Hudson Valley Sudbury School Blog

Commencement Speech 2015

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I am really honored and flattered to be asked to speak again this year.  It’s always a pleasure for me to fabricate heady rhetoric. So, thanks guys.  But actually, you know, after they asked me to speak, I went to them - maybe it was just Kiran, and I asked him who he would really like to speak, and he said Steve Buscemi, of course.  I found Mr. Buscemi on americanspeakers.com and there was a form to request him as a speaker - the lowest fee you could offer was $5,000, so I offered that and added a note that really I was really only offering $250.  We didn’t get a response.  So you’re stuck with me.  

So, when I was working on this yesterday at school one of our youngest students approached me and asked if he could help, and I accepted the offer, and I’m going to begin with his contribution:

"Here ye, here ye, I am a pirate.  You will be missed.  Maybe see you on a visiting week."

Alright.  Here we are: you’re about to graduate.  Though, it’s a little weird to even call it “graduation” here, isn’t it?  Because - as we all know - at this school the curriculum is responsibility and the method is freedom, and so the content of what a student actually does here - what they “work on” - is different for each one; and ultimately, the curriculum is just their own person, their own genius.  

So - what does it mean to graduate here?  The transcripts we give you say that really only you can tell us.  When I was thinking about this I was reminded of a passage from the prologue to East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which I read over and over again in high school.  (I have done some slight editing to bring Mr. Steinbeck up to date politically.)  Goes like this:  A [person], after [they] have brushed off the dust and chips of [their] life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

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Pursuing your Passion

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Associated School: 

“Having space and time to develop and pursue a genuine passion” is one of the aspects of HVSS that gets a lot of airtime in our PR materials and Open Houses.  Yet, it can be a little misleading - it may give the impression that every student at school is constantly engaged in a specific and well-

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Learning to Unplug from the Cultural Grid

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Upon entering the doors at the Sudbury School for the open house, I noticed that there was no one available to engage my expectations for the usual handshakes and prepared introductions. Instead, warm but non-intrusive faces said hello, spaciously waiting for a hint of what we needed as visitors. It also felt like no one owned the building, space, or school, but instead expected that you should fill it as you like, not with “egoic mentalizations” that reflect the proscribed culture and conditioning we are accustomed to. At once I felt that I had to allow myself more space. A short while later, I had the recognition that all that hand shaking and greeting I am accustomed to is actually a kind of “sell.” “Sell” is the norm of the culture I was brought up in. In my family and community and schooling, you sell yourself by becoming articulate, learning how and who to hang with and when to drop names and by adorning proper handshaking. This way you will let people know you belong to the “right” club, or are cut from a certain cloth. Hence, it was an old and recognized structure in me that felt the respectful peace and non-pressured atmosphere at Sudbury as a discord. But as I challenged my usual internal frame, I also experienced it as hugely relaxing and pleasurable. Here there was no one imposing their will on another. After a while of exploring the physical space and finding their own way around, the group assembled to answer questions for the visitors. Again there was a deep peaceful space that was palpable as I calmed my “ready to step-up and fill the void self” back down again. Instead, I was able to notice what I can only describe as the roominess to be.

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Clued In: Behind the Scenes of the Theater Co-op's Performance

Associated School: 

I have been working in theater for the past 12 years (directing for 9), and in that time I have worked with numerous groups of peers and students of all ages. During those experiences a few habits of each group emerged that made the rehearsal process challenging. Yet, with the students at HVSS the challenges never matched normal group tendencies.

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An Educated Person

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Eamon agreed to let us publish one of he recent college essays in our blog.  He talks about what it means to be an educated person.

Education is a misunderstood term. It is often confused with related concepts such as knowledge and school. Education sometimes happens at school (and sometimes doesn’t), and knowledge can be a sign of an education, but neither are education itself. Simply put, education is the willingness and ability to learn for the sake of learning. The truly educated person learns constantly without supervision or external reward. To truly define what education is, we must first look at what it is not.

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Back to Joy

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On Wednesday the third, the first day of the school year, the kids came streaming off the buses and nearly broke down the doors, even though they were unlocked. I myself had just set my personal record for my bicycle commute (still though, the rest of the staff were already there when I arrived). Kids were hoping out of cars all morning and racing towards the building like it was made out of gingerbread, or as if it were some kind of supercharged happy-magnet. Everyone was eager to trade the decadence of summer for the nourishing thrill of getting the band back together, reuniting the clans, and returning to work on the ten thousand projects of making a life. And of course everyone was off to work immediately - no need to ever wait around here.

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It's Up to You

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Associated School: 

"Claiming responsibility for your own life, for your own community, for your world is glorious.  “I am responsible!” That’s heart; that’s love. Something extraordinary is happening today, and we need responsible people."

 
Find out what else Matthew said at the 2014 graduation ceremony!

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The Sudbury Conversation

Associated School: 

I was talking to the father of a newly enrolled student recently.  During the conversation he told me about his experiences telling his friends about having his son enrolled at the school.  He said the basic conversation goes like this:

Friend: “So how is your son doing?”
Father: “Great!”
Friend: “Where is he going to school?”
Father: “He just started at the Sudbury School.”
Friend: “Ooohhhhhh….”

Accompanying this sound is a rather quizzical look.  While not saying any words, the sound and the expression convey a lot of meaning: thoughtfulness, concern, incredulity, and a large dose of “I don’t know what to say about that”.

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Can't Wait Until Music Night

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"This is the kind of gig I had in mind when I moved to the Hudson Valley." That's what Jason from the King of Rome said when he took the stage at the January 2014 Music Night, and everyone who has ever been knows what he meant: Music Night is suffused with the kind of intimate ambiance lent by the glow of warm embers in a friend's fireplace

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Why So Many Song About Rainbow

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Perhaps it’s because rainbows operate in our psychology as a symbol of plenitude, especially for children, most of whom spend a great deal of their time under strict surveillance in secure pens called “schools,” which is ominously defined in Meriam-Webster’s online dictionary as “an institution for the teaching of children.”  Rainbow-land is where we will finally be free to do as we please and be respected as complete human beings.  But more on rainbows later.

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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12498
 
Phone: 845-679-9550
Fax: 845-679-3480