RE: DSM: public school prisons (sharing the SVS model, etc.)

Joe Jackson (
Thu, 9 Nov 2000 17:05:34 -0500

I think the entire question comes down to whether folks think that we can
bring Sudbury model schooling to all of our nation's students through reform
or revolution.

Reformers think that only by working within the current system can we make
it better and introduce revolutionary ideas, and that abandoning the system
for an alternative which will never become mainstream abandons the masses
that really need them.

Revolutionaries think we should abandon the system and not waste our energy
on a bloated system that is unlikely to ever see real change.

It's interesting to note that while reform per se is by definition a more
reasonable approach to effecting change in our world, legions of folks who
are smarter and more energetic than I have been trying and utterly failing
to reform our nation's schools for a century.

> Firstly, the students who most need the benefits of education
> (however unfree) don't go to democratic schools, because they can't AFFORD

Fairhaven has a tuition assistance program, but even if we didn't I would
say that any parents that are willing to do what needs to be done to send
students there can and will.

> It seems to me to be frequently forgotten that most students at SVM
> schools have at least some form of financial cushions, whihc allows them
> much more "freedom" both in their choice of education and their subsequent
> choice of career and lifestyle. Not surprisingly then, minorities - who
> are overrepresented in low-income families, haven't enjoyed the benefits
> of democratic schooling.

I question the cause-effect implied in that statement. Prince George's
county is one of the wealthiest African-American counties in the nation, yet
we have two African-Americans out of forty students.

I agree the model doesn't attract racial minorities as well as caucasians,
but I strongly dispute that the primary reason is fiscal.

> For us to tell public school teachers that they are complicit in
> undemocratic and unfree education, and that they should bail ship if they
> truly believe in democracy and freedom, is to tell them to abandon all of
> the children who don't have the privilege of alternative, private
> schooling, and who need to do "well" (by whatever miserable standards) to
> have any chance of reasonable living conditions when they leave school.

Once again, reformer vs. revolutionary. What you are saying probably
represents the view of the reformer, and the revolutionary stance is that
having good folks devote their energy to the system only fuels and
strengthens its ability to operate in a way that doesn't really represent
the way those folks wish.

> The SVS hiring
> structure is also highly discriminatory against potential staff members in
> need of a steady job paying a living wage.

I would say that historically, participants in a revolution don't
necessarily enjoy the same benefits or lifestyle available to the
establishment. The word discrimination is a bit strong and seems to imply
intent, when in fact the reasons behind the hiring practices of SM schools
are usually more or less dictated by their very status as counter-mainstream

> I think it's extremely unfair to devalue the work done by consciencious
> teachers in traditional schools, doing the best that they can within the
> constraints given to them by their employers. The dominance of unfree
> schooling is more of a political than a pedagogical problem, and it won't
> be solved by swaying the pedagogical sensibilities of teachers

For the record my .02 is that I do not devalue their work for the exact
reason you outline. However, the point that by working hard they are
strengthening a system that will never be significantly bent remains, in my
mind, undebatable.

It is a difficult dilemma.

-Joe Jackson, posting from Philly where I am on an Airmen of Note tour!
please note my new email address:
Kids rule at Fairhaven School

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