By: John Taylor Gatto

Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an instructor of English language and literature, but that isn't what I do at all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it. Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are: The first lesson I teach is "Stay in the class where you belong." I don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human being under the burden of the numbers he carries. Numbering children is a big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to accomplish is elusive...

By: John Taylor Gatto

I want you to consider the frightening possibility that we are spending far too much money on schooling, not too little. I want you to consider that we have too many people employed in interfering with the way children grow up--and that all this money and all these people, all the time we take out of children's lives and away from their homes and families and neighborhoods and private explorations--gets in the way of education.

That seems radical, I know. Surely in modern technological society it is the quantity of schooling and the amount of money you spend on it that buys value. And yet last year in St. Louis, I heard a vice-president of IBM tell an audience of people assembled to redesign the process of teacher certification that in his opinion this country became computer-literate by self-teaching, not through any action of schools. He said 45 million people were comfortable with computers who had learned through dozens of non-systematic strategies, none of them very formal; if schools had pre-empted the right to teach computer use we would be in a horrible mess right now instead of leading the world in this literacy. Now think about Sweden, a beautiful, healthy, prosperous and up-to-date country with a spectacular reputation for quality in everything it produces. It makes sense to think their schools must have something to do with that.

By: Hanna Greenberg
Sudbury Valley School

Teaching, inspiring, and giving advice are all natural activities that adults of all cultures and places seem to engage in around children. Without these activities, each generation would have to invent everything anew, from the wheel to the ten commandments, metal working to farming. Man passes knowledge to the young from generation to generation, at home, in the community, at the workplace and supposedly at school. Unfortunately, the more today's schools endeavor to give individual students guidance, the more they harm the children. This statement requires explanation, since it seems to contradict what I have just said, namely, that adults always help children learn how to enter the world and become useful in it. What I have learned, very slowly and painfully over the years, is that children make vital decisions for themselves in ways that no adults could have anticipated or even imagined.

Sudbury Valley School

How do Sudbury Schools work? For over thirty years, founders, staff, students and parents have written about this exhilarating new way of schooling children. Many excellent articles on the concepts and experiences that make up a Sudbury School have been collected in two books, this one and The Sudbury Valley School Experience, which together provide a solid introduction to this model of education.

“What do kids learn at a Sudbury school? Are there any guaranties? I actually think that there are, and I think the things that can be (almost) guaranteed are the most important things of all in an explosively changing world. A student learns to concentrate. A student gets constant opportunities to make ethical judgments. A student learns to be treated with total respect. A student learns to appreciate the outdoors. A student learns to be self­-reliant. A student learns to be self-confident. A student learns what it means to set a goal and reach for it, to re-assess, to reach again, to achieve the goal, or to fail miserably, and to pick him or herself up and do it all over again, with the same or a different goal. A kid learns life skills. Real life skills. The skills that it takes to be successful at marriage, at child rearing, at friendship, as well as at work.”

By: March Gallagher
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

Oh, how I like Yu-Gi-Oh. I am not a seven-year-old boy, but a 36-year-old mother. Since September my five-year-old son has begun his formal education at the Hudson Valley Sudbury School. One of the biggest learning tools he has embraced is that of Yu-Gi-Oh and I cannot sing its praises enough.

For those of you who do not know what Yu-Gi-Oh is let me give a brief overview. Yu-Gi-Oh is a playing/trading card system in which people duel each other based on the cards in their decks. It is similar to Magic Cards, but it is based on Japanese Anime. The cards have different values, actions and purposes. Alas, I will not try to explain how the game is played with my limited understanding. Instead, I suggest you get some hands-on dueling lessons from someone under twelve.

There are tons of Yu-Gi-Oh spin-off consumer items including everything from a television program to toothbrushes. The television show is a series in which duelers duel each other. And while most parents try to limit television time, the Yu-Gi-Oh show does teach those watching the powers of each card. New card packs come out every few months, of course, necessitating a significant monetary outlay. However, we have found that desire for new "booster decks" can create inspiration to earn and save money.

