On the Idea of a French Edition of ‘Free at Last’

Aurelien Dumas

[Aurelien was one of the founders of the Ecole Dynamique, in Paris, and is presently staff at Fairhaven School, in Maryland]

Ever since I heard about SVS, I began thinking of ways to develop an awareness of the Sudbury model in France. Founding Ecole Dynamique, in Paris, was a fascinating adventure that reached well beyond the circle of the families involved in the school. It sparked a huge interest in ‘democratic education’ in France. But as you know well, all ‘democratic schools’ are not created equal. And with so many opening in France at present, francophone readers need to be able to access materials which can help them refine their understanding of the model and discriminate between so-called ‘democratic’ practices. That is why I am so happy to see “Free at Last” translated into French.

Some Memories

Like many others in our field, “Free at Last” was the first book I read about Sudbury Valley School. I can remember vividly how I felt while reading it. It was during the hot summer of 2011. My wife, was pregnant with our daughter.

I had become frustrated and depressed with the school I was working for and what seemed, at the time, to be the whole education system.

I had decided to work in the field of education because it seemed one of the most noble things one could do. But after a few years working in it, I started to despise it. I could not find even one colleague with whom I shared the simple idea that children need to be respected. Of course, all educators agree openly that children deserve respect. But none of my colleagues at the time equated ‘respecting children’ with respecting children’s desires. Everybody I met believed that allowing children’s desires to drive their education would only result in chaos and ignorance. They all had a way of justifying why we, educators, have to constantly force children to do what they do not want to do in order to help them become competent human beings.

I was feeling very lonely entertaining these ideas while doing some research to find like-minded thinkers. One day, I ordered a used copy of “Free at Last” on Amazon for only a couple dollars. When I opened the book, the voice of Danny, like a magic spell from an old grimoire, started instantly to quell my loneliness. I immediately ordered many other books from the Sudbury Valley School Press. I read them mostly on an inflatable mattress in the basement of our house where we sought shelter from a steamy Washington DC summer.

Through your books, with my wife and daughter-to-be, your voices, Danny, Mimsy and Hanna, became my friends. And I did not feel lonely anymore. I felt exhilarated with a renewed sense of purpose that has continued to grow since then without pause.

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