Re: DSM: Dismal according to their own measure...

Scott Gray (
Mon, 4 Oct 1999 09:23:36 -0400 (EDT)

People asked about how others make certain PR arguments. I don't know how
much this will help, but the following is an outline of many of the
arguments that I use when talking about the school to others. This was
really written for my own eyes, so I don't know how many of these line
items will be understood by others (I use a lot of shorthand)... If anyone
wants an explication of one of the lines or sections, please feel free to
ask me.

One of the things I try to do, in talking about the school, is to assume
in my discussion that the person I'm talking with already agrees with me
-- one's audience tends to take an adversarial role if one treats them as
adversarial. That is to say, if someone asks about critical periods I
_DON'T_ sit up and assume that they are arguing against SVS... I smile
and lean in and say something like "exactly -- you're absolutely on the
money, the existence of critical periods is one of the best arguments
against traditional schooling"... People are easy to convince when they
think that they already agreed with you. (When people start a discussion,
they often don't know where they stand -- I try to make sure when talking
about SVS that each person walks away thinking that s/he already agreed
with my basic principles and is glad to have now found out about SVS.)

It's actually not that hard to get an intelligent audience that is willing
to listen to the arguments to agree. The REAL problem is getting people
to CONTINUE to agree a week after the conversation hass ended... That's
what endless flyers, followups, and presense in the media is good for
(thank providence for Mimsy).

