Re: DSM: Articulating the process

Scott David Gray (
Sun, 18 Oct 1998 23:12:25 -0400

You have just touched on an important debate in the Sudbury Model schools. One
trend, maintains that the right to sovreignty over one's own life can _only_ be
exercised by that person him/herself, and so the moral right to control their own
lives is _automatically_ invested in children. The other trend is to believe that
sovreignty over the family is and should be invested in the parents, and that the
school exists to serve the parents who _choose_ to give their children sovreignty
over their own lives.

While I certainly think that it is tragic when a child wants to attend Sudbury
Valley and a parent is uncomfortable with it, I believe that a child has the moral
authority to make that choice. There are eloquent arguments for the other
viewpoint; maintaining that a child who feels that her/his life at school is not
endorsed by her/his parents is in a worse position than if s/he had attended a
school of the parents' choice. My feeling, however, is that the child can
reasonably take his/her daily discomfort at home into account when deciding how to
live her/his life. I feel that I have no more right (as an individual, or an
institution) to second-guess a child's decision to live a life different than
her/his parents want her/him to live, than the parents have to second-guess that
child's life-style. If a child does take the difficult path of following a life
disapproved of by her/his parents, I will not be alienated from that child or
withdraw my support.

There is no "proof" that the morality I present is right, or that the morality of
"parental responsibility" is wrong. It's a feeling, and an aesthetic sense on my
part, to feel that the right of a person (at any age) to control over her/his own
life is inalienable. I can't offer any defense for what I suggest, than a claim
that it _feels_ wrong to me that a parent should be allowed to infringe on his/her
child's liberty for any cause besides that child's safety or to protect the rights
of others.

I cannot contest the fact that legally, parents can place their children into
whatever sort of school they wish. But I don't have to like it. And when a child
disagrees with her/his parent about what would be the right life for her/him, I
will not pretend to claim that the parent has more moral authority in the question
than the child does. In short, I (personally) have no objection to students
enrolling when their _parents_ dislike the school, so long as the _child_ knows
it's the right place for her/him. wrote:

> >As long as the
> >parents _know_ what the school is about and think it is the best place
> >for
> >their child and therefore will not sabotage the child
> So you wouldn't take a student whose parents thought the kids was making a big
> mistake but let them choose anyway?

Take care,

Scott David Gray

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