Name that Paradigm
Fri, 6 Sep 1996 16:12:47 -0400

Referring to my remarks about diversity (talking to strangers) Alan says:

>I'm not clear where the "old paradigm" comes in here.

I know some folks jump out of their socks when they hear the word "paradigm",
but as Albert Einstein said, "the problems we face cannot be solved at the
same level of thinking that created them." Over the summer, interested
members of the Pacific Village Assembly (parents, staff, students) held a
series of informal meetings to try to clearly distinguish the philosophy
behind this type of school, as we see it.

The motivation was threefold. First, those of us in the community who work on
this would become more clear in our own minds what the school is about.
Second, we thought it would help us to talk more clearly about the school to
new people. Third, we want to create new informational materials about our
school that do not borrow so heavily from the wonderful work of those who
have gone before (you know who you are). We are looking for a clear and
concise statement that will lead people to "grok" what we are up to and leave
them free to determine where they stand in relation to it.

That project is not finished, as I am sure you will agree if you read the
rough draft that follows. The goal would be to have the statement of our
paradigm ring as true as the dominant paradigm. We are going to continue
meeting to work on it.

Our idea is to format this so that points of the Dominant Paradigm and Our
Invented Paradigm with corresponding numbers would be directly across the
page from each other, but I'm sure I can't do that in e-mail.

We welcome any discussion, disagreement, editing, correcting, rewriting, etc
that anyone cares to offer. It's your paradigm as much as it is ours. Like
all of our school materials, feel free to borrow and use the following in any
way you like. Don't copyright what you borrow, though. We want our work to
continue to be available to everybody without restriction.

The Dominant Paradigm

Why Kids Need Adults

1)Children need adult guidance because they are not mature and can't know
what is best for them.

2)Adults have experience and wisdom which makes them capable advisors.
Adults can and should make choices for kids in their best interest.

3) Kids are very vulnerable to the wrong influences. They need to be
protected from making short-sighted mistakes which could adversely affect
their future and well-being.

4) It is especially important that adults other than parents who provide this
guidance be professionally trained and credentialled teachers because adult
influence is so great.

5) Since children are a reflection and extension of their parents, parents
must be held ultimately responsible for their behavior, and the way they
"turn out."

Preparation for Being Adults

6) Childhood is a special time. It is time which must be used to prepare for
the real world, which comes later. This is why we have schools, designed to
teach them what they need to know at the appropriate age.

7)Everyone should be well rounded. It's parents' and school's responsibility
to expose children to a wide variety of knowledge/curriculum.

8) We must make sure kids learn at least "the basics" during this window of
time, the earlier the better.

9) Children must perform at a certain level while pursuing the prescribed
path or else they will fail as adults. Making the wrong choices early may
severely limit the choices that are available later on.

10) Kids must practice the discipline of doing things they don't like. It is
the role of concerned adults to insure that kids follow through with
difficult things. Left to themselves, they'll take the easy way out.

11) Testing and evaluation by adults is crucial to measure progress.

12) It's a tough world out there--everyone needs to be prepared to fend for

An invented Paradigm

Children are young people--age is a number

1) Young people are capable. Our culture, which is still wrestling with the
idea that people of color and women are capable has barely begun to recognize
the prevalence and cost of ageism.

2) Everyone needs support, but each person must decide for themselves what
would support them. Otherwise it is not support, but coercion or domination.

3) The world provides feedback when we interact with it. To protect someone
from the consequences of their choices is not a service, no matter how well
meant. It undermines their ability to learn.

4) A hierarchical community (school) structure is essentially controlling. A
democratic structure, in which each individual has equal access to power
emphasizes cooperation over competition, personal responsibility over
control, and trust over fear.

5) Each person deserves respect. This includes allowing everyone to be respons
ible for their choices, regardless of their age.

This is it!

6) This is your real life; start living now There is nothing wrong with
being whatever age you are and having whatever capacities you have, developed
to whatever degree they are. Everyone contributes to the richness all enjoy.

7)Learning takes place when people have freedom to use the capacities they
possess. Coercion and compulsion have no place in education. The most
valuable and long-lasting learning takes place when it is initiated by the

8) People of all ages are naturally curious, and they try to satisfy their
curiosity by learning. This is as natural as breathing. We can and will
learn anything at any time when we want to do so.

9) People are creative. As long as we live we have freedom to choose at each
moment. Trusting this quality in each other supports all of us to grow and
develop ongoingly.

10) The only discipline that is worth anything is self-discipline. Outside
domination hinders the development of self-discipline.

11) A critique can be constructive if someone is requesting coaching, but the
only evaluation that is meaningful is self-evaluation.

12) A paradox: Responsible people develop self reliance. At the same we come
to appreciate that we are all interconnected. Isolation is ultimately a trap.
Our community gains strength from its diversity; differentiation and
distancing weaken us.

xxx Paul