DSM: Sudbury Schools, consensus, and coercion

Scott David Gray (sdavid@tiac.net)
Sun, 31 Oct 1999 12:19:07 -0500

WarOnTies@aol.com wrote:

> << OK, I'll bite,
> What's the difference between a democratic, non-coercive school and a
> Sudbury Model school? >>

To answer this, one would need a definition of "Sudbury Model." In practice,
most institutions that have called themselves Sudbury Model Schools have declared
themselves in favor of democratic governance and a non-coercive atmosphere.

> Two possible answers I see:
> 1) Sudbury is coercive because:
> *It operates on voting rahter than consensus

I have been part of meetings run by consensus, and meetings run by Robert's
Rules. Consensus is FAR more coercive. In practice, a consensus meeting says to
the minority "we don't get to end this meeting until you CONSENT to what the
majority wants". I have felt obliged to depart more than one group, because I
was made to feel uncomfortable and unwanted when I refused to CONSENT to things I
thought were wrong. In a regular Parliamentary Meeting, I am never denied my
right to voice my objection, maintain that the majority is wrong, and yet submit
to the will of the majority. As a perpetual member of the minority in many
gatherings, I cannot tolerate the intrinsic DISRESPECT of my individuality that
comes from a consensus style meeting.

> *It uses punishment when people break rules.

This one I'll buy. The community uses coercion to keep people from
coercing/harming others, their property, or their rights.

> 2) Sudbury is a democratic, non-coercive school, but there are democratic,
> non coercive schools that are not sudbury model.

It may be useful, that we don't have a broad definition of the Sudbury Model.
Understanding democracy, and individual liberties (non coercion) is as much art
as science, so we are probably well served by using the term "Sudbury Model" to
loosely describe those things that "smell" (to themselves and others) like they
are examples of model.

> For example:
> Five kids and one adult start a school. Since it is small, they decide to run
> it on a consenus model. They decide not to have any absolute rules, but try
> and find common prefrences.
> Definatly NOT sudbury OR coercive.

I have my doubts. See above.

-- Scott David Gray
reply-to: sdavid@tiac.net
Phone: 508/650-9639
ICQ: 27291292

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