’s just another control mechanism that has no purpose beyond control.
There are two arguments in favor of school uniforms. One is the idea that if kids wear them, they’ll be more obedient and learn more. This despite studies which show that uniforms have no impact one way or the other on disciplinary issues or learning outcomes. It becomes just one more rule, imposed from on high, that means more punishments for people who didn’t wrong anyone.
The other argument states that uniforms are egalitarian. They level the playing field because nobody wears any status symbols or anything else that denotes their parents’ relative wealth or poverty. But is this really worth hiding? Our schools are a culture of acceptance. They tend not to rank each other by their family’s money, and they’re used to offering financial aid to less fortunate families without blinking an eye. And if wealth disparity is truly something you want to combat, why wouldn’t you want everyone to see it in the open?
No, uniforms only exist for the sake of conformity, to make everyone the same, to counter individuality and self-expression. We don’t trust conformity at Sudbury schools, which is why we don’t trust uniforms. We’d much rather deal with individuality.
There is a fad in traditional circles to incorporate technology into lessons, whether the technology is absolutely necessary or not. To use a SmartBoard, for example, where a chalkboard will accomplish the same thing. Teachers will be routinely asked if they’ve added technology to their lesson plans.
Which is strange, because of how much proponents of technology in education often distrust and disparage other forms of technology in the hands of students. They lament texting on smartphones, when we find that the looser grammar in a text message doesn’t translate to more formal writing. They discourage the use of Wikipedia, even though studies have found it often more reliable than printed encyclopedias, and even though it lists competent sources and acknowledges when sources may be inadequate.
At Sudbury schools, we care less about technology and more about freedom and trust. So, yes, students may use technology when it suits them. They may use the internet or read an ebook or any of a number of things. Or they may read a paper book and ask questions. More likely some combination of advanced technology and simple.
So, yes, we have technology in education. Like anything else, we just don’t force it.
The human race is, by nature, mostly conservative. Not in the political sense. In the sense that we tend to resist change, especially radical change. We’re also deeply social creatures. We rarely want to do anything outside the mainstream, for fear we’ll be ostracized. So, once something has been established as the norm, most of us will go along with the flow, consciously or unconsciously, simply to get along.
So when a new brand of education comes along - or even an old brand that seems new because it is so novel in its approach - it can be hard to get a large group of people to join. Even many of those who fully embrace the model can’t handle the idea of constant negative feedback from friends and family. So they abstain.
Sometimes, people ask why more don’t join Sudbury schools the instant they learn of it. That’s why. Social inertia.
They are brave people, who take the plunge and enroll in our school.
Liam Marshall-Butler is currently a student at MLSS.