Sudbury School

A Sudbury school is a school that practices a form of democratic education in which students individually decide what to do with their time, and learn as a by-product of ordinary experience rather than adopting a descriptive educational syllabus or standardized instruction by classes following a prescriptive curriculum. Students have complete responsibility for their own education and the school is run by direct democracy in which students and staff are equals.

The name 'Sudbury' refers to Sudbury Valley School, founded in 1968 in Framingham, Massachusetts, the first school of this type. There are now more than 30 Sudbury-type schools around the world. These schools are not formally associated in any way, but are a loosely connected network that are mutually supportive of each other, operating as independent entities.

The model differs in some ways from other types of democratic schools and anarchistic free schools, but there are many similarities:

    De-emphasis of classes: There is no curriculum or set of required courses. Instead learner interest guides things, with students studying what they want to study. There are generally no classrooms, just rooms where people choose to congregate.
    Age mixing: students are not separated into age-groups of any kind and are allowed to mix freely, interacting with those younger and older than themselves; free age-mixing is emphasized as a powerful tool for learning and development in all ages.
    Autonomous democracy: parents have limited involvement or no involvement in the school administration; Sudbury schools are run by a democratic school meeting where the students and staff participate exclusively and equally. Such meetings are also the sole authority on hiring and firing of staff, unlike most other schools.

Sudbury schools are based on the belief that no kind of curriculum is necessary to prepare a young person for adult life. Instead, these schools emphasize learning as a natural by-product of all human activity.

School democracy
All aspects of governing a Sudbury School are determined by the weekly School Meeting, modeled after the traditional New England town meeting. School Meeting passes, amends and repeals school rules, manages the school's budget, and decides on hiring and firing of staff. Each individual present — whether student or staff — has exactly one vote, and most decisions are made by simple majority, with the vote of a child counting as much as an adult.

School rules are normally compiled in a law book, updated repeatedly over time, which forms the school's code of law. Usually, there is a set procedure to handle complaints, and most of the schools follow guidelines that respect the idea of due process of law. There are usually rules requiring an investigation, a hearing, a trial, a sentence, and allowing for an appeal, generally following the philosophy that students face the consequences of their own behavior.

Sudbury schools are based on the belief that no kind of curriculum is necessary to prepare a young person for adult life. Instead, these schools place emphasis on learning as a natural by-product of all human activity. Learning is self-initiated and self-motivated. They rely on the free exchange of ideas and free conversation and interplay between people, to provide sufficient exposure to any area that may prove relevant and interesting to the individual. Students of all ages mix; older students learn from younger students as well as vice versa. Students of different ages often mentor each other in social skills. The pervasiveness of play has led to a recurring observation by first-time visitors to a Sudbury school that the students appear to be in perpetual "recess".

Implicitly and explicitly, students are given responsibility for their own education, meaning the only person designing what a student will learn is the student him- or herself or by the way of apprenticeship. As such, Sudbury schools do not compare or rank students — the system has no tests, evaluations, or transcripts.

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