Re: Responsible People

Dale R. Reed (
Sun, 01 Dec 1996 20:40:45 -0800

Mimsy said, We can't teach anything.

I have been studying the Sudbury literature and it has only recently
become politically incorrect to speak of "teaching" by the SVS staff.
Daniel certainly used the term for many years, the students used it and
the NEASC visiting Commitee that evaluated the school at the end of
October 1995 observed that "Staff members were observed in a variety of
helpful teaching situations working with interested students."

I wonder if you(Mimsy) mean that you refuse to teach, you do not belive
that teaching is a noble profession, that the children that attend
Sudbury or unteachable or what?

I sensed a couple weeks I would have to defend teaching then
reconsidered a couple days ago. But now I guess I must so I have
included some of my thoughts below. Dale

Birds are self taught. They learn to fly and be all that they can be
just doing what comes naturally. Birds do not require another bird to
teach them to fly by instruction and example. Mother birds "simply
allow it to occur."

No one teaches little children to walk and suckle and then chew.

But I do remember my Dad telling me to straighten up my shoulders(I am
still stoop shouldered) and Mom kept telling me to chew my food(I still
have more important things to do than eat leisurely meals). So my
parents did try to teach me by instruction and example to improve even
these basic skills.

Generally children are taught table manners by their parents with
instruction and example. I was taught by a Chinese friend to use
chopsticks when I was in my 20's.

I believe all successful CIVILIZED adults have been taught important
lessons during their lives and the most fortunate are the ones that have
been instructed by inspirational, skilled and knowledgeable teachers.
It was teachers(first my Dad and then at school) who recommended that I
practice practice practice basic mathematical skills so that when I
became an engineer my calculating would be as accurate and mistake free
as possible. Teachers guided my learning down the necessary paths of
learning and knowledge accumulations that started me on the development
of the ability to competently contribute to the design of safe and
efficient airplanes. Because the teachers instructed me how to derive
the necessary formulas from first principles and demonstrated to me
Mother Natures truths with considerable laboratory work my engineering
assumptions and approximations were based on already accomplished good
science. Because of what I had learned from teachers and books I did
not make all the same mistakes that past engineers had made.

These learnings require far more than four years of college but must
start as early in a boy or girls life as possible. My comments apply to
every endeavor where the individuals most important contributions
generally occur when they are young. Most engineers and ballet dancers
and . . . . are over the hill by the time they are 40 and they have
moved on to management or teaching or . . . . I assume that each
successful SVS school has at least one fine teacher on the staff
reflecting that the school does believe that children can benefit from
teaching if the students want to learn in the most efficient manner

I do not believe there are any autodidact CIVILIZED adults. I enjoyed
reading Kendall Hailey's book "The Day I became an Autodidact" but I
think she was taught by her parents, many people in the society she
lived in and the authors of all the books she read. Maybe it is too
much of a stretch for some of you to consider an author of a book as a
teacher but I think Daniel Greenberg and Mimsy consider themselves
teachers when they publish information on the SVS experiences.

I know that when a new SVS school is being planned the SVS books,
newsletters and pamphlets are carefully studied by the new school
developers for instructions on how to and how not to organize the new
school. I think Daniel and Mimsy and the other contributors from
Sudbury are teaching them by instruction and examples. We recently
heard that the staff is continually offering help(teaching) to
interested individuals and groups.

In fact teaching is the primary purpose of this discussion list and what
Marge and I are doing to each other. At least I am learning things I
would not learn if I was not being taught through all of your
instruction and example. I think the term autodidact can be applied to
Robinson Crusoe because he was all alone but not to Kendall Hailey or to
anyone else I know.

I think I have demonstrated(in case anyone had any doubts) that teaching
of certain learnings are important to us all.