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

Rick Stansberger (
Thu, 16 Nov 2000 09:49:41 -0700

Kristin Harkness wrote:

> If something is true, should one refrain from saying it because it is
> painful?

Two old songs are going through my head:

It ain't what you say,
It's the way how you say it.


Timing . . . .
a tick a tick a tick a tick
Timing . . . .
a tock a tock a tock a tock
Timing is the thing, it's true.
Timing brought me to you.

Packaging the message and presenting it at the proper time, these are the keys
to persuasion. I know more than one teacher who teeters on the verge of
self-destruction because of the tension between who they are and what they do.
I want to win these worthwhile people over, without tipping them over.

> Adults have choices (unlike children).

Kids have choices, too. I survived as an independent learner in spite of the
brutal Catholic grades school and silly high school I went to.

But even with adults, some choices are easier than others. I am working on two
old friends, both of whom are respected pillars of their schools and beloved
teachers, and both of whom realize the system is screwed. One (Jane) is the
main wage earner now that her husband is retired. She grew up lower-class and
poor, and it's hard for her to leave a job which has security and small-town
prestige. The other (Jim) has a 130-year-old house that seems often to need
work, runs an urban community garden program, works with a newspaper and a
magazine for Appalachians, supports his wife who is a phenomenal artist, and
he's got two sons who are no doubt headed for college. Also, he's 56.

The only reason Katie (wife) and I were able to walk away is how we had lived
before: no car, no house, no kids, no debts. We weren't normal that way.

Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant --
Success in Circuit lies

says Emily Dickinson. A guy like Jim would need lots of nitty-gritty help
planning -- and maybe even financial help - to escape. He would also need a
functioning sudschool to go to. Expecting him to start one would be

> I may question, even
> criticize, what one chooses, but I hope that my comments are not perceived
> as an attack. Every teacher is free to stay within the system or to leave
> it, and I defend their right to choose even if I disagree with the choice
> they make. No inquisitions or purges for me, thank you very much! My
> postings here are merely an attempt to persuade those who are considering
> this question to choose 'revolution' over 'reform'.

I understand, I think. I never took your criticisms as an attack. I just
wanted to point out how others might. (Didn't somebody in this discussion call
schoolteachers the enemy?)

We're just looking through two different lenses, you (forgive me if I
misinterpret) through the conceptual lens and I through the personal lens.

> I spent one year as a university TA. I don't think this qualifies me to
> answer 'yes' to your question.

I loved my TA experience for the most part. I liked teaching in college too.
But "the trenches"! Whew! I was NOT prepared. I don't think anyone is. It's
a real reality warper.

> My experience with traditional schools was as a student. From 4th grade
> through high school I attended schools which were strongly influenced by the
> educational experimentation of the 1960s. There were some good things about
> those schools. In grade school I had little homework and lots of time to
> myself. In high school I had fewer requirements than I did when I got to
> college! The curriculum was diverse and interesting (since teachers had so
> few required courses, they could offer classes in their areas of interest).
> it was very much like college, only in high school. Neither of those
> schools is like that today. The educational direction in this country is
> toward ever more homework, requirements, testing, regimentation and
> conformity (not to mention see through backpacks and bar-coding students).
> I recently attended my high school reunion. It was sad to see how few
> choices students there have now. Mind, I would not choose either of those
> schools for myself today, even if they were structured just as they had been
> when I attended. I find the Sudbury model to be incomparably better.

No argument from me.

> For those who stay in the system today, with the prevailing educational
> winds being what they are, the expectation should be that things will only
> get worse. On the other hand, if all caring adults left the system en
> masse, radical change would have to occur.

Back in the sixties people used to say, "What if they gave a war and nobody
came?" But they don't "give" wars. They drag you into them by force or threat,
or they hurt your loved ones and you fight in grief and rage.

If the caring adults walked out en masse, the schools would be hell like they've
never been. How long would it take for them to collapse? What if they didn't
collapse? Prisons are pretty hellish places, and they've been around a long
time. What about the kids who were shoved into that system? What about them
when they came out? Do you want the products of that kind of system walking the
streets and taking entry level jobs?

If you really want to dismantle the system, I think you should take a job on
the inside. Become a sub, if you don't want to go back to school. Give it five
years. Get to know the people who run the thing and enforce the rules. Get to
know how the kids behave when they're on the inside. Know the enemy. Then you
might see weaknesses and vulnerabilities that you can exploit once you resume
your revolutionary career.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu says,

"So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be
imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you
will win one and lose one. . . . "

I'm convinced, as you seem to be, that the best way to change things is to build
and runs lots of sudschools. In order to have those schools, though, you have
to lure people away from the tradschool system. In order to be able to persuade
these people, you have to know how they think. In order to know how they think,
you have to know the system that formed their views. The more you know from
experience and not just from theory, the more likely it is that you will hit
upon the thing that convinces a given person.

(who's having so much fun talking with like-minded individuals he's putting off
the tasks his own school needs him to do)

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