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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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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"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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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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The Education of a Sudbury Staff Member

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One of the best things about a Sudbury School is Age Mixing.  This allows people of all ages to learn from other people of all ages - whether the person doing the learning is 5 years old or 30 years old.  Here is another episode in the continuing saga of one of our staff members "getting schooled".  One would thank that participating in a Milkshake sale would be simple, well one would be wrong...

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There and Back Again: through Sudbury's doors

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When I was seven, I found myself at the Sudbury Valley School, in Framingham MA, and knew I had found the perfect school for me. I spent the next four years there. During my time there I was the free to play and be a kid. I played all day, everyday. I learned by asking others for help when I needed it, by being in a social environment with peers of all ages, by being hands-on in the art room, and by participating in a fully democratic society. Whenever I tried to force myself to learn something because my parents told me I had to, the attempt inevitability failed.

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Sudbury and the Quarter-life Crisis

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As most of you know, I am a new staff member this year, and I don’t know many HVSS graduates personally.  The school is still so new there aren’t many graduate anyway.  But, I did recently catch up with HVSS’s first graduate, Alex Delia, now 26, to see what he’s up been up to lately, and I wasn’t disappointed, to say the least.

Since graduating, Alex has started a successful recycling business - Mr. e-Waste, based in Hudson.  He says, “it was a crash course, really sink or swim kind of thing...and I’m swimming.”  When I spoke with Alex he was in Chicago at the airport, preparing to fly home from a business trip he spent working to identify oxidized metals in the waste-stream of a local company.  He thinks it could become a lucrative partnership.  He’s also trying to get Mr. e-Waste on autopilot so he can explore metal trading and recycling solutions.  Alex never attended a traditional school (though he has been inside of a few as a recycling contractor).  I asked him how - if at all - his Sudbury education was helping him succeed so impressively.  He didn’t mention any content he studied, or projects he worked on, or accolades he earned.  He said, “I learned how to be really present with myself, and therefore with others - to be open and receptive.  Basically, to communicate well.  I had a lot of opportunities to sit down with people, talk things over, and figure out how to work together to make things happen.”

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State of the School

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I would like to suggest that perhaps - just maybe - if more of our nation's children had the freedom, trust, and responsibility that students at HVSS have, other addresses given this week assessing states of affairs might be able to be more honestly positive.  Perhaps, if children and teenagers were respected as complete human beings - inexperienced, but complete as they are at any age (imagine!) - many, many problems  assaulting our nation and our earth would begin to soften and diminish.

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Why are you sponsoring that motion, Matthew?

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Last Thursday as I put together the School Meeting Agenda I noticed that it was thin - it outlined what would surely be a quick and boring meeting.  I wanted something more interesting, so I thoughtlessly sponsored a motion to ban the use of smart phones, tablets, and similar devices at school, chuckling to myself.  I posted the agenda in the Lounge Extension, and went about my day.  Soon, students began addressing me, “Why the hell are you sponsoring that motion, Matthew?”

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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12401
 
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3874