Re: DSM: Sharing the SVS model

Scott Gray (
Sat, 11 Nov 2000 04:21:42 -0500 (EST)

  It is true that many people who are very close to the Sudbury Model are
convinced that "working inside the public schools to change them" is

  There are several ideas behind this, including:
  1: The good you do may only prove the point to one generation that is OK
for them to put their kids in traditional school because "it is _possible_
to be a good teacher in that environment"
  2: To keep your job, however much you try to make your class pleasant,
you still have a class -- and many people from the Sudbury school
perspective feel that the very philosophy underlying the _concept_ of a
class is at the heart of the problem in traditional schools. In specific,
I feel that the act of moving from class to class is "teaching" two very
particular lessons -- that society as a whole does not trust your
instincts and that society as a whole is so certain that _academic_
subjects are so boring (despite their reputed value) that people have to
be coerced or cajoled to engage in academic pursuits. This teaches _both_
powerlessness, _and_ a general disrespect of academia.
  3: Taking a paycheck from the school system is suggesting a moral
support for that system, and is in fact increasing the "supply" side of
the teacher equation and thereby allows the system to purchase even _more_
teachers with the same resources.
  4: It is hard to sit in an environment where _you_ are constantly judged
on your ability to "handle" your classroom, without slipping up and
becoming the sort of person that _tries_ to "handle" a classroom. In
other words, the old Northern argument against Slavery that slavery
corupts event the "good" slaveholders.

  In fact, several staff in Sudbury Schools have _been_ teachers in
traditional schools. It is interesting to note that many (all?) of those
who have been staff in Sudbury schools long enough to deeply understand
the philosophy and culture of a Sudbury school, tend to agree that working
in the public schools had been counter-productive.
  In part, this is because there are very deep practical and philosophical
ramifications to the ideas in a Sudbury school that can only be partly
understood by a person who has not immersed him/herself in a community
which lives the ideas.

  A person who lives in France and has read the newspapers may have some
opinions about American culture (and perhaps very valuable reflaections on
it that Americans cannot see), and a person in France who has read several
scholarly books on American culture may have a deeper sense about the
American culture, but the person who has absorbed the philosophical
underpinnings of American culture by living in America will always
understand things which cannot be understood by a person who has never
lived in America. Likewise, books and academic discussions about what
liberty means to children are very valuable -- but those books only tell
half of a story, and the other half can only be understood by being
immersed in a culture of free children.
  I _hate_ the argument "you are outside this community and so cannot ever
hope to understand it." And I am _not_ making that argument. Instead I
am trying to explain why it is _difficult_ to grasp some of the very
subtle philosophical underpinnings in a Sudbury school. Please try to
understand not just the pedagogical philosophy of Sudbury schools, but
also the philosophy of human nature and human rights, before evaluating
the claim made by many proponents of Sudbury schools that the Sudbury
model is wholly incompatible with the traditional school system.

  As a footnote, I'll mention my own opinion as to how to best implement
the Sudbury model in such a way that it is available for the public.
Ignore the "public school" model -- that is far too tied up in people's
minds with the concept of curricula and truancy laws. Rather, I would
suggest that public libraries are wholly compatible with the Sudbury
  Imagine how nice it would be if even one fifth of the money eaten by a
public school system, which caters to people who _don't_ want to be there,
were spent on public resources available for anyone or everytone in the
town is s/he chooses to make use of it. The library model can expand
beyond books -- one could have a library include a football field for
those citizens of the town that want one, a swimming pool, a full
gymnasium, guest speakers, an appliance lending library (need a rug
shampooer? Go down to the library and borrow one).
  A library doesn't require any member of the town to make use of its
services, and so does not violate freedom of assembly. And a library is
available to all residents, and so is not "elitist" in a way that a school
is. (After all, if I pay taxes in my town I'm _still_ not allowed to use
the football field unless I am a student in the high school.) A library
lets those who can make _use_ of the library make use of it, and lets
others walk away from it.

  Talking about changing the public schools, I fear, is useless. The fact
is, huge industries are built up around curricula and mandatory
attendance. It is politically easier to demolish them than it would be to
reform them -- not that it is politically _possible_ to talk about
demoplishing them at this point. Which leaves one alternative -- run an
institution _right_ so that the idea can spread to others who can see that
what you're doing is working, and hope that one day the idea will break
into the popular culture far enough that one _can_ start dismantling the

On Fri, 10 Nov 2000, Rick Stansberger wrote:

> Julianne Madrid wrote:
> > Kathleen,
> >
> > I also work in a public school and I agree that there
> > are many committed people who work there. It is my
> > struggle currently to figure out how to deal with
> > making a living in the system we have (at least for
> > now) while striving to maintain my own integrity in
> > the matter of respect for young people, etc. The fact
> > remains that this is the system that the majority of
> > young people in this country go through. I don't
> > think attacking the teachers is the way to go about
> > it.
> I see an analogy to Viet Nam and the protestors calling returning vets baby killers. But the anti-war
> vets had incredible power with the public when they showed up at protests and spoke from the knowledge
> of people who had been there. I think that pro-Sudbury p.s. teachers can have a similar impact. If
> only Sudbury insiders promote the Sudbury way, John and Jane Public will always be able to question
> their motives.
> R

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
I don't have any solution, but I certainly admire the

-- Oscar Wilde

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