Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The First Sudbury Students: Abe and Fred

Abraham Lincoln went to school when he was 6, 7, 11, 13, and 15 years old.  In fact all of the time he went to school in his life did not add up to one year. Yet he became the president of the United States, wrote the Emancipation Proclomation, ended slavery, and made a major impact on America.  Frederick Douglass NEVER went to school and yet wrote his own autobiography, was an active abolitionist, founded and ran his own newspaper (The North Star), and served as a statesman.  How is that?  Because they both had a desire to achieve their purpose and to enlist whatever skills they needed to get there.

It is said that Abraham Lincoln was so poor that he could not afford paper when he was a child, so he would sit by the fire place at night and practice his lessons using his finger to write through the dirt on a shovel.  Frederick Douglass used to piece together the broken pieces of wood scattered around the shipyard (where he worked) in order to form letters.  Both of these men give a striking example of how Sudbury works.  Sudbury believes that as a bird flies, a person will think and learn.  It is natural.  We were created to think.  Sudbury also believes that because learning is such a natural instinct that it does not have to be forced.  A person...a child will observe the world around them, and desire to learn what they need in order to reach their goals.

I use these two men as an example, because they were poor...and one was a slave who could lose his life for teaching himself to read.  They wanted something...they wanted to go somewhere, so they did
whatever they needed to do in order to achieve.  It had nothing to do with their socioeconomic status, their family background or their race.  Abraham Lincoln's mom died when he was young and he was very poor.  Frederick Douglass really had NO family at all and was a slave.  Both of them put into practice what Sudbury believes and did what their instinct told them to do.  They learned and gleaned the information they needed to reach their goals.

Children of today can be trusted to achieve the same thing and within a Sudbury school...this nurturing, free space, a child should be able to thrive even more than Abraham Lincoln or Frederick Douglass.  Children of today do not have the hard times that these men had to face and yet even if they did, these men show us that it can be done.

When a person first hears about the Sudbury method, there is this phase of disbelief.  "What?  No classes?  No grades?  No structure? Well how will they learn and how willl we know they learned?" But the greatest assessment of learning is application.  When you see a child take knowledge and then use it to reach their goals, I would say that is evidence that learning has taken place.  No, there may not be the graded homework or the test with an A+, but their lives will be their portfolio of greatness. Just look at Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.  These two self-educated men accomplished so much, even without a teacher, even with all of the obstacles. I wonder if it's because they were driven from within themselves to reach their goals?

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