Shortly after the oral thesis defenses were completed one of the students who participated in this new procedure suggested to me that I should sit together with all the students and talk about their experiences. They agreed to have the conversation tape recorded and the following is an edited transcript of it. There were sixteen students who wrote and defended their thesis. Fourteen passed and two failed to receive a diploma. Some in the school's community had doubts about the new procedure and others embraced it with enthusiasm. Therefore, I think it will be illuminating to the Assembly to see what the actual participants in the process had to say about it.

Thesis Defense Debriefing of Diplomates

Hanna: Because this is a new procedure it would be very interesting to hear what you, the diploma candidates who have gone through it have to say about it. My first question is, why did you defend your thesis? Why didn't you just leave?

Beth: I did my thesis defense because it seemed like the final step in my Sudbury Valley Career, reflecting on it, and writing something that kind of summed it all up. It also would be something to show my progress to other people and myself.

Karen: It's closure. Also, I want to go to college, and it's a lot easier to get into college if you have a diploma. But more than that, it's closure, for me. It was meaningful.

Linda: It was meaningful in the sense that you've basically come to a place where other people don't make you, you make you; so it's meaningful because you're writing that down, you're making an actual document on how you became who you are today. It's something you can always have to look back on, even if you didn't get a diploma. If we didn't award diplomas I would still like to write a thesis. It's kind of like a diary, almost, for those of us who could never keep a diary because we're way too spacey.

Maggie: I think we all kind of feel the same way. It was closure and it was good to look back and reflect on all the experiences, negative and positive, that were valuable.

Hanna: Was it hard to do?

Maggie: No it wasn't.

Beth: Easy wouldn't be the right word.

Linda: It felt right.

Maggie: Exactly, it was not hard because I knew it was what I wanted to do. If I was pushing myself, if I felt like I wanted to stay another year or anything like that, I don't think it would have been as comfortable; it wasn't easy, but it was good.

Sean: There are so many experiences and so many things that go into who you are, that sometimes it was sort of hard to really express exactly how I felt about things on paper, but other than that I thought that it went quickly and it was easy.

Karen: I thought it was hard. Most of my views on the thesis process seem to contradict everyone else's feelings on it. Everyone seemed to think that the process was that you sit down, and it just kind of came out in one sitting, and then you edit from there. I found that was not true for me. I wrote multiple drafts, each starting differently, each touching on different things - and pieced them together. Maybe I came at it from a different approach than everyone else, because I write a lot. I don't think my thesis was particularly spectacular, but I felt that almost everyone else could have done much better too. I didn't have any real hangups with the process. The first-day kids didn't know what to expect I guess. Owen and Diane were the two that seemed to be most let down with the process, and they were both on the first day. Maggie was the first. She did very well. She wasn't expecting anything though, so I don't think that she was particularly let down by it. Diane and Owen were disappointed coming out of it and their reaction to it made me less nervous. Maybe I was so nervous about it because I was expecting something that was harder? When they came out and they said "They asked the most ridiculous questions," I was like, "Oh, well. That kinda takes it down a notch. Or three or four." But they didn't ask me stupid questions. Everything they asked me pertained to my thesis, was related somehow to something I had written. I went in thinking, they're going to ask me really irrelevant questions, and what am I going to say to them, do I tell them not to ask me these things that don't pertain to my thesis? But that didn't come up.

Brad: It was hard to remember actual turning points in my life when I was writing, because you don't actually think of them happening at the time they are happening. They just sort of flow, it's your life, so that maybe was the hardest to get into words. But I think that once I started writing and I felt, okay, I'm actually sitting here writing a paper (which I hadn't done in a long time), it kind of just flowed for me - not easily, but it flowed well.

Tracey: It was hard to think of what to say and how I wanted to say it, but once I started it, it flowed from there.

