Causes of Students’ Emotional Fragility: Five Perspectives

“I am not interested in blaming students, or parents, or teachers, or anyone else. I am interested in understanding what is happening, and why, and what we as individuals and as a society can do to improve the situation.”

Peter Gray

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School for entrepreneurs?

Our family loves SVS, but I am not sure I buy the argument that there are (FOR SURE) a higher percentage of graduates who are entrepreneurs than there are at other schools.

At least not BECAUSE OF Sudbury Valley. Well, maybe. But… here’s what I think:

1. Many students who attend SVS or other Sudbury schools probably are correlated with types of people who go on to be entrepreneurs. So it’s not SVS… it’s the people.

2. Also, many of the parents who choose to have their young kids attend SVS even before they have an inkling of their personalities, but rather based on the ideals of the school only (like my wife and I who knew we wanted SVS for our kids even before it existed) are probably also skewed toward entrepreneurial dispositions, so their kids inherit some of that.

I say “probably” in 1 and 2 above, but who knows. Switch that with “maybe” if you wish. Point is, we don’t know.

If you look at Table 14.7 on page 241 of “Legacy of Trust: Life After The Sudbury Valley School Experience”, 7 of 27 of the “SVS ONLY” category are classified as “Entrepreneurial Occupations (Any Category)”. That’s 26%. That’s probably still high (no way are 26% of the population entrepreneurs**…), but is it high among kids whose parents who are similarly entrepreneurial and able to afford private school but attend other schools? (SVS is very inexpensive as private schools go… ~$8,000, but not free).

Anyway, I guess my point is that this is an unknown as far as I am concerned, but this doesn’t concern me. What I *do* care is that my kids ARE FREE. AND HAPPY. RIGHT NOW. At ages 4-18. Not waiting for age 18.

So for me, SVS has some huge”every day, right now” positives, which will also certainly pay benefits for my kids in later happiness as well. And sure, it might have some “some day in the future, maybe” negatives. But for me the positives FAR outweigh any potential negatives, especially because they are completely uncertain.


– <a href=””>10,000 Hours</a>

– <a href=””>Hal Sadofsky — Sudbury vs traditional school — the risky choice</a>

**NOTE: I am also not sure what the definition anyone is using of entrepreneur.  To me it’s not simply being self-employed.  It has to (for me) include a business venture where one is taking on more risk with most of the work being delegated to employees and such.)  See discussion:


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Sudbury Valley School – a risky choice?

Q: “Is Sudbury Valley School for everyone?”

A: (former student, Hal Sadofsky): “Lots of times I talk to people about the school and they sorta say, “Well, didn’t your parents worry about this? Didn’t they worry about taking this big chance by sending you to this really weird place and what was going to happen?” And I try to sort of turn it on it’s head–I say, “Well, it seems to me that the people who should be worried are the people who are sending their kids to a traditional school. It’s not that you can be *sure* that if send your kids to a traditional school that something terrible will happen, but you’re taking a big risk. ‘Cause what you’re doing is you’re taking this kid and you’re saying ‘OK, from now on, you don’t get to decide things, other people decide things for you.’ And maybe, maybe after 12 years of that, your kid comes out all right, but it’s a big chance to take. Sudbury Valley–I think–is no risk at all.”

Q: “…I don’t think it’s quite so black and white…”

A: (Hal Sadofsky) “I don’t think it’s black and white that if you go to a traditional school that something disastrous will always happen to you. But to me, it does seem black and white that traditional school is the risky scenario where things can come out in many unfortunate ways, and that Sudbury Valley is a sort of relatively healthy and safe scenario. That’s the sense in which I see it as black and white.”

— Hal Sadofsky, former student

from video: Part 11 of 13, 25th anniversary talk by alumni about SVS

SVS 25th ann Restrospective 11 – Questions pt2 (at 1min15sec)

(And there’s more great stuff in there as well of course…)

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Harkness/Exeter vs Sudbury

I was recently reading about the “Harkness Method” first used at Phillips Exeter Academy in the 1930s.

Seems to basically be the Socratic Method/graduate school seminar style teaching with ideally no more than 12-13 people.
The basic idea makes some sense but lots of complaints too.
Here’s one rant:

Pros: able to discuss ideas not just facts, not just teaching to the test, discussion not lecture. (I think a flipped-classroom could do this too. As could a larger lecture using an electronic “Student Response System”.)

