101Greenberg (1)

OUTCOMES by Daniel Greenberg

"Is Sudbury Valley School doing a good job, as an educational institution, in preparing young people to go out into the world and lead successful lives?"

(everything that follows is to be put in the context of a school where pupils live in a multi-age environment on an equal footing with the adult, in a democratic framework, where everyone can make their voice heard and is a force of proposal - or counter-proposal! and where everyone learns to follow their interests without limitation of time or judgement by others)

  • They are decent people. They are open, friendly, carefully trusting, relatively easygoing, and honorable. They are the kind of people you like to hang out with, to converse with, to work with, to spend time with.
  • They are good friends. They are generous, loyal and understanding. Daniel Greenberg is amazed at the way friendships formed survive the test of time.
  • They know how to get along with people. They are good at getting what they want, largely because they know how to frame their needs in a way that can be acceptable to the society around them.
  • They love life. They are eager to experience everything, to go out and conquer the world, to travel, to find new horizons, to be adventurous. They do not live in a fog of fear. They want to live, and they relish the complexities of real life. They can be joyous, happy, miserable, and sad; they can be enthusiastic, frustrated, disappointed, exhilarated, ecstatic, and depressed. They are not afraid of feeling intensely, and enjoying -- as well as suffering -- the consequences of such intensity.
  • They have a strong sense of self. Sometimes many of us get a bit tired of hearing SVS graduates say, “I found out who I am”. But the fact is, most of them did, and most of them have a degree of self-knowledge that is striking, especially in people that young. SVS graduates are not followers. They have confronted their strengths and their weaknesses; made a good start at figuring out how they want to conduct their lives; and gotten themselves a basic system of values that is uniquely individual to each of them even while it somehow fits into the values of the culture. They understand thoroughly how to remain whole in the face of the many pressures exerted upon them daily by the outside world.
  • They have self-confidence. Most graduates feel that they have the inner strength and the ability to cope with whatever life throws their way; and to do whatever it takes to attain their goals at any particular phase of their lives. It's important to distinguish self-confidence from foolhardiness. A self-confident person has a certain inner voice that guides him/her through the twists and turns of fortune, and offers constant reassurance that somehow s/he will be able to work his/her way out of any difficult spots. A foolhardy person thinks that s/he already has in his/her possession all the tools necessary to cope with everything that comes down the pike. The difference is significant: the quietly self-confident person knows that s/he lacks many tools at any given time, but also knows that with persistence and patience those tools can be acquired.
  • They are adaptable. SVS graduates do not fear instability and change. They know that the world around them is undergoing rapid transformation, and they accept this as a given; it does not paralyze them, nor does it lead them to yearn for a stability and permanence that will never be (if it ever was). They do not think in terms of fixed life-long situations. They expect to be doing different things at different times in their lives, and usually welcome the ongoing challenge that this fact represents.
  • They are acquainted with passion. Most SVS graduates have experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by an intense interest in something or someone; all of them have seen this in someone else at close quarters, even if they have yet to experience it themselves. Eventually, one or more passions catches hold of virtually all of them. The special ecstasy that only a person consumed by passion has known is something quite common to SVSers. In ancient times, it would have been considered a gift of the gods.
  • They are bright. One of the characteristics of SVSers most frequently remarked upon by new students is their brightness, their innate intelligence. Being bright -- being, in other words, sparklingly intelligent -- is a trait with which all healthy infants are endowed from birth. Some retain it throughout their lives, however they have been brought up; others lose it, as a result of any of a variety of repressive experiences that force them to shut down. Most SVS graduates, by the time they are ready to leave school, have regained possession and use of their innate brightness, and are able to relate to the world in a highly intelligent manner on a regular basis.
  • They are imaginative. SVS graduates rarely fall into some predetermined societal category or cultural box. They are generally quite creative and independent in their thinking, and have little respect for authority per SE. They feel comfortable exploring new and untried paths, and even taking risks in pursuing unusual avenues.
  • They are empowered. They do not accept authority unquestioningly in social settings either. They are keenly aware of their rights, their strengths, their ability to stand for what they believe. They do so even if it costs them, even if they meet resistance or aggressiveness or abusive behavior. They speak up for themselves and for others.
  • They are ethical. Of course I do not mean that they are always good, always do everything right, never do anything wrong. I mean that they -- all of them -- have a highly developed moral sense, even those who don't always act in a manner consistent with it. You can always appeal to an SVS graduate's sense of right and wrong in any discussion, and know that you will be heard, if not always agreed with.
  • They are tolerant. SVSers are deeply respectful of other people, and accepting of all the many differences that distinguish us from each other. They do not form a-priori judgments of people according to their color, their religion, their political views, their social standing, their clothes, their hair, their language, their age, or their demeanor. They have a deep sense of justice.
  • They are highly sensitive to social ills, and to wrongs that are inflicted upon victims. They understand deep inside them that what creates a stable and livable social order is a system of justice that deals fairly with everybody, is accessible to everyone, and has avenues of redress and appeal.
  • They are intensely curious. They are alive to what goes on around them, and are constantly exploring the nooks and crannies of their environment, physical, social, and intellectual. Their conversations roam over a variety of topics that is almost unimaginably varied, from the most arcane philosophical points to the most mundane aspects of daily existence.
  • They are life-long learners. SVS graduates enjoy learning for its own sake -- the more so, the longer they have been at the school. They like to read, to study, to use whatever human or other resources are available in order to acquaint themselves and master new domains that catch their interest.
  • They are articulate. They are superb conversationalists; they know how to talk, how to get an idea across. They are also excellent listeners, and they understand that to have a good conversation where all parties benefit, all parties must listen as well as talk.
  • They are politically astute. SVS graduates understand how to use the existing political system in order to further their aims. They know how to present their ideas, how to petition, how to debate, how to muster support for their positions among their friends and acquaintances. They know how to formulate political positions, and how to go back to the drawing board and re-formulate them in a more acceptable fashion if they have to.
  • They are physically fit. Most of them are comfortable with their bodies, and are happy when they are physically active. They enjoy the outdoors, they enjoy climbing and running and walking and playing; many like to dance, to ski, to skate or skateboard, to ride bikes, generally to challenge their bodies. They are aware of the difference between good food and junk food, between healthy personal habits and damaging ones -- aware, if not practicing, and awareness is, after all, the essential first step towards practiced.