Linda: I think I started mine about eighty times - maybe not eighty times, but a lot of times. I knew that I just needed to sit down and write the whole thing, in one sitting, because my brain will just jump tracks and never go back to the same thing. [But eventually] I just sat down and wrote what felt important to me. I knew I couldn't write a paragraph and then next week write another paragraph. I wanted it to be just one fluid thing. But this doesn't have anything to do with it being a new procedure.

Hank: I had been writing mine since last year, because I wanted to try graduating last year, but I think that gave me an extra advantage in terms of what I wanted to write and how in depth I wanted to write it. So I think the extra year really helped me in putting things where I wanted them, to make sure I stated exactly what I wanted the people to know. It was hard in the long run to put it all together. It was a good thing.

Diane: I tried to write it last year and I started writing the beginning, but it wasn't really what I wanted, so I was like, "Alright, well clearly I'm not at a point where I am ready to write this. I'm clearly not ready to move on."

Hanna: Is it the act of writing that's hard or having to be ready, and then you can write it?

Diane: I think that you have to be ready to be able to write it, probably because it takes so much self-reflection to be able to do it. Otherwise, you'd just be lost, you'll start spewing stuff that you might not believe in.

Sean: I definitely feel that being ready is the first part, and it's really being ready to be who you are. You can bullshit, but that's sort of where it gets picked out. You see it if it's bullshit, you see it if it's not really who you are. Being ready is the first step to actually graduating.

Malcolm: It wasn't really that hard for me. I think it's actually going to be one of the easiest things I have ever written, because it's about me. Once I got started on it, it felt good, and writing the first draft only took two days.

Hanna: A lot of you don't write a lot and yet it seems to me that all of you wrote beautiful papers.

Maggie: If you're ready, self-reflecting is probably the easiest thing to write about.

Karen: I felt like I could do so much better. I just couldn't though. Actually getting everything out was probably the worst part for me. It's not something that I want to talk about, necessarily.

Hanna: So you think it's a good idea for the community that the school requires young people who are going out to the world, and who want a diploma, to go through a process of self-reflection like this?

Linda: I think that it would be awesome if everyone in the world did that. I feel like a regular high school diploma doesn't mean as much. One of my friends who graduated a public high school said, "You get to graduate just like I did, but ours wasn't as hard". I feel like it's more meaningful, because I've picked myself apart and I've found myself - not to sound hokey or anything. You didn't just have to take the SATs and the MCAS and get such and such grades; you had to write what you feel.

Maggie: If I went to public school and I just had to get a certain grade to get out, it would be much easier than having to see why I'm actually leaving.

Beth: It's different. In public school if you do what you're asked then you get a diploma, and for me that's harder. But I think that they're different, I think that self-reflection is something that could be a little more painful and meaningful. For me, really seeing that I wasn't just doing as I was told, that I did what I thought I needed to do to make the person that I wanted to become, is more meaningful.

Hanna: Did anyone here feel bothered by the fact that you expected to have a certain procedure and you were preparing for that and then we changed it?

Maggie: It wasn't different enough to not be prepared. Obviously the biggest part of it is writing a thesis and that didn't change, so I don't think it affected the way that I did anything really. But I didn't think it would ever begin this year.

Trish: I didn't expect it this year and it was mildly irritating, but it didn't really change anything that I'd planned on doing.

Diane: I actually think it's easier to convince three strangers that you adequately defended what you wrote vs. a group of people who know you.

Karen: I was relieved. I didn't feel like I was going to have necessarily a problem with the old thesis defense, but I didn't want one. I didn't like the thought that I would have to be in front of that many people and speak about things that are very personal to me.

Hanna: Some people definitely feel the opposite. Sixteen kids wrote theses and presented them, and two were denied and they very adamantly feel that it's because the procedure involved strangers.

