Every morning, from the beginning of the school day, one can watch children making their way from the parking lot to the main building. Some come running, breathless to get down to work, to carry out whatever they had planned for the day. Some come skipping down, exuding the pure joy of being alive. Some walk down deep in thought, some dreamily, some with carpool buddies or siblings. Some have friends waiting who rush up the driveway to greet them. They are large and small, young and old, dressed in every color or style imaginable. They are, in short, as diverse a group of individuals as ever formed a stable, mutually supportive community. The one thing they all have in common is a deep love of freedom, and a clear understanding that each person’s individual liberty can only be enjoyed if the right of others to enjoy the same freedom is protected by everyone.


A diverse group? Which brings me to the question of “diversity”, a word that so occupies our society these past decades. Its plain meaning, according to the dictionary, is “variety; multiformity; difference; unlikeness” - just what we think it means in everyday discourse. Human beings are by nature “diverse”, of course; no two of us are the same, not even “identical twins”. Our personalities are different, our micro-environments are unlike each other’s (even if we are members of the same family), our skills and talents are varied; we have distinctive physical features, dissimilar belief systems, unique world views. Take any collection of human beings and, upon closer examination, you will find them amazingly diverse - regardless of any common extraneous factors such as their financial situation, educational background, gender, age, interest, etc.


For reasons that are purely political, the word “diverse” as applied to groups of people has come to focus exclusively on extraneous factors. It has come to mean “different in ethnic background, cultural heritage, native language, income, neighborhood, education, race, or religion” - differences which in no way relate to the innate diversity of any group. There is no reason to consider a group of Fortune 500 Company CEOs any less diverse in any significant sense than a group of company managers, union workers, and unskilled hourly laborers consisting of people whose background is English, French, Mexican, and Kenyan.


The diversity of Sudbury Valley’s population can be seen from the moment they enter the school in the morning, until the moment they leave. Yes, they have many, if not all, of the varied external properties associated by the authorities with “diversity”. But they have so much more real variety than those properties could possibly represent. And it is this wonderful melting pot of distinct, self-aware individuals that makes Sudbury Valley such a fascinating place to be, and so deeply satisfying an environment for its citizenry. It is this that makes it so interesting to have conversations, to engage in joint activities, to play together, and it is this freedom to be one’s unique self that is so zealously guarded and so treasured by one and all.


And it is this diversity, and the joy of experiencing it, that makes students revel in being here. That is what we watch every morning from the window of the piano room.


High and Low

The views expressed on this page are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Sudbury Valley School.