Re: Homogenity at SVS?

Scott David Gray (
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 18:10:10 -0400 (EDT)

On Mon, 5 Aug 1996, Onar Aam wrote:

> Hi guys, I've been discussing SVS with some people and they claim that
> the reason SVS works so well is that 1) the students are mostly from the
> same culture, race and societal class, and 2) because SVS is in landly
> environment, away from the temptaions of the city. Unfortunately I do
> not have data to refute/confirm this. Therefore I ask if you can help
> me out on these questions. E.g. does SVS or any of its sister schools
> not fit into the above description?

I'm not going to directly refute those claims. Those specific claims can
be refuted, but I don't have the statistics on parental economic income
of students in front of me.

Rather, I am going to caution you about even _accepting_ that argument as
a valid argument against Sudbury-model schools.

1. The claim is an inherintly prejudiced one. Even _if_ it is true that
only some "privileged" have had an opportunity to attend Sudbury Model
schools, that is _no_ argument for consigning _others_ to prison without
solid evidence that prison is _better_ for people than advantaged people.

2. The claim assumes that SVS is obliged to prove its position. But in the
history of science, and because the rules of argument/logic dictate, it is
incumbent upon the person making the _positive_ claim to prove his/her
case. Any scientist or lawyer (or other person used to distinguishing a
positive from a negative claim) will tell you that "these people operate
differently than those people" is a positive claim.

The reason why it is incumbent on the positive claim to prove itself, is
because it is _impossible_ to prove a negative. For example, how can I
_prove_ that this world was not fashioned by little green men from Mars?
I might try to argue "because there is no life on Mars" and be answered
"there isn't any remaining evidence -- the little green men hid it all".
If I argue "because we have evidence of natural forces which created this
solar system, and formed this world" I may be answered "the little green
men wanted it to _look_ natural".

The person making the _positive_ (unlikely) claim is the one who must back
it up by _disproving_ the negative claim. To prove that humans are
predisposed to learn certain types of grammer, Chomsky had to supply
proofs that humans did _not_ learn all potential types of grammer with
equal ease. To prove that smoking is hazardous to one's health, the
Surgeon General had to supply proof that smokers _don't_ have as long a
life expectancy as nonsmokers. It is for this reason that in a court of
law we presume innocence -- and why the opponents of treating individuals
of certain social strata (or age groups) according to less humane rules
are obliged to supply their own proofs.

> Onar.

--Scott David Gray
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