Diane: The first thought that comes into my mind is, would they really have passed in front of the entire school community? Three strangers don't have any preconceived notions of you and they are going into it trying to be as open as possible, and to accept all the different types of personalities and different ways that being prepared to be an effective adult could manifest itself in the candidates. They want to pass you. When you stood up in front of a thesis defense in the old way, you never really got asked hard questions. That's totally different than sitting down with three people. It's so much more intimate now and you can just be more relaxed, but when you are standing up there in front of a sea of faces - what if you stutter, what if you sound like an idiot, what if you try and sound funny and it's just dead silence, and then you have these people who didn't really know you but thought you were a good person, read your thesis, and you get up there and you make an ass of yourself? And they're like, "Oh, maybe they're not ready, look at how nervous they are, maybe they can't do this."

Karen: I also thought that it was easier, but not everyone is well known necessarily by the entire school community, even by students within the school. I hate public speaking, I think I probably would have been more nervous in a room full of strangers than three strangers.

Hanna: One of the things that made me not like the old procedure was that, out of respect to the family and the grandparents, I wouldn't ask real questions.

Sean: I think it really just comes down to the same thing: you're going to be able to do it as long as you know who you are, and as long as you believe in your thesis. It's still going to come down to that. It's still just telling them who you are.

Brad: I think for me personally it was easier because I'm fine with speaking in front of small groups of people like in this situation or in JC, or in a job interview. I can usually handle that pretty well. I wouldn't say it's easier in general; sure, the speaking to these three people is on some level easier, but [in the old defenses] I would have done fine because I knew so many people. But when you go into a small group of people you don't know, they can ask you whatever they want, and they're not going to be shy because they're in front of your parents. They're going to ask you anything and everything, as opposed to when you're at a big thesis defense where everybody's going to be going kind of easy on you, asking you joking questions and having a good time.

Hanna: Did you think that these people asked more serious questions?

Brad: Yes, because at the old thesis defense there's a handful of real questions and there is a lot of random questions that are just simple to answer, like, "Why do you want to go to this college?" "I like the campus, I like the teachers." Here it was, "Why did you write that? Why did you feel that way?" They can actually ask you questions that are going to take twenty minutes to answer.

Sean: I totally agree with Brad. It's just so much more to the point. They can ask you questions upon questions upon questions and don't have to worry about time. A thesis defense before was timed, you only had a specific amount of time to get it in. This way it can go for hours and hours and hours.

Linda: I think it's a more fair way to do things because in the old thesis defense procedure, people would come basically already knowing what they were going to vote, because they already know you, and these people don't know you. They were completely unbiased, and so then you come and present yourself. They judge you on your paper and you.

Beth: I think the procedure now is really great, but I think that it was disappointing for this group of people - or, for me. I wanted guests to come and whatever - so it was disappointing in that it wasn't really a big deal - you left the room, and there wasn't anybody congratulating you that you did your thesis defense. But after thinking about it a little bit, I understood the bigger view of the changing of the procedure, and I think it's great to make it not the biggest deal. It's not this big thing.

Hanna: It's more serious and less of a ritual?

Beth: Yes, and I think it is better for the school also. I think that it's kind of more hidden. It's not the only thing that we're requiring.

Diane: At first I was really disappointed. But I think I was dealing with the whole idea of it being very anti-climactic. I understand the whole reasoning behind the procedure change, and I'm very in favor it, and actually I like this way better. But it's not everything that you always thought it would be, and even writing a thesis wasn't everything that you always thought it to be - it almost lived up to it, but nothing you ever dream up is ever going to be quite like reality. It puts into more perspective the idea that your years at Sudbury Valley don't just lead up to this one moment, this final moment where you defend your thesis and you leave and everyone congratulates you. It's more a realization of the actual process, and the fact that you've done so many other things that are actually more significant than writing this thesis and defending it to strangers.

Trish: The previous thesis defense process was not good, but I don't care much for this one either. I wasn't worried about not getting my diploma, but I feel that having complete strangers with only three facts to draw upon - your thesis, yourself, and your two year record - is just not enough; they don't have enough facts.

