Re: DSM: Ambition and Humility

Rick Stansberger (
Sat, 18 Nov 2000 21:25:13 -0700

Joseph Moore wrote:

> We have this great ambition: to change the way children are educated (or, in
> our terms, educate themselves). Unavoidably, this puts us in conflict with a
> majority of people we come across, who are invested, one way or another, in
> the current way of doing things. So, many of us (all of us?) get at least a
> little evangelical when talking about the model - we all have our facts and
> stories and feelings lined up to argue our case.

Yes, and you may have noticed the low repute in which evangelists are held these
days. Probably a good idea to have a variety of approaches to fit our various
audiences. I'm partial to humor, myself. Hard to be mad at somebody who makes
you laugh. And if we can laugh at ourselves, it softens zealotry.

> It's not a theoretical argument, at least not any more - people can compare
> how a Sudbury schools works to how a traditional school works.

Ah, but the comparison is not straightforward, since SVM schools don't test.
You can possibly do a comparison after the kids leave, but that's a long time to
wait, and what do you do with those independent souls who refuse to take the
test? Not easy to put this down on a graph and show the legislature.

> But there are
> theoretical (or philosophical) considerations: It is essential to the model
> that we have faith that kids will, if left free to do it, learn whatever
> they feel is necessary.

Exactly, and faith is a sort of inside v. outside thing. Faith can't be
justified to those who don't have it, and it needn't be justified to those who
do. How does one without faith get faith? It's pretty mysterious and highly

> Further, we believe that an environment of free
> choice helps kids become self-reliant, independent and strong - and, most of
> all, happy. Conversely, if you think it's the school's job to see to it that
> kids turn out some particular way, you will end up infringing on the kids'
> innate freedom - and, if you lose that lesson, you've lost a major point of
> the model.

Forgive me if I see a paradox here. Don't SVM schools seek to see to it that
kids turn out a certain way, too, i.e. "self-reliant, independent and strong -
and, most of
all, happy"?

> While on the one hand we want to change the world, on the other, we don't
> presume to tell the kids how (or even if) they should go about changing it.
> That's their call - as founders and parents, we want to give them a chance -
> then humbly step aside so that they can take it.

It is humbling to see people (kids or adults) take their lives into their own
hands and make something spectacular and unpredictable out of them?

Do you think that the same faith we have in SVM kids we could have in the
parents and teachers who are honestly searching for a better way?

> So, in this sense, we oppose any plans that start out with a pre-determined
> view of how kids should turn out when properly educated, whether that view
> is of good little consumers and workers (factory schools) or some sort of
> metaphysically enlightened bodhisattvas, or any place between.

Well said. May I quote you to our founders group?

> Good
> intentions can not be allowed to overrule people's innate right to freedom
> just because those people happen to be kids. Possibly the worst schools are
> those whose keepers are most convinced of the purity of their goals for the
> kids.


San Vicente Sudbury School
Silver City, NM

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