By: Daniel Greenberg
Sudbury Valley School

To celebrate the Sudbury Valley School’s 30th anniversary, a series of six talks was presented showing how the people who struggled to implement this new educational model deepened their understanding of topics such as play, conversation, and democracy. The talks were collected in this wonderful book which packs a big punch in a little volume. It is particularly valuable for parents considering Sudbury education for their children.

“We didn't focus on the relationship between democracy and other values of the school, even though we talked about its interrelatedness to other values. We didn't really grasp it. Last year, a lot of the pieces fell into place for me personally. It happened as one of those eureka experiences which really don't mean that much to somebody else who doesn't have it. The setting was an informal meeting with a group of parents and some students and staff members. One of the parents asked the students in the room, ‘What is the most important element of the school for you?’ The questioner didn't want to know what the staff felt was most important; she wanted to know what the students thought was most important. Without hesitating, one replied, ‘Democracy,’ and he talked briefly about empowerment. That was what democracy meant to him. The last thing I expected a student to say in response to that question was ‘democracy’. I expected ‘freedom’, ‘the ability to do what you want’ – but not democracy."

By: Scott David Gray
Sudbury Valley School

Realizing that youth is the time in which most of our long-standing opinions and personality traits are formed, those of us between the ages of six and sixteen were herded like cattle onto buses. Many of us had only heard rumors about the place we were going; we didn't know what these camps were to really consist of.

Most of the parents didn't want to think about the terror we would go through. A few fought back tears as we embarked on that first ride. Other, bolder parents, tried to prevent their children from being so humiliated and abused; and refused to give their children. But these parents were found guilty of breaking the truancy laws and subjected to the same kinds of humiliation as their children; being told by the Authorities that the State knew what was best for them.

Sudbury Valley School

This book quickly became a classic and is still enjoyable and relevant. It lays out the foundations of the Sudbury model in clear, easy terms.

“No one would work to establish a new school if he wasn’t driven to it by extreme dissatisfaction with the schools already available. You simply don’t set out into the jungles of education, administration, bureaucracy, and finance unless you are thoroughly convinced that the present alternatives are incapable of serving your needs.

“The people who established the Sudbury Valley School have not been an exception to this rule. All have been actively seeking a new way in education, and all have made large investments of thought, time, and material to the fledgling school. Their commitment, too, is nothing new in the story of innovation and change.

By: Daniel Greenberg
Sudbury Valley School

How does the prevailing system of schooling in America measure up to modern day requirements? A collection of essays addresses this question from various angles. They were first published in the most widely read newspaper in the suburban Boston area.

“The only way the schools can become meaningful purveyors of ethical values is if they provide students and adults with real-life experiences that are bearers of moral import. Such experiences are notoriously absent from the current daily routines of public schools. They include, for example, students making choices that are significant for their lives, within the school setting; choices such as how to educate themselves to be productive adults. They include students exercising judgment in consequential matters, such as school rules and discipline. I could go on at length giving examples, but the point is simple, and needs little elaboration: to teach morality to students, they must have opportunities to choose between alternative courses of action that have different ethical weight, and they must be allowed to evaluate and discuss the outcomes of these choices.”

By: Marianne Tyrrell
The Circle School

I'll begin with a little background about my children coming to The Circle School. Last year I came to the school as a new staff person. Zeb and Jyles, my stepchildren, were soon to follow, enrolling last year. My own three children have gone through an arduous campaign with their birth father to do the same. There was jubilation in our household late in the summer when he finally agreed to allow them to come.

By all measurable standards, the children are all bright successful students. They were in the gifted program, received excellent grades, had friends, and participated in various extra-curricular activities. However, despite these classical standards of success and enrichment, the children were neither happy nor satisfied with school. Instead, they constantly felt bored, unchallenged, and frustrated. There were many behavioral manifestations of these feelings. The most obvious one was a constant resistance to going to school each day - usually under the guise of being sick. Less direct, but equally disturbing, were the furrows in their brows while discussing their boredom in class. They felt isolated because they were smart, or different, or did not choose to get in trouble or shave their legs.


Contact Us

Hudson Valley Sudbury School

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