Hanna: Would you say that you wrote the thesis the same way as you would have for the old procedure because it was the expression of you?

Trish: For the most part I don't think my thesis was different than it would have been. I explained myself a bit more than I would have otherwise, because they didn't know me.

Brad: The old procedure was kind of weird, because the entire time I was here, how many people didn't get their diploma? A handful. Whereas this year two people didn't, and you look at the way that maybe those meetings went, and maybe you could understand it. So I think in that way it's better - they probably got more information than they would at the old thesis defense, where you would get your diploma as long as you didn't act stupid when you're up there. They can ask you every little detail about yourself, and as long as the three people are committed enough they can really learn as much about you as they want. I think they get enough out of the thesis as long as you're putting enough into it.

Maggie: I think it's really important to be able to represent yourself well. Doing it in front of three strangers you really have to explain everything - in everyday life you will have to be able to represent yourself, and do it in a way that reflects you. So I think that by doing it in front of the three people it's much more obvious who could do it and who couldn't do it - or who could do it well and show themselves as a responsible person. It was much more obvious - to the three people.

Hanna: There is an argument to say that people who know you could challenge you.

Brad: The real issue is whether or not you're an effective adult. It has more to do with what your plans are, what your thesis says, and how you defend it. These three people have no idea who you are and you have to prove something to them.

Maggie: That's what I think the beauty of it is - it doesn't matter who you were, or whatever got to making you who you are today. It's much more about who you are now. If you're good right now, who cares if you were an asshole three years ago? So you really have to show who you are now, and that you're responsible now. You can talk about how you got there, but what's really important is who you are now.

Trish: I disagree, because they don't know who you are now. You could put up a front. Were they [the Diploma Committee] allowed to disclose the information that we gave them afterwards?

Hanna: Disclose information, no. Gossip? Yes. . . big difference. They'd say, so and so was charming, we enjoyed it - things like that, but there's professional discretion here.

Trish: Conceivably, you could gloss over parts of your life and they have absolutely no reference to know that you're lying. For example, some of your extracurricular activities could involve getting stoned every night and running naked through town - and they don't know that because you're not gonna put it in your thesis.

Hanna: Do you think we know that?

Trish: Yeah! People talk about it when we do it.

Tracey: I remember something like that was brought up once at a thesis defense [old procedure]. They don't get a police report, they only get the JC report, so if something happens off campus they don't know.

Trish: They only know about the things you did bad here, they don't know anything about the stuff you did bad out there.

Hank: If something happened outside of school that doesn't cross over into school time it's none of their business what happened - whether it be getting stoned or getting inebriated, it's none of their concern - as long as it doesn't cross over into who you are. Like if you're a raging alcoholic and you come in inebriated to the meeting, then they can judge you and be, like, "All right. Well, you're obviously taking too much creative time."

Trish: It does matter because we're talking about whether you're an effective adult. I mean, if you put up a front for people who are judging you and then go off and shoot little animals, so long as it's not on school time it doesn't matter?

Hank: We're only 18. We're still beginning our lives. We're not effective adults in everything just yet, we're still maturing. We can go through as many animals as we want!

Maggie: Whatever you do in your free time it doesn't matter - it's about being a responsible person. You can be a responsible person and get high and hang out in your house on the weekend, if it doesn't affect you being a responsible adult when you need to be at work or need to be at school or you're having your homework done for college or whatever - whatever it is you do, it doesn't matter, you can be responsible and still get intoxicated.

Sean: If we're gonna start pointing our fingers at everything that everybody does, then there's gonna be a lot of ineffective adults that are much older and more mature than any of us. And really the thesis procedure doesn't have to do with that.

Diane: The question - it doesn't ask us if we are effective adults, it's how we've prepared ourselves. And our whole definition of what that possibly could be, or what we wrote in our thesis, could be wrong in five years. We have no clue. But like you said, it's just a high school diploma. It's a birdhouse - it needs a roof, and walls, and a hole for the bird to go in, and that's pretty much it.

