Uyboco: Visiting Sudbury Valley School (Part 3)

Freethinking Me

“DO NOT do it,” said Mimsy.

Mimsy Sadofsky is one of the pioneers of Sudbury Valley School (SVS). Apart from Dan and Hanna Greenberg, she is one of the school’s longest-serving staff since it opened in 1968. All her three children graduated from the school.

She said those three words as her advice on our desire to open a Sudbury school here in Davao.

“Do not do it,” she repeated, when I chuckled the first time. “I’m serious,” she said. “Move here, send your kids here.”

Then we talked about the never-ending challenges of starting and running this type of school. You literally get bombarded from everywhere -- government, other schools, even parents. She knew the pain, and wanted to spare us or prepare us for it.

Society has a hard time wrapping its head around the idea that there can be any other type of “education” than the “standard” model. Many people have become successful despite not going through the school system or dropping out of it. In fact, some of the most recognizable names in the world were once dropouts - Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres, Tom Hanks, Coco Chanel, Al Pacino, Jim Carrey, Ralph Lauren, and so on.

I am sure you know someone who did not do well in school but are at the top of their game in their business or profession. The person who has the reputation as the best doctor in your community may not have topped the board or graduated with honors. I know several successful businessmen who admit to just copying from their classmates or who were troublemakers.

Even my own father did not finish high school. His schooling was interrupted by World War 2, but his education went on as he learned how to fight and struggle for survival -- building a pharmacy business that started from a box of medicines he and his brothers carted to the public market every day.

When he was still alive and active in the business, he was often mistaken for a doctor because he could tell you, from memory, what this or that medicine is for, what the dosage was and what the side effects are. He told me that he and his brothers had to learn all those the hard way, by painstakingly reading the literature found in each box.

Education does happen in the absence of, and in spite of schools. The goal of SVS to provide an environment where students have the time and freedom to explore what it is they really want out of life, how to relate with other people, and discover who they really are -- but not to dictate to them what it is they should be learning. Without the desire to learn, teaching is useless.

It is a difficult journey we face, but when my wife asked Mimsy if it was worth it -- the heartaches and trials -- she answered, “Oh every minute, every second.”

That’s all I need to know that this is a cause worth fighting for, because Davao deserves a Sudbury school.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.


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