Re:DSM:People Measurers

Linda Siska (siskal@hotmail.com)
Wed, 27 May 1998 10:12:03 PDT

There have been some interesting questions raised the past few days, and
as a very satisfied parent of a teenage "lounger" at Sudbury Valley
School, I would like to offer my perspective.

First of all, my experience with "good" traditional schools has been
extensive. There was my own education, that of my daughter (now grown),
and of my son (who was enrolled in public school until age 16), as well
as the years I spent both teaching and volunteering in schools. I do
agree that traditional schools are not without merit. There are many
creative, caring, dedicated teachers who are doing their best to make
the experience a positive one, and as most kids today are enrolled in
traditional schools, I am deeply grateful for the efforts of all those
teachers. I also know that the system mitigates against those efforts.
Anytime 20-30 children approximately the same age spend 5-6 hours a day
closeted together, evaluated, judged, and labelled, the experience is
not going to be optimal. But what concerns me most are the hidden
lessons:
-That learning is something that takes place in school, is
primarily regurgitation, and is done to please the teacher (every kid
wants those smiley faces!) I've seen children who weren't ready for
something, such as reading, come to distrust their own ability to learn
and try instead to guess what the teacher wants.
-That obedience is the same thing as responsibility. I am also
concerned that reward and punishment systems in place in most classrooms
engender the attitudes "what's in it for me?" and "it's okay as long as
I don't get caught."
-That life is a no-win situation. This is especially true for
young males who are encouraged to be competitive, aggressive, and active
out on the playing field, but docile and sedentary in class. To make
matters worse, the "disruptive" student generally gets the most
attention while the "good" kid goes largely unnoticed. If you don't
think this is a real problem, try talking to some of the disaffected
teenagers who have been through the system!

As for how Sudbury students fare in life as compared to others, the
criteria for evaluation assumes a certain value system. "How many go on
to college" implies that going to college is better than not going. SVS
graduates often opt to learn on their own rather than pay someone else
to teach them, one of the hidden lessons of this school being that one
is fully capable of learning whatever need or desire dictates. To use
literacy levels as a criteria belies a prejudice for second-hand, book
learning over that of first-hand experience. I have nothing against
books; I am an avid reader myself. But I am aware that reading is
vicarious at best and that knowledge does not equate wisdom. One of the
hidden lessons of a Sudbury school is that life's experiences (working
our real problems in real ways) are essential to learning and growth.

As you can see, any statistical comparison of traditionally schooled and
SVS students would be simplistic.

Linda at siskal@hotmail.com

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