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Insamlingsstiftelse för främjandet av Sudburyskolor i Sverige
Most people who remain interested enough in the idea of a Sudbury education often want to know, finally, where the proof of the pudding is. Do gradutaes go to college? What sort of jobs do they do? Can they cope in society at large, having had a very different educational experience to the majority of us?
SVS has carried out a lot of research in these areas, most comprehensively assembled in the book The Pursuit of Happiness - The Lives of Sudbury Valley Alumni. In the Overview to the book, published in 2005, the authors write:
"With over three and a half decades of experience to call on, we feel that we can give unequivocal re-assurance to those who wonder whether attending the school prepares children adeqautely for life as adults. We have never been able to do so as well as we can now because, after tracking our alumni on four earlier occasions, we are finally able to present the results of an extensive, in-depth study of a large number of former students of all ages, in all walks of life, who were enrolled at the school during every period of its existence."
Of the Alumni named in the book's title, the authours write: "The target population of this study was former students who were enrolled at the school for at least three years, entered before the age of seventeen, were at least sixteen when they left the school and left before 1998. We wanted to talk to people who had significant exposure to the school and who were old enough to be ready to go out into the world at the time they left. The interviews took place in the years 2002 and 2003; the 1998 cut-off date was chosen to allow for several years of life experience after leaving Sudbury Valley.
The total number of former students in the target population was 199. Of these, we managed to locate and interview 119, or 60% of the total. Sixty-two of the people interviewed were males; fifty-seven females."
Below are some excerpts from results of the study, referring in bold to topics which are each given their own chapter in the book.
Jobs: "We would not expect the national breakdown [of job categories per the US population] to correlate with that for Sudbury Valley alumni, because there are some demographic differences [...] On the other hand, the distributions are more disparate than we expected. For example, a much higher percentage of alumni than the general population were in fields such as Management; Business & Financial; Computer & Mathematical; Education, Training & Library; Arts & Design; and Entertainment & Media. By contrast, far fewer (or none) of our alumni were involved in the areas of Office & Administrative Support; Production; and Transport & Material Moving."
Extracted figures from graphs showing percentages working in the above job categories (SVS denotes Sudbury Valley School alumni, National denotes the general US population):
Management: SVS 14%, National 5%
Business & Financial: SVS 9%, National 3%
Computer & Mathematical: SVS 11%, National 2%
Education, Training & Library: SVS 18%, National 5.5%
Arts & Design: SVS 20%, National 0.5%
Entertainment & Media: SVS 5%, National 1%
Office & Administrative Support: SVS 14%, National 16.5%
Production: SVS 1%, National 8%
Transport & Material Moving: SVS 0%, National 7%
College: 82% of graduates leaving SVS went on to pursue formal study in a range of disciplines and vocations. Of these destinations, more than 80% were Undergraduate Colleges.
Values: Responses to questions in this section were seen as follows: "The overwhelming impression created by the interviews is of a group of people who give a great deal of thought and attention to their value systems. One and all they reveal themselves as people who are living an examined life: these people show a palpable engagement with their ideals. From the responses, we feel that these are not abstractions that come up as answers in interviews, but are rather collections of values that infuse their lives."
Relationships: This chapter covers a vast range of different topics, including personal relationships, long-term intimate relationships, and how respondents relate to their bosses and employees. A few quotes:
I'm sure my level of comfort [dealing with people] starts completely at the school - starts out with this notion of being comfortable in non-hierarchical situations where everyone puts in their own contribution and makes the whole thing a community.
I have a rather difficult boss and we get on very well. I'm not interested in getting swept up in people's dramas. That's not my thing. [...] My boss has a kind of diva mentality. I think I understand that part of her hysteria is that she feels very insecure and so my being very calm and competent and reliable takes the edge off somewhat. With a lot of people she'll start yelling, and they either start yelling back, or they become defensive, or they start crying and wonder what's wrong with them. She even said one time, "I think you're one of the few people I've ever worked with that I haven't made cry." And I said, "Yeah, and you're never going to." We've established the fact that she can't take her anger out on me.
I try to listen to what they have to say and then I tell them what I feel we should do. We usually try to take a little of what they know, and a little of what I know and try to figure out the best and safest way to do what we have to do, whether it be forming some colossaly huge, dangerous, one-sided concrete pour that could break and spill out 11 yards of concrete on us, or simply just the way we should build something. That's the only way you can do something - to listen to both sides and then pick a little bit from each one and try to come up with the best situation out of whatever you're doing.
My kids do chores. They're not called chores, they're just their responsibilities. They're fine with it. They don't get paid for picking up their room, or for helping out around the house, or anything like that. They're just part of a community, which is our home, and they have to help out. That definitiely comes from Sudbury Valley, from realizing that small children can be respectful, can be responsible, can control themselves enough not to hurt other poeple, can be sensitive to what's going on around them. They can be treated with respect and you can expect them to treat you with respect.
The other side of it is that I'm just very confident about what I think and what I feel, and I think a big part of that can be attributed to the kind of freedom I had to decide my own education and figure things out for myself and succeed and fail with things on my own.
I want to live a substantive and deep life. I don't want to skirt over the meaty and tough emotions and experiences that being in a committed and long-term relationship brings. I feel that I'm consciously looking for that sort of deep, true experience, and I definitely do credit my Sudbury Valley years with learning how to do that.
Resilience & Flexibility: This chapter in the book deals with responses to circumstances that necessitated change, and is broken down into three stimuli: internal, external, and personal relationships. One section covers which resources respondents used to deal with change: perseverance; trust; self-confidence; patience; support of others; study; prioritisation; stress reduction activities. The authors comment: "Of particular interest in this figure is the distribution of the responses. Far more people identify themselves as using perseverance, trust and self-confidence than the number who make reference to the other categories. It is tempting to speculate that this is somehow related to the high value placed on these three resources in the educational environment at Sudbury Valley."