Linda: This sounds really wrong but if you are a horrible person and you manage to fake your way through the whole procedure, which would be very hard, then maybe you should get a diploma. If you fake your way through the Sudbury Valley School diploma procedure, which is a hell of a lot harder than any other diploma procedure in the world, then you're gonna probably be a multi-billionaire in like three years, so go and run. Take it and run.

Trish: But this thesis procedure is a bit more like real life in that people don't know you when they get you for job interviews and stuff. But as for who you actually are it could be iffy.

Hanna: Do you think that SVS should grant diplomas?

[chorus of Yes]

Diane: I think that if we didn't grant diplomas, our attendance would severely drop, very quickly. My parents would not have sent me here.

[chorus of agreement]

Hanna: Do you think it's contradictory to our philosophy to do this defense of thesis while all the time here in the school, as long as you don't get into trouble with the JC, you are not bothered?

Malcolm: Since you need to have some kind of process to see if people deserve it, I guess this is the best way to do it.

Kirk: You have to some sort of defense.

Diane: I think on the surface it seems very contradictory to the whole philosophy, but when you think about it, it's actually perfectly in line with it. You have to spend a hundred hours or whatever in the kitchen to get certified for that. You want a diploma? This is what you have to do. It's the same thing. And now the way that we have it, I really don't think it's that much of an issue, it's just another certification process.

Karen: It definitely seems to go along with the philosophy for me - if you want to have a diploma, you have to do it. I'm sure some people got more pressure from their parents than others, but when it comes down to it, it's up to you, and that's a lot to do with the philosophy of the school.

Linda: It makes perfect sense. I always thought that the Sudbury Valley thing was that you can do it a different way, there's not just the public school way, there are other opportunities, other ways to get something. Having this procedure makes sense because you're doing it a different way. It's not that we don't do anything at Sudbury Valley. Half the kids here do way more than they would in public school. It's just your choice, and if you choose not to do the diploma thing, you don't have to. But obviously we all chose to. SVS prepares you for the real world. And in the real world, you're going to have to do things to get what you want. Every one of us in here made a conscious choice to write a thesis.

Trish: I'd say it does actually go along with the idea of the school. The whole idea is that children learn when they're ready to learn, when they need to learn. So when you're ready to leave, it makes sense, you write your thesis and you're ready to go.

Sean: I think we should have a diploma procedure. I think it means a lot; it meant a lot to me to get a diploma because I feel it's something to signify what I've done here. It coincides exactly with what the school is, because you can choose not to go through the process if you don't want to go through the process, but it means a lot to me because I want something that says that I graduated from Sudbury Valley. I wanted to go through the process because I want to be able to say what I did to graduate.

Brad: The school's really calm, and it's chill, and you walk around, you talk to people if you want, you go out to the smoking area, go to the computers, do whatever you want - you're just quiet by yourself, and then all of a sudden you're standing up in a room full of seventy or eighty people and they're asking you questions? That's so out of nowhere! But with the new procedure you're sitting down in a room with three people - how often do you do that at school? Like every single day. So this procedure is so Sudbury Valley, to sit in a room with a couple of chairs in the middle of the school day and just start talking to people. It fits how the school works. But obviously I think that the school should have diplomas because otherwise, how do you leave? You just say - all right I've had enough! I don't think that's really the way you should leave school - I think you should leave school because you got as much as you can out of it. I would prefer to end with some type of a procedure. I think it's important to have an actual graduation ceremony, especially this year because there's a lot of people who were excited about having their [old] thesis defense and about having a night just for them. Now we have this night for everybody.

Owen: I think having a diploma is a good sense of closure for people who want it.

Beth: Everything has its contradictions. I could see how it could look like it's a contradiction but I think that now it really does flow well with the way that the school is. You can just leave here without a diploma and you're in good standing. That's what's great about it.

