DSM: public school prisons, and agreeing with people

Bruce Smith (bsmith@coin.org)
Sun, 19 Nov 2000 11:30:14 -0700

My comments on these recent sharp exchanges...

I would suggest that the appropriateness of comments is relative to a
discussion's purpose and audience. If, for example, the purpose is PR and
the audience is very new to the Sudbury philosophy, then I typically try to
avoid excessively sharp comments or assaults on traditional schooling.

If, on the other hand, a discussion's purpose is open dialogue between
people who choose to explore more deeply the implications of Sudbury, then
I say that it can only _be_ an open dialogue when people can freely share
their true opinions without being blasted for doing so. I do not view a
forceful, critical argument as a "tirade" until it becomes overly redundant
and personal. In fact, I find Dawn's directness and confidence admirable,
not offensive, especially when compared to the comments of those who make
assumptions and offer unsolicited advice about the way she expresses

People who take things too personally, who see condescension at every turn;
people too afraid of offending someone, or mired in getting beyond
attack-and-defend, right-and-wrong...these people contribute significantly
less to fruitful discussion than do people who simply put their honest,
passionate opinions right out there, without hiding behind flippant
sarcasm, awkward attempts at humor, or apologies about their potentially
useless ideas.

After all, what do we want? A clash and mix, an electric exchange, of
swirling ideas that gets us somewhere? Or would we rather qualify, dilute
and compromise our beliefs in order to make sure nobody's feelings get
hurt? It is possible to have a respectful, yet intense, difference of
opinion, but not if people cry foul at the style, as opposed to the
substance, of others' arguments.



"Education is identical with helping the child realize his potentialities.
The opposite of education is manipulation, which is based on the absence of
faith in the growth of potentialities, and on the conviction that a child
will be right only if the adults put into him what is desirable and
suppress what seems to be undesirable. There is no need of faith in the
robot, since there is no life in it either."

                           Erich Fromm, _The Art of Loving_

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