Re: so. calif deprived of alternatives

KleinCon@aol.com
Wed, 20 Aug 1997 14:53:51 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 97-08-20 14:08:36 EDT, you write:

<< I was wondering what everyone thought about the Montessori method and
if you could briefly explain to me how it differs from the Sudbury model?
>>

Janet,

In addition to seconding Scott David's idea of looking at the SVS web
page(s), here are my two cents worth. (Background: I helped to start a
democratic school much like SVS [The Highland School, in WV] and taught there
for 8 years. My daughter attended (later) a MOntessori school for three
years here in MD.)

Montessori schools, done well, are excellent examples of what I call "nice
people doing nice things with nice kids". Maria Montessori created a
methodology and a bunch of materials that were designed to be used by kids to
explore their natural curiosities about the world around them.
Unfortunately, all too many of her disciples (and their disciples...) have
become extremely rigid in their interpretation of her methods. One often
hears them admonish children to use the materials in the "right way", as if
there were one and only one possibility inherent in the child's interaction
with the materials. I have seen Montessori schools that had the air of
silent factories for four year olds - youngsters all busily engaged, singly
and silently, with their own pursuits - rarely interacting and rarely
smiling. Scary! On the other hand, I have seen Montessori schools in which
the staff encourages the kids to actively choose what materials they will use
and how and when they will use them. This is more like the democratic school
approach as exemplified by Highland and SVS, but it is still far from it.

In a truly democratic school, all members of the school (usually staff and
students, often parents in various forms) have a "one-person-one-vote" say in
what goes on on a daily basis. This "School Meeting" passes all rules
governing behavior, attendance, "discipline", budgets, hiring, firing, etc.
Given that the students are a majority in most cases, this is a far cry from
"giving students a say" in decision-making. It is truly a democratic
community approach, open to everyone of every age.

Classes and other teaching opportunities form and unform according to the
agreements made among School Meeting members. Learning opportunities abound
and are taken on by individuals and groups of individuals as they see fit, so
long as they are in concert with school rules, which, of course, they have
full say in forming.

That's the nutshell version. I encourage you to read the web site
information and to get one or two of the SVS books. Dan Greenberg, and
others there, have done a masterful job in capturing the essence of life in a
democratic school.

Alan Klein