Linda: I've always been kind of defensive about going to Sudbury Valley, and if we didn't have a diploma, I feel people would have more ammunition saying it's not a real school, you don't get a diploma. It's more like a camp.

Brad: Just where you hang out.

Sean: It'd be like a commune.

Linda: I think having a diploma makes it the real school that we all know it is.

Diane: As much as I feel that this new procedure really fits in with the school much better, I think eventually it will have to be revised as well. But for the time being I think this is a much more fitting procedure than the one we've had.

Trish: Are we seriously considering not having a diploma? Because beyond the fact of it being very emotional, it's already difficult to deal with the colleges and stuff, they're like - what you don't have A's and B's? No. So to try to go up to them without even a diploma would mean that every kid who ever left here would have to take the GED's.

Diane: A lot of parents - almost anyone's parents - would never give a second look to Sudbury Valley if there was no diploma. It's almost absurd to think that we would have a school without granting some sort of diploma at the end no matter what the procedure ended up being.

Hanna: Was the sub-committee of the Thesis Committee in the school - two staff, two students - helpful to you?

Karen: My committee was pretty helpful. But one of the people on my committee, who was a student, did not say a single thing. That was not helpful. The other three were insanely helpful, though.

Linda: The same thing happened to me.

Karen: So I think that you should make sure the kids on the committees are really interested and involved and will be willing to critique and help.

Hanna: Were you open to the suggestions of the sub-committee?

Diane: To a certain point; but I really felt that my thesis was nitpicked to death.

Tracey: I was open to their suggestions but there were some suggestions that I was like, no, this is how I want to do it.

Linda: I was happy with the staff on mine, I was not so happy with my students. I think that their role needs to be revised a slight bit, more as guidance rather than editing. You can always get someone to edit it, but it's more guidance.

Sean: I thought that was part of the whole committee; it's kind of useful to have people nitpick your stuff, as long as you're open to it.

Brad: I believe that these four people can do whatever they want. I think if they're going to find any type of error whatsoever why not show it to you? It might make your thesis better.

Sean: I know I found myself re-reading a couple of things that my committee pointed out that they didn't think flowed too well, and I thought it was fine, so I left it in there. I changed some stuff for sure, I definitely saw some things.

Beth: My committee was very helpful. They didn't tell me specifically what I needed to do but they showed me what exactly was wrong. I felt overwhelmed because I thought I had to take all of these things out; but really thinking about what they said and what they pointed out was not flowing, I was able to fix it pretty quickly. I thought mine was great.

Karen: Even with the committees, though, people go to other people to get input and I think that's something people value about the school. There were staff members who were not on my committee who I wanted to look over my thesis just to hear their input. And even some of my friends, too, because they knew me and they could say, "Karen, don't put this in, this sounds stupid." A lot of us do go to outside sources.

Sean: That's exactly one of the points of the committee, because there might be people out there who don't have a relationship with any staff member or anybody else at all in the school. And they still want to graduate, and having a committee gives them a place to go if they want help. No matter what. Without a personal relationship to the other people.

Brad: I think the most important part is that they are there. But you have a whole school full of people, you have your parents, you have your siblings, you have your grandparents, you have anybody you want to. You can post it on the internet if you'd like! It's yours, so you're not just subject to these four people, but these four people - no matter what will look it over for you.

Karen: I don't know if you missed it or not, but the whole point of having the theses posted on the website is so people could do that if they wanted. People who weren't on the committee could critique your thesis.

Hanna: Did you think that the people on the Diploma Committee were competent? Were they nice? And did you get good questions?

Brad: Yes.

Maggie: Long answer questions.

