Re: A meeting on diversity in svs-model schools
Mon, 2 Sep 1996 23:23:43 -0400

This is Larry Welshon with Alpine Valley School in Colorado

I was not present at the breakout session from which this discussion thread
comes, but I would like to comment on the current thread.

As a founder of a SVS type school, my paramount concern is to create an
environment in which young people are free to pursue their lives unmolested
by mine or another's political, social-theoretical, or religious leanings.
If I've understood Jeff Bradford's thoughts correctly, he is concerned about
the possibility of a school's mission, that of the protection of children's
freedom, being put on the back burner by overt attention being paid to the
issue of bringing in people of other races, etc.

Perhaps it would clarify things to examine an analogous situation in relation
to a recent posting.

Consider a staff at X Democratic School. Staff is concerned that there are
too few Catholics in attendance at this predominantly Protestant school.
Holding that a religously diverse school would provide (kids and adults),
Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, etc., with an opportunity to sort out the mixed
religious messages that our society gives them [Public schools are after all
are a creation of anti-Catholic sentiment according to Marshall Fritz] this
staff member encourages colleagues to put more thought and effort into how to
overcome the barriers which the historical
and social circumstances of our society have erected between certain groups,
in order to enrich ourselves, our schools, and ultimately the expansion of
the model. That opportunity [having a variety of religions represented]
is tremendously valuable, and can't happen if the school's population
doesn't include more than one religous group.

There is a real tendency for people with strongly held beliefs to foist them
on to kids in schools. Our schools are no exception. Now, I admit openly
that I'm one for slippery slope arguments. That being said, the attention
that is paid by the staff at X Democratic School for religous diversity
could, once the proper mixing has occured, be turned to some other type of
inclusion. Shouldn't we also make sure that there is representation from
Americans of Austrian extraction? How about more Mayans, Hindus, Mormons or
people from the South, say Georgia? Instead of focusing on freedom for kids,
this staff focuses on social engineering.

Jeff said, "I feel strongly that democratic schools should not be the
vehicles of social change. If an adult wants to promote a certain agenda,
the democratic model is not the mechanism by which to do it."

This comment has been misconstrued. There is no denying that SVS model
schools are causing social change. For example, graduates from our schools
are more likely to know their own minds. Having been in a school that
practices tolerance and free thikning they are more likely to allow and
encourage tolerance and free thinking as adults. The social change brought
about by these schools is internally consistent with the philosophy of
leaving kids alone to pursue their lives. What are the qualities that
social engineers desire for kids in most schools? Are these qualities the
same ones SVS type schools desire to foster?

If we artificially set up our communities to reflect what we see to be the
proper mixing of races, religions, regions, extractions, etc. we may be
violating our prime directive to set up schools where young people can pursue
their lives without the coercion of social tinkerers and agenda pushers.