Re: DSM: all thumbs

Michelle Patzke (
Sun, 26 Nov 2000 07:34:07 -0600

This is Michelle from Liberty Valley School, a Sudbury School near Chicago.
 I find it funny that I often do not read DSM messages because of time
constraints, but this morning I clicked on this string and found a question
on which I just wrote an article.

As a staff member, I am often talking to parents about the possibility of
enrolling their children in our school. Recently a scientist heard a
report about us on Chicago Public Radio and called for information. I
provided him with some basic information and a packet. A couple weeks
later, I followed up with him by phone. He stated that both he and his
teenage son thought if his son enrolled at LVS he "wouldn't learn anything."

I spent a long time thinking about this. I found it incredible that a
parent would have such low expectations of his own child. I ended up
writing the article in response.

It seems to me that the public school system is a reflection of our
society. In both, it is assumed that experts know better. The logical
inference that follow from that belief is that people do not know what they
need or what is right for them so they need to ask others who know better
to tell them. Obviously, this widespread social belief applies in spades
for children who do not even have the experience that adults have.

The logical next step is to create a schooling system, that supports this
belief that others know better.

It seems to me Sudbury Schools are based on the rather obvious notion that
in the final anaylsis it is each individual alone who must make their life
work. No one is going to do it for you. Now that can be seen as scary and
a curse or as an exciting clean slate on which to build a life. The thing
in life over which we have the most control is ourselves.

Everything at Sudbury Schools supports this notion. If a person does
something at a Sudbury School it occurs through their initiative. If the
community moves forward it is because people within the community take
responsibility for seeing that it does so.

Public Schools start with, perpetuate and are devised on a negative
assumption about children that unless experts tell them what, when and how
to do something, they will fail, the answer is to look outside yourself.
Sudbury Schools are based on a diametrically opposed viewpoint. Sudbury
Schools provide an atmosphere that matter of factly says the answer is
inside of you; your life is what you make it so what is it that you want;
they provide the training ground for gaining the skills to learning how to
make YOUR life work.

I agree that raising children in a place of promise rather than defeat has
a profound effect on the adults that they become. Perhaps some adults are
too steeped in the traditional system and cannot let go for themselves or
their children? Perhaps the consequences are too scary, overwhelming,

Hope I did not get to preachy or esoteric.


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