Owen: I didn't like a lot of the questions that they asked me. I thought a lot of them were stupid and irrelevant. They asked me if I considered being staff at a Sudbury school, which I think has nothing to do with whether or not I'm ready to be an effective adult. They asked me, "What's the hardest thing you've ever done at Sudbury Valley?" I don't know what the hardest single thing I've done is: I just wrote this huge paper and you're not talking to me about my paper. I'm nineteen years old, I don't really want to be a staff at a Sudbury school right now. I'd like to move on with my life and see what else I can do with it. The questions were irrelevant.

Sean: I really like the procedure and the way it's going, in every way. It makes it more legitimate, it's taken seriously and I think it makes so much sense as far as the philosophy's concerned. I enjoyed it. When I sat down with those three people I actually had a good time. I talked about everything. I felt great afterwards; I didn't feel bad about anything. They dissect you in a certain way. I could see how someone could crack if they didn't know what to say. I liked the process, it makes sense. And I think that the questions that they ask all make sense in the grand scheme of things, whether it be asking you if you want to be a staff member in another school - because that just goes along with the philosophy of the school and whether you agree with it or not.

Karen: I think the first day they had a lot of trouble figuring out the groove of what they really needed to ask people. I was on the second day. I didn't really get asked any questions that were irrelevant. I found that we had a lot to talk about that pertained to my thesis. I think for some kids, also, towards the end of their meetings, who probably got asked what they thought were more irrelevant questions - it was I think because they had already touched on everything and felt that they really understood what these kids were saying. With me, I think we managed not to get to that because I had a lot to talk about that was touched on in my thesis that could have been elaborated more.

Linda: It felt like they knew what to do. When they asked me questions they got right to the point, and they were very nice about it. They were wonderful people. And they asked me questions that actually made me think, which was great. "What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?" When we have our ceremony, I think I'll like having it feel like more of a class. I think it's going to be nice for us to graduate as a class. As a group of friends.

Hank: My favorite question that they asked me was, "What do you think some of the people who have been here for life are going to do outside of here?"

Malcolm: They were really nice. I was kind of wary of them, but they asked pretty good questions, they made me think about things that hadn't even occurred to me when I was writing my thesis and revising it.

Owen: It's not that I didn't like them, and some of the questions they asked me I did like. I just felt like they were fishing for things without asking me the actual questions. I don't like people trying to get an answer out of me if they can't just ask me the direct question. I would have much preferred if they had just said, "Were you happy with your education?" It might just be the way they read my thesis. Maybe they didn't think I would actually answer the questions.

Diane: All of us were the guinea pigs and we knew that going into it, but I think especially the people on the first day were really guinea pigs. Because they were still refining their questions and they were still seeing how the people on the first day reacted to it. I think they were nervous. I don't think they knew what to ask, and they'd dealt with very few people before they got to Owen or me.

Beth: It's becoming clear to me that the biggest loophole of the whole thing is that it's going to be just an experiment the first day. There needs to be maybe the same people, one person the same from year to year.

Diane: Although Owen and I were upset and felt unchallenged at the time, we're satisfied with the experience now.

Trish: I was also on the first day. And it could just be that I wasn't paying attention to them, but I personally wasn't upset with how they conducted it.

Beth: I don't even really remember my thesis defense - and I think that says a lot. I think that's what the school wants it to be, not this big significant thing - it's the closure.

Karen: I feel the exact opposite! I remember my defense, I was satisfied. We talked about serious things, and it was not an easy conversation for me. They were obviously interested, they weren't distant, they really wanted to get a sense of what I was like.

Hank: My expectations were met. The only fear I had was going in there and then getting into philosophical questions, because really my thesis wasn't a philosophical thesis. But they didn't, and that's what I was quite surprised with.

Diane: It's such a big thing that there's no way that they can even know. Do you really know? You hope what you wrote is good, and you hope that you defended yourself well - and you can hope that you're really competent and that you have all these abilities and maybe more that you don't realize you have, but you really don't know. Of course not. So do they have a clue? Of course not! They don't even know if they're effective adults.

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