A pure democracy is pure because every member of the community has an equal vote in the decision making process. Every. Single. Person. This is quite rare. In a large community it would be unwieldy so they use representative democracy.
Representative democracy lets us vote for the politician we hope most closely represents our interests. Those elected are empowered to make binding decisions on our behalf. This reality was succinctly put by Volusia County school board member Dr. John Hill who told parents opposed to the board’s decision to make school uniforms mandatory, “If you have a problem that we were elected, get over it, because it’s done. You can’t rewrite history.” He is absolutely right. At a Sudbury school this would have been handled differently.
A Sudbury school is a pure democracy. Every single student and staff member has an equal vote and an equal say. If they want to. It is a democracy after all. And freedom means you do not have to participate if you don’t want to. But the moment you discover the school passed a rule that impacts you in a way you don’t like – you’ll learn a lesson about democracy that you won’t soon forget. And with a pure democracy you can get involved and influence the outcome immediately. You won’t be told to “get over it” because you elected someone who votes against your interests.
Every single week at a Sudbury school there is a School Meeting. This is the operating backbone of every Sudbury school. It determines the rules. It hires staff members. It sets the budget. It oversees the enforcement of rules and discipline of students. In short, it runs the school. And it does so on the principle of equality. Not the some people are more equal than others equality. Just image what students learn by having an equal voice in the decision making of the school itself! It’s not us against them. It’s us working together to build up and maintain the best school we can. Now that’s collaborative learning! Now that’s a group project!
So whether you are a 5 year old student or a 45 year old staff member your vote counts the same in the final tally. This shows respect. This is how you learn the responsibilities of freedom. You learn responsibility by having the opportunity to take it on. Because what is freedom other than the right to take responsibility for yourself and your community. This is how you learn the extraordinary complexity of balancing the interests of a group against the interests of the individual. This is how you learn to be an active and responsible member of a larger democratic community – by actually going to a school that is run as a democracy. How could it be any other way?