Sudbury Assignment: Build a Democracy

Many parents want to know what their child is learning at the Sudbury School of Atlanta.  This is the start of a series of articles called “Sudbury Assignment” that help parents recognize what sorts of things their children are learning and the depth of experience their child gets at our Sudbury school.  Imagine receiving this assignment when you were a student:

Sudbury Assignment #1: Build a Democracy… from scratch.

Then, live by it and refine it daily.  Run meetings by parliamentary procedure.  Negotiate with others on a code of conduct.  Create and maintain a fair judicial process.  Engage in due process and peer-evaluate rule infractions in an impartial manner.  Discuss freedom, equality, and fairness in every aspect of your democracy.  Appropriate the budget as necessary to maintain your democracy.  Evaluate the staff and whether they support you in your democracy.  Vote.  Research what you don’t know how to do to keep your democracy thriving.  Create and empower committees to oversee special activities in your democracy.  Create quorum regulations and other processes and procedures to govern the decision making in your democracy.  Create partnerships with outside people and organizations to support your group in areas you might need.  Communicate and negotiate with every other student on each element of your democracy.

Remember, this is a team project.  There is no end date and you will not receive a grade.  There will be no  homework and no teacher to tell you what to do.  The only evaluation of your democracy is your team answering the question, “does our democracy work?”  If not, brainstorm how to refine your democracy and put your ideas into action.  You and your team are responsible for the success of your democracy. 

Key vocabulary: democracy, democratic, equality, fairness, respect, responsibility, rights, reasonable, motion, second, committee, rules, code of conduct, table a rule, lease, contract, accountability, appropriate, adjourn, freedom, consequence.  

Sounds like an innovative year-long curriculum for high school seniors.  Or maybe it is a masters thesis in college?  This is what Sudbury students do every single day starting at age 5 and students love it.

Can you imagine a more powerful experience for students to truly understand how a democracy works or what being a thoughtful, engaged citizen looks like? 
Or should we return to a person standing at the front of the room reviewing the timeline of American wars and politics?  
Your student is part of this empowering and creative “assignment” every day at the Sudbury School of Atlanta.  We look forward to sharing future “Sudbury Assignments” with you.