Summary of Cons:
– if teacher lets clueless and extroverted people talk too much
– if quiet students don’t speak up but grades depend on it
– if students aren’t prepared
– if students like to learn on their own

So I guess like just about anything, something that seems like it could be very useful if done properly, is still probably bad or at best useless or more-of-the-same to many people depending on their preferred learning style. Oh, and their interest in a topic.  I don’t think it’s going to magically make you interested in history if that’s not your thing.  Ken Burns maybe.  Probably not Harkness.

In other words, I still find that FREEDOM is the way to go. Choose a book or textbook, choose a seminar, choose a youtube video, choose a friend to talk with. And freedom to be a little interested, somewhat or very — without someone full of expectations and looking for teachable moments. And ultimately, the freedom to quit. Where else can you get that at the K-12 level except a Sudbury School or Democratic Free School?

Researchers know now that lots of behavior and goals (and bad habits!) are socially contagious. (See for example the myriad of references in Chapter 8 of “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal. So being surrounded by a group of free peers for a few hours each day is likely to be a pretty ideal situation — that’s a Sudbury School.

I also think that there is something difficult to describe about being in situations for 5-6 (or more!) hours a day for 180 days times 14 years of your life where there is someone who is the authority and expert (the teacher) that really warps the mind in ways that are difficult to fully appreciate.  Someone tell me because I don’t know: “Do I know enough yet?” and really “Am I fully a person yet?” So extrinsic.  

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10,000 hours

I’ve written about this before surely, kids are in school for 5 to 5.5 hours each day over 180 days (MA has 900/990 learning time laws for public school) so that is 14 years * ~950 = 13,300 hours(!) for Pre-K through 12th grade.

Right now (still? I think this has been off-and-on for a long time) our 8 year old is OBSESSED with drawing animals, dragons, etc. and crafting “creations” out of popsicle sticks and a glue gun. Oh, and pottery. Luckily since he goes to Sudbury Valley School, so he has all the time he needs.

I really don’t see how he would have time to do all of this very serious thinking and doing if he was having to do and think about what OTHER people wanted him to — both in school and homework time. (In fact, maybe my 13,000 hour estimate is low?)

What a gift to be free for 10,000 hours.


Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

New Study Destroys Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule “Johansson argues that deliberate practice is only a predictor of success in fields that have super stable structures. For example, in tennis, chess, and classical music, the rules never change, so you can study up to become the best. But in less stable fields, like entrepreneurship and rock and roll, rules can go out the window…”

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phone history

When I was a kid one could still dial 5 phone digits instead of 7. Well, and heck… for many people now it is 10 or sometimes 11 if you need the 1. And back in the day, in urban areas you could tell what part of town someone lived in from their phone number.

And phone books. “The white pages”–A big deal when I was a kid… useful to have, addresses too! But useless now. Who is in the phonebook?

We can move anywhere in the world (literally!) and keep our current US phone number. Just have to move it to a IP phone like ooma or magicjack or google voice and voila!

And there was a time period where people cared a lot about their phone number, especially the area code and/or exchange… keeping old cell phone numbers from their beloved home town. But I think for the most part most people are sorta over that idea circa 2015. Numbers are almost meaningless to people to the point that sometimes people don’t know their own number since it is just programmed into their contacts list.

Anyway, that’s the view from the Boston area 2015 where overlaid area codes, cell phones, and IP phones (and don’t forget texting, facetime and skype!) have made all of this a little bit crazy.


Acton’s phone exchange is 263. Why? Used to be COlonial-XXXX instead of 263-XXXX. CO=26
87 TR TRinity Framingham MA
56 JO JOrdan Hudson MA

Info from:


“The decision to assign 617 to Boston was somewhat unusual, since the North American Numbering Plan Administrator wanted to keep the number of “clicks” to a minimum for large cities given the rotary dialing technology of the time.[1] Area code 617 has 14 clicks, one of the most for an original area code assigned to a major city.”

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Kids are fully human

“[W]hat has struck me the longer I have worked with children is how much they are like adults, how little I need, on some level, the philosophies of Jerome Brunar, Piaget, Lev Vygotzkgy”

“I will share a new song, but so will the children. I will teach table manners, but so will the children. I’ll comfort when child is hurt or when there’s a dispute, but sometimes the children do this with more ease and grace than us adults.”

“In a universal way a toddler will handle a problem often in a way I would admire, laughing with a friend and looking deeply into her friend’s eyes until the friend is laughing. Coming to watch and observe a friend who is crying, to see what is wrong and how to help. Organizing a game which pulls others in and makes one and others happy, interested, engaged, purposeful.”

Well said.

excerpts from a post at: Maria West’s blog

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