Re: DSM: Sharing the SVS model

Rick Stansberger (
Sat, 11 Nov 2000 09:16:05 -0700

Dear Kathleen,

Other people have answered your interesting questions. I'd like to give it a

> 1. Does, in fact, the Sudbury Model call forth a new method qualitatively
> different
> than attack and defend?

The history of ideas is an interest of mine. I've noticed two paths for a new

One is the path of efficiency. Many ideas (the stirrup, the printing press, the
automobile, the personal computer) sell like hot cakes because they make our
lives easier in the short run and what's the harm in that? The stirrup, some
say, made the Middle Ages possible, the printing press helped bring on the
Protestant Reformation, the automobile created urban sprawl, and now we've got
cyberspace thanks to the computer. These ideas slip in with hardly a ripple.
Anybody who opposes them looks like a dwork.

The second path is the path of confrontation. This involves attack and defense.
The promoters of the new idea do so because it's "good and right" and attack the
old because it's "bad and wrong." The defenders of the old idea have the same
feelings but in the reverse. Blood is usually shed.

Few ideas actually ever die. They just move to a different niche. We still have
flint and steel to start fires (cigarette lighter), and we're still a largely
steam-powered society (steam turbine electric generators).

We can go to war over the sudschool model, but why not look at it as something
cool and efficient, rather than as something right and virtuous? It is
incredibly efficient in terms of learning. It is also relatively cheap. Who
needs all those highly paid administrators for buildings and districts when the
staff and students and parents run things democratically? No more expensive
testing. No expensive tenure for deadwood teachers. Record-keeping is
simplified, too. Sure, they're expensive when you consider that public schools
are "free." But I bet they're less expensive in terms of total cost. Here in
Grant County, public schools spend $4,300 per "unit" (student), but you can go
over to the Down to Earth School or Market Street for $2000. We plan our tuition
for somewhere between $2K and $3K.

If public schools became sudschools -- which they could do without adding new
facilities or programs -- I'm convinced they'd run more cheaply and "produce an
infinitely better product" (to drop into edu-speak for a bit).

> 2. Why, after thirty years are Sudbury schools so hard to do, given that
> other educational models are so patently invasive and destructive?

I think it takes a generation to prove the effectiveness of a method for
educating children. Now there are data to back up the faith of the founders.
Now I think the idea is ready to pop.

> 3. Are children or anyone ever really damaged?

In factory schools? Oh yes. I've seen them.

> 4. If they are damaged, what is the characterization of such damage?

Let's just say that they learn a lot of stuff about themselves and the world that
is erroneous. That's enough to harm anybody.

> 5. If Sudbury Valley schools can institutionalize respect for children, and
> such respect is the sufficient condition for the freedom of children, can
> others ,knowing this, offer respect on their own in institutions other than
> this model?

Sure. I did. Still, though, I had to try to bust guys for smoking in the johns,
or I'd have lost my job. There's only so much respect the system allows you to
give. (I say "try" because I never made a righteous bust. When the clouds came
billowing out, I always made too much noise and they doused them before I got
there. "Well, Gee, Principal Smith, I TRY to keep the smoking down. I'm in
there at least twice a day!")

> 6. Basically, was there not both kindness and goodness, among slaves, even
> in the plantation system?
> Kathleen Richardson

Yup. I like the saying, "Fix the problem, not the blame." But teachers do need
to take responsibility for being part of the system, because they are. A slave
owner, no matter how kind, is still a slave owner, and even if you free your
slaves, they still live in slave country. Ultimately, that system has to be
replaced -- if only because it doesn't work very well. Sudschools have the
advantage of being both humane AND effective. I try to sell the 'effective" part
when I'm talking to those who don't see factory schools as inhumane. There's
enough data to show they're inefficient.


"Life is too important to be taken seriously."  Oscar Wilde

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