  1 Introduction
   1.1 The beauty of freedom
    1.1.1 Life doesn't have to be for an aim or an end to be beautiful
   1.2 People often talk about children as if who they are at present
doesn't matter
    1.3.1 People talk about the child's "role" as becoming something
    1.3.2 The child is not a tabula rasa, to be written upon by a parent
or society Children are born whole people, and their personas unfold in
a rich environment Research on this, which show dramatic differences in
newborn babies' personalities Life comes between a vibrant interaction, not the methodical
   1.3 Defending a negative
    1.3.1 The negative assumption is no correlation between two things
    1.3.2 It is impossible to prove a negative, only to defend it
    1.3.3 How we know things How and why the negative assumption is the presumption of
innocence in court The negative assumption and the experimental method
    1.3.4 Society expects certain negative propositions to be proven John Stuart Mill, in "the Subjection of Women", encountered
this problem
    1.2.5 Assume there is no correlation between coercion and learning
until proved
  2 How people learn
   2.1 People are born with minds, so must be born able to use them
    2.1.1 The pre-industrial environments in which we evolved The children played together, un-supervised The children were allowed to explore all of society The children were allowed to form their own relationships
    2.1.2 References to schooling in earlier times No schools for ten-thousand years Greatest minds and greatest societies unschooled Great Societies Babylon Athens Baghdad Great Individuals learned without school Saint Augustine Rene Descartes Benjamin Franklin Samuel Cooleridge Thomas Edison These people are NOT the exception, and the list goes
on (I didn't end this with a preposition, really -- "goes on" is a unit
which acts as a verb)
    2.1.3 There are certain natural mechanisms for learning Curiosity and exploration Spontaneous play Role modeling Conversation Age mixing The Lancasterian classrooms, not good but instructive
   2.2 Some interesting things we know
    2.2.1 People enjoy learning
    2.2.2 People learn less well under compulsion Cognitive dissonance Story about $5 to play Chasing grades, rather than academia
    2.2.3 Critical periods There are a large number of interrelated critical periods It is beyond science's ability at present to fathom them They don't occur at the same time They are not easily measurable They inspire the child to work non-stop at mastery This work is efficient, and beyond current comprehension Children don't have to be taught to walk Children don't have to be taught to speak Compulsory school may hinder, rather than help We do not know how to exploit even the best documented We can't map every neuron or physiological state The best judge of using a critical period is the child
    2.2.4 People learn by doing, rarely by study Ask an adult: what did you learn today? How they actually do it; being read to, specific
interests, etc. Why they do it Reading is easy Learning as an aside Learning is NOT synonymous with "being educated", or with
"study" People learn as an aside, playing their favorite games People learn as an aside in conversation People learn constantly, you can't stop them Examples Undergraduate students and graduate students, with
statistics Learning to read
  3 About the current school system
   3.1 Why the schools exist in their current form
    3.1.1 It helps businesses that schools exist It keeps kids off the street It turns out practical workers Students learn to follow arbitrary orders Students stop thinking Schools break down the community inside the family
    3.1.2 The origins of extensive testing, evaluation and differentiation The fights for differentiation at the beginning of 20th
Century Some words that will sound painful to modern ears As we've already seen, backed by industry Who the differentiation serves Not students, who are barred from academia they seek Why limit knowledge? We don't put police in bookstores We don't require individual testing for magazine
subscriptions William F. Buckly doesn't warn his audience not to
watch "without proper grounding and advanced knowledge" So, why university admittance tests? If all taxes go to it, all should benefit It doesn't serve a student to bar her/him What use is testing? I will not deny that testing measures some things It measures, if nothing else, how well one took
that test I can accept certain sorts of tests I can see an argument that the State has an
interest in assuring the public that a person knows the law (has passed
the bar) before allowing a person to serve as a public defender I can see an argument that the State has an
interest in certifying that a person can perform medicine well, before
s/he is allowed to work as a doctor in a public hospital I can see no cause for the State to judge others
w/o request for specific role which demands special trust from the
community for her/him to perform When an individual would be helped by an
evaluation, what prevents her/him from seeking it Each person is the only one with the right to
choose to test her/himself in a situation where the test is not useful for
certification or licensing An unsolicited test is intrusive on a person's
rights and ability to educate her/himself in the free market of ideas Any results or scores of a test that are seen
by others than the person him/herself are an obvious violation of privacy
and invitation to misuse by the State or others It doesn't serve the parents As general rule, what helps children helps parents It doesn't serve academia to bar interested people Consider the effects of the G.I. bill G.I.s got into schools that used to be reserved for
the wealthy Nobody thought they could cut it Government wanted to stave off depression after war Government didn't want expert soldiers unemployed
(and revolutionary) School was a holding place for soldiers Colleges wanted the money It only serves the already well off It stops upward mobility Imagine Abraham Lincoln with a guidance counselor Consider the Pygmalion effect
   3.2 Why people today think the schools are good
    3.2.1 Powerful economic forces Test and textbook makers Powerful teachers' unions
    3.2.2 Self-fulfilling prophecies and fallacies More ambitious kids seek degrees, not other way around Because we tell them degrees are valuable So, they seek valuable things Desire to justify one's life Teachers Parents Former students Students
  4 Morality
   4.1 Even if two competing systems work just as well, why not liberty
   4.2 Society should, when possible, be pluralistic, no official truth
    4.2.1 The argument against official truth has a practical side Free market of ideas
    4.2.2 All curricula say some things are more important than others
    4.2.3 Who should get to choose the curriculum Consider the anti-whig and anti-Jacksonian curricula Consider creationism vs. natural selection debate Consider debate over including sex education Consider debates weighing art, science, business, morals
  5 On the fundamentals of society in the modern United States
   5.1 Liberty
    5.1.1 Who is to judge another's' use of her/his freedom?
    5.1.2 Where does sovereignty reside?
    5.1.3 The various freedoms thought and speech Assembly Due process
   5.2 Equality
     5.2.1 Equality before the law; not assumption of same needs
   5.3 Democracy
    5.3.1 Full participation not aim Concept developed at height of populism Pols want their own electorate to vote
    5.3.2 Equality and Democracy Voting as individuals, not as blocks The three estates in the French revolution New York City and the borough presidents
  6 Educational solutions
   6.1 What we need from an educational policy
    6.1.1 The ability to be involved with others at work and play Interactions with peers Interactions with others
    6.1.2 Children with sovereignty over their own lives Child rights enshrined in law, protected by courts The right of children to participate in politics
   6.2 Long term educational policy
    6.2.1 Restructure society Make the wider community safe and welcoming Remove and rewrite laws based around age restrictions The repeal of truancy laws, opening of schools to all The vote On inability, at any age, and the role of the family The transformation of schools to libraries for each community Contents Actual inventory Books Internet connection Guest lecturers Gymnasiums Appliance library How the community decides what services to offer
   6.3 The Sudbury Valley School -- a school meeting current needs
    6.3.1 Guarantees Liberty Equality Political democracy The budget Hiring / firing staff, a staff without tenure The making of rules The creation and overseeing of administrative offices
    6.3.2 The rule of law, and not of individuals The judicial committee and due process The publishing of rules
    6.3.3 Interactions
    6.3.4 The role of the staff
    6.3.5 Fiscal policy of self-sufficiency Easier when half of meeting needed to approve any expenditure
    6.3.6 Ownership of the community, membership and parents Whose tuition is it anyway? It's unpleasant to be examined every day People need a place of their own To create their own societies To have experiences outside of the family
    6.3.7 The school is successful Judging success, and the problems with doing so The difficulty of conducting a true experiment Career or college of first choice Self reports of happiness and fulfillment The range of students is akin to range of productive citizens Students in all walks of life References, external and internal studies
  7 Assorted arguments
   7.1 Children must be guaranteed exposure to certain subjects
    7.1.1 Perle cannot avoid exposure in the information age
    7.1.2 Curricula are designed to limit / guide exposure, not create it
   7.2 Society needs certain types of people for the future
    7.2.1 The free market Malthus, Darwin, Adam Smith, others
    7.2.2 We do not know what societies needs will be We don't know for 50 years, 5 years, or even 5 months We never know what society needs, except at stagnation School may be promoting stagnation
    7.2.3 Children must learn discipline It is not learning, to learn to fall when pushed The only meaningful discipline is self discipline
    7.2.4 Adults have to go to jobs, school is a child's job People choose their own jobs What sort of job does school prepare students for? Employers want independence in post industrial age A person in a real job (even a serf) produces real wealth Freedom allows a person to do valuable things Valuable, if only valuable to self Busy work is not valuable Busy work generally repeats others' work The students don't choose it The teacher doesn't want to read it Nobody else will read it -- destined for circular file
    7.2.5 Safety Free children are safe Children are naturally cautious Is it really safe to learn to obey others' authority? Consider cases of misconduct by authorities When intervention is OK On the same grounds for any age To prevent a momentary lapse causing serious damage To protect others To allow any person interfered with social recourse
  8 Conclusions

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