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

Rick Stansberger (
Tue, 14 Nov 2000 17:01:57 -0700

> Genuine question for you, Rick -- What does it mean to participate in a
> system which one openly acknowledges is 'screwed'?

It was painful, Kristin, as you might expect. And ultimately it was
insupportable, once I saw an alternative. You'd be surprised, though, what
people can put up with if they find no way out. Even after I was convinced that
the system couldn't be reformed, I could not turn my back on those faces I saw
watching me from the desks every day.

> How do you think
> students interpret that behavior?

I know how students interpreted my behavior. They freely told me. I taught
mostly high school seniors, and by that time, most of them understood that in
any job you have to put up with negatives because of the positives.

Nobody ever accused me of not caring about kids -- they knew why I was there. I
taught in a private school where the salary averaged $10,000 less a year than in
public school, and where we didn't have job security or tenure, so nobody
accused me of being in it for the money. And with something like 180+ students
as a regular classroom teacher (not to mention another 100-200 in study hall), I
was never accused of having an easy job. At worst they thought I was crazy,
especially since I could have taught in college. At best I was given thanks,
friendship, loyalty and support by students and their parents.

I did get accused of being a hypocrite once -- by a boy whose mother had been
fired for teaching a book by a lesbian writer. I said something like, "I know
and respect your mom. She made her statement, and now she's gone from the
classroom. I'm still here, available to students. " He seemed to accept that.

Not that I bent over backwards to keep my job. I made it very clear twice in my
career that if administration didn't take certain actions I would walk. I even
made it clear under what conditions I would sue them. On the small stupidities
I tended to do the bare minimum -- like potty patrol. I'd go down there when
the smoke rolled out but I never made a bust because I seemed always to cough,
hum or scrape my shoes and give myself away.

> I am afraid that the message is that the
> system itself is inescapable.

For most of us the system IS inescapable, except for the few hundred kids who've
gone through SVM schools, and the 2-3% of the total kid population who
homeschool. If every governmental entity disappeared tomorrow, and every school
building, people would re-build schools from scratch using the factory paradigm,
because that's the only idea 90% of them know. The Sudbury Model has a long way
to go before it's even commonly known, let alone accepted.


PS: I know what you mean about Gatto. I had the same reaction the first time I
heard of him: "Why'd he stay in, get all those awards, and only turn against
the system after he retired. Is he going to give his pension back?" Still, he
does good -- even if he does seem a bit shrill to me.

Seems that you've been politely asking the same questions about me. My short
answer is -- I didn't retire, I quit. Left a good pension plan and benefits to
do so, and now I'm spending my savings to start a SVM school. Yes, I did things
I'm not proud of because they were part of the contract. But I took a heck of a
lot of grief in the process, and I'm proud of many of the kids I've had the
pleasure to know and help. I'm doing the SVM thing for kids, and if I went back
in, I'd go back in for the kids. I make no apologies about that.


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