Associated School: 
  • 10 July 2011

The following was written by a staff member of the Sudbury Valley School.  For more information about the Sudbury Valley School, visit:

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.

We were then herded, in a straight line off the bus, into a large classroom; all thirty of us. There, we were assured that we would be supplied all the information we would ever need in life; and that They surely knew what was best for us. After being told to recite rote poetry in praise of freedom, we were sat down to begin the process of acquiring culture.

When we tried to stand together with friends, they grew nervous. Intent on breaking up any alliances before they began, many of Them insisted that we change our seating arrangements each period (for the day was broken up into periods). During recess (more on that shortly) we were coerced to spend time with different children each day.

When parents were summoned for conferences -- at which the failure of the student's family to provide a suitable environment would be discussed -- we were always denied admittance and the right to face our accusers. The one of us who requested a lawyer was laughed at.

Perhaps most humiliating were the lines. We were put in line for food. We were lined up in a row to urinate. We were lined up to enter and leave the building. If we needed to perform even the most private acts, we were expected to raise our hands and explain our need to the warden -- with all the other inmates looking on.

Any books, games or other diversions we had with us were stripped away. We were forced to take periodic tests. Sometimes, a person fared poorly on the test and was dropped to a lower grade. When this happened, we rarely ever saw the person again, except glances in the hallways.

Some of us developed secret signals, and passed notes. We were so destitute of hope that we never seriously dared revolt; we merely wished to humanize our time together. This was most frowned upon.

At one period of the day, we were given the opportunity to work off the built up hostility of the day. Recess consisted not so much in free time to do as one pleased, but in angered frustrated people taking out their aggressions on smaller weaker inmates.

They found all kinds of ways to divide us. They gave us worthless tokens and trinkets, made up of gold stars and letters one would be forced to wear branded on their papers -- and for all their lives on records about them maintained by the State. Many fell for this brainwashing, and extolled the virtues of the State; being held up as examples to the rest of us.

As we grew older, and the physical differences between us and our oppressors disappeared, they began to rely on psychological mechanisms. The basic fear of authority, and unwillingness to think for ourselves, instilled as youth made us easier subjects as teens. Though we were still divided; the drones who bought the whole corrupt system helped perpetrate it, and the rest of us were labeled delinquents.

To help keep us quiet, various tactics of crowd control were brought to bear. Bread and circuses were given; a free lunch and high school football.

By this point, some finally found the courage to fight for free speech, free thought, free assembly, privacy and other basic rights. Those who did were often sent to detention, or labeled "emotionally disturbed" and sent to the "special class" which was only spoken of in whispers. Those who so vehemently demanded their freedom were thereby ostracized; and the State would often blame the parents, sometimes sending specialists to "examine the home situation."

It ended for most of us only after twelve years of humiliation. We, who were given this punishment -- greater than that received by rapists in this country -- were never accused of any crimes; let alone found guilty in the courts through due process of law. We were given certificates to prove that we had served our time -- and done so in a manner satisfactory with the mores of our keepers.

The system is such a corrupting influence that many of the other prisoners -- years after being released -- believe that it taught them useful skills. Can our culture survive when the only people deemed fit to protect it are trained in such a brutal fashion?

Books by the Sudbury Valley Press ® are available from, by calling (508) 877-3030, or by sending a fax to (508) 788-0674. You may write to the Sudbury Valley School Press ® at The Sudbury Valley School Press, 2 Winch Street, Framingham, MA 01701. You can contact the school here

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The Sudbury Valley School ® is a democratic school run by a School Meeting. Students and staff each get one vote on all matters of substance; including the school rules and hiring/firing of staff. The school has no grades, tests, or scores.

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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

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Kingston, NY 12401
Phone: 845-679-1002
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