DSM: RE: Greetings from another Student Run School

Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Tue, 10 Oct 2000 07:40:10 -0400

Howdy Jonathan.

I checked out your website - I'm really glad to know you exist...

It seems like there are some very important fundamental attributes MSAL has
in common with the Sudbury model schools, most notably the belief that the
coercion inherent in the operation of conventional schools is bad for
students. In your school, as ours, students are not graded or segregated,
and there is no school-imposed curriculum.

My first impression is that the pedegogical dynamics of MSAL strongly
resemble how a Sudbury model school potentially operates for secondary level
students (and does so from time to time if the student so chooses).

Additionally, I believe our schools have fundamental differences with yours
that would presumably invoke broad implications:

- Permanent physical campus
- Direct democratic governance
- We are not "student-run" (though perhaps that can be partially attributed
to the fact that you define the word "student" differently??)

>From your site:
> (1) There are no teachers. Students learn from more advanced students or
on their own.

- I see where you're going with that one - that we're all students, even the
"David" adult that was "teaching" MSAL students math (although I guess we're
all teachers in that same sense).

Our difference in approaches on that front probably amounts to semantics.
We have students, we have staff members, any of whom can be teachers or
students at a given time. The roles of staff members probably don't differ
from your "David" except that:

- Ours are paid, therefore bound to their roles
- They have _some_ input regarding the logistics and direction of the class
- They are also paid to be responsible for ensuring the day-to-day operation
of the school (which is a withering amount of work).

I think structures of governance are much more important to us, as we belive
that the environment, resources and infrastructure of the school can, absent
strong US-Constitution-esque structures, easily be bent to any given
individual's (staff OR students') personal agenda and potential for exerting
sometimes-hard-to-recognize coercion. This may be less of an issue to you,
lacking static resources and infrastructure.

Some questions, which I will ask in the spirit of non-hierarchical learning,
that being the most direct and skeptical way possible:

1) I get the impression you are a small group, and that most of your
interests lie in fairly common areas. But if a MSAL student appears wanting
to study something that nobody else is into, how does the school handle it?
Since the school's resources (study groups and projects) spring forth
exclusively from the interests of the student_s_, are there essentially no
school resources available for that person?

2) It seems like your operation incurs profit/loss from time to time.
Profit and loss normally implies governance; a corporation, treasurer and
the like. How is that handled in your group - are you a non-profit corp.?

3) Why is Charles Champion's picture so messianically centered at the top of
the MSAL what.htm page? Is Charles in Charge? ;)

-Joe Jackson from Fairhaven School in Upper Malboro, Maryland
please note my new email address:
Kids rule at Fairhaven School

> Hi,
> I'm really glad to find out about your school(s).
> We thought we might be the only student run school,
> but you're even older than we are! Would love to
> share info and experiences regarding our schools;
> perhaps collaborate in some way. Check us out on our
> website below and let us know what you think.
> **The main focus of MSAL activities on the internet is
> the MSAL web site which you should be
> able to find at either
> http://www.champgroup.com/msal or
> http://msal.webhop.org.
> Sincerely
> Jonathan
> __________________________________________________
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