Re: Responsible People
Sun, 1 Dec 1996 23:18:23 -0500


Your story reminded me of a "school-within-a-school" program I co-developed
in the '70's. We had about 60 kids (grades 2-6) and two of us (plus a few
volunteers) as teachers in a public school in Ann Arbor. We got about as
close as one could to democratic schooling within the confines of the public
system, ameliorated somewhat by an extremely supportive principal and parent
group. We had a minimum of academic requirements and had regular, democratic
meetings to make rules and to enforce them.

To make a long story short:

Scene 1: I get upbraided (but good) by the music teacher for allowing one of
my students to slip out the back door of the balcony periodically during a
concert to check on a science experiment she was working on (melting ice
cubes wait for no-one!) The music teacher informs me that she has these
concerts to teach the children polite behavior and that I (we) don't teach
our kids to be courteous!

Scene 2: A while later, I have to be away for 4 days. At the end of the
week I get approached by the teacher who substituted for me. She asks me,
"Alan, what did you do to your sixth graders?" With the music teacher's
comments fresh in my mind and images of raging hormones dancing in my head, I
counter with, "I don't know. What do you mean?" She replies, "Well, they're
so polite! They were helpful to me. They were helpful to each other. They
were even helpful to the younger kids!"

It seems she had just subbed in one of the well-regarded, and very
traditional, classrooms of a sixth grade teacher. Her kids were climbing on
desks, jumping out windows, throwing things, harassing each other, etc. She
was prepared for more of the same from our kids. What she got instead was
the behavior of people used to being treated like people!