by Tom Campbell, co-founder and parent

Reprinted from the January 2006 issue of “The School Bull,” the newsletter of The Clearwater School.

Students playing together in the computer room. Age mixing.

Clearwater students get the best type of education for work and life. Ironically, skepticism of Clearwater education raises the opposite point–that students are not acquiring the specific skills and generally accepted knowledge that they need to enter the workforce. Recent research and analysis demonstrates that students at Clearwater and Sudbury schools get exactly the type of education that is necessary for future success.

Clearwater School education is not oriented towards a specific goal–it can be, but it is not a requirement. The education at Clearwater comes through the pursuit of what each student values. Students at Clearwater learn how to get what they want. They have to do this within the context of a community that is committed to trust, freedom and responsibility. While these are wide and lofty goals, in practice they require very specific types of agreements, relationships and norms.

The practice of working things out, tolerating and breaking through challenging behaviors, making decisions, and learning together informally creates quite skillful and responsible kids. These skills are highly valued in the workplace and facilitate real leaps forward in learning.

Self-Directed and Informal Learning: Research has demonstrated that nearly 70% of the learning in the workplace is informal and self-directed. What employees know about their jobs is learned informally through mentoring, real-time training, talks around the water cooler and problem solving. Employees that demonstrate the skills of asking questions, initiating training and gathering information from others more readily advance in their own learning and contribute to the business. (See Carter McNamara, Ph.D., “Strong Value of Self Directed Learning in the Workplace”, www.managementhelp.org/ldr_dev/ldr_dev.htm.)

The recent book, Pursuit of Happiness: The Lives of Sudbury Valley Alumni (Daniel Greenberg, Mimsky Sadofsky, & Jason Lempka, 2005, The Sudbury Valley School Press, Framingham MA) presents strong evidence that Sudbury schools like Clearwater prepare children for life as adults.

…treating each student and adult as full-fledged thinking and deciding members of the community, promotes an extraordinary flowing of selfmotivation, of initiative, of creativity, and of leadership. We believe that the school provides an environment that trains each individual to think for themselves, and to lead an examined life that is fulfilling, meaningful and fun. We are confident that the school produces leaders–most particularly, people who are unafraid to lead their own lives, and in the course of building that life often end up leading others. (p. 6)

According to Pursuit of Happiness, graduates of Sudbury Valley School:

  • Frequently hold higher paying and creative jobs: In a comparison of the national breakdown of job categories for the population, in general, to the breakdown for the jobs of Alumni, students were more likely to have jobs in management, business and financial services, computers and mathematics, science, community services, education, arts/design, and entertainment/media.

  • Possess traits sought after by employers: Key traits that are exhibited by former students represent the qualities of workers most sought after by businesses. These include responsibility, self-confidence, commitment and passion, and ability to relate to others and solve problems.

  • Pursue jobs with challenge and passion: Alumni of Sudbury Valley seek jobs that satisfy them. Job characteristics they seek include challenge, spiritual/ethical interests, teamwork, hands-on and fun, and providing a service.


Enrolling kids in The Clearwater School provides the type of education that mirrors real life. By examining the facts, it becomes clear that kids at Clearwater pursue school with the same zeal that they will pursue life. In fact, learning and life are not separate.

Students studying in the kitchen.