Society has come a long way when it comes to corporal punishment. Most of us now recognize that the psychological scars are far worse than any temporary discipline. But for some reason, there are still people who swear that they’d never beat their children... but they will spank them.
Let us be clear. Studies show that children who were spanked but not otherwise beaten demonstrate the same low self-esteem, lowered intelligence, and heightened violence as those who were beaten in the more traditional sense. It makes sense. After all, how does changing
the target change the fact that you’ve chosen to assault your child for the express purpose of causing both pain and humiliation? It’s telling, because people who spank their children will often tell
you that they were spanked as a child and they turned out fine... in a defensive and angry tone... exactly as predicted by the science. It should go without saying that there’s no corporal punishment of any kind at a Sudbury school. Unfortunately, there are still schools in this country where it’s perfectly legal for a teacher to strike your child. Add it to the long list of reasons a Sudbury education is so much better.
Wikipedia is a democratizing tool that allows anyone with any knowledge to contribute to it while anyone seeking that knowledge can access it with ease and without seeking an authority’s help or
permission in the process, all on a voluntary basis. Perhaps that is why traditional teachers tend to hate it so.
Its detractors accuse Wikipedia of false information, even though it has been found to be more accurate than paper encyclopedias. It even has a process whereby mistakes can be flagged and corrected, all with more immediacy than the corrections of new volumes. It even makes
sure to list sources and note when citations are lacking or when an article is in dispute. So much for accusations that it lacks rigor. Teachers will often tell students they aren’t allowed to use Wikipedia
as a source, despite its reliability. Not so here. Of course Wikipedia is welcome in a Sudbury school.
Natural consequences are anything that happens after an action without any need for human interference. If you touch something hot, you will burn yourself. If you leap into the air, you will land. If you run into something sharp, it will cut you. Results that happen by simple nature. Natural consequences.
Too often, people misuse the term. They will tell children, for example, that if they don’t finish their work, they can’t play as a natural consequence. But this is not an immutable law of nature. It
took human intervention to create it. It’s an artificial consequence. It may well be something that the adult sees as a rational consequence, but it does not fit the definition of natural
While there are artificial consequences at a Sudbury school in the form of our Judicial Committee, we do let the natural consequences reign a great deal. If you don’t decide to learn a foreign language, then you only know your native tongue. If any of our students ever decided not to learn to read - which not one single person has - they would be illiterate. And so on. It works quite well, when you leave artificial consequences for those actions that affect other people and let natural consequences be the only “punishment” for those actions that only affect oneself.
There is a democratic aspect to the school. When we say this, sometimes people will reiterate it back that the students all vote on what to do as a whole that day. This is not entirely accurate. We do
vote on a great many things, but we do not vote on everything. The important thing is to find the proper dividing line. Like any democracy, a Sudbury school values individual rights. As
such, the dividing line is clear. We vote on matters that affect the whole school. Rules. Budget. Staff. We don’t vote on matters that only affect individuals in their own sphere. What to do in a day.
Whether or not they’ll join another group’s activity. What to learn. And so on. So, yes, we vote. But it’s important to remember that the entire point of voting is to give the say to the people a decision affects. For communal decisions, that takes a vote. For individual action, it does not.
Liam Marshall-Butler is currently a student at MLSS.