“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Thanks primarily to Spider-Man, this is an expression we have all heard countless times. Nowhere is it more true than at Alpine Valley School, a small private school in Wheat Ridge that practices the Sudbury model of education. The power that students wield at our school – the ability to vote on critical issues ranging from setting the school’s budget to approving new laws in the Lawbook – is far reaching and very real. Students at our school have more power and influence over their daily environment than most adults do (ask anyone who has ever tried to push a new policy through their local government or corporate job). Along with that autonomy comes an equal amount of responsibility. At our school, students and staff are expected to do what they have agreed to do, and to follow the laws that School Meeting has set forth that basically come down to this: don’t encroach on others or their property.
The power to control their environment is matched in their control and influence over their lives. We believe that preparing students for adulthood requires that the individual’s autonomy be respected. The overriding message of the school is that you are free to do what you want so long as you don’t infringe on anyone’s right to exist peacefully. Our graduates go out in the world uniquely prepared by having practiced for adulthood in a safe and nurturing environment for years before actually entering the next phase of their lives. Young people are trusted at this school. They are expected to make their way in the world. The combination of being trusted and the expectation that they will create and live meaningful lives yields graduates who are uniquely prepared for an ever-changing world.
Students at our school experience a great deal of freedom and autonomy, they are also challenged to take responsibility for themselves, and the community, to a radical extent. Borrowing an expression from a famous educator, there is freedom, not license. It is a timely lesson that serves children on their way toward the autonomy that we want for citizens in our republic.
Alpine Valley School is located at 4501 Parfet St., in a quiet section of semi-rural Wheat Ridge. We are celebrating our 25th year of continuous operation and invite you to visit our website – www.AlpineValleySchool.com – to schedule a personal tour and explore the Sudbury model of schooling. We will be hosting an open house on July 9 at 10 a.m. this coming summer. Please contact us and find out whether our school might be good for your child.
Larry Welshon is staff at Alpine Valley School.