Re: DSM: Getting it

Scott Gray (
Sun, 26 Nov 2000 08:28:53 -0500 (EST)


  Putting on my hat as an amateur in the social sciences... Your
underlying premise is mistaken -- the claim that only 10% of the human
brain is actually used is an old wives tale. Every single neuron and
glial cell seems to have some direct use in making us who we are in _all_
people (barring a handful of persons with neurological dysfunction).
  Believe me, if I were to surgically remove the 90% of your neurons which
fire least, I guarantee that someone will notice the difference -- those
cells are _not_ unused. By the same token, if I force those cells which
fire less frequently to fire often, once again someone will notice the
difference as you spasm and recall things and produce words without any
outside cause and effect!

  Putting on my hat as a person who has a long standing involvement with
Sudbury Valley... One of the fundamental assumptions of the school is
that no life is inherently better or more fulfilling than any other -- we
do not assume (as most schools do) that it is "better" to be an academic
or a political leader or a succesful businessman or a well respected
artist, than it is to run a small shop be a gardener be an auto mechanic
or be a film critic for a tiny paper.
  What _if_ there is "more"? Who is to decide what is "more?" We leave
that to the free market of ideas. If some people at SVS immerse
themselves more deeply in academia, and somehow exploit their own mind and
energy than others, we don't object to them doing it _or_ to others seeing
it and following their example. But we don't encourage it either.
  And finally, this is why other schools are innately anti-intellectual
while Sudbury schools are not. Putting academia on a pedastal, and
assuming that it is somehow _innately_ more noble, has a very serious
disadvantage in other schools. Those schools are sending a message --
that academia _must_ be dull or why the heck would these other people feel
obliged to cajole us to be more involved in academic pursuits? It
teaches, first and foremost, that the "most important thing in life" is so
dull that authorities in your life feel you wouldn't pursue it without
being cajoled -- and thereby it teaches that everyone expects a
_succesful_ life to be uninteresting.

  As a footnote on the question of the origin of the "10% of the brain"
wives tale... This is based upon some half-baked assumptions, some of
which are outrageous (e.g. "we can calculate how many 'things' a person
can remember about any given scene we show her/him, and how much room that
would optimally take in the human brain") and some of which are ridiculous
(e.g. "its obvious that the only use of the human brain is to remember
things"). This formulation was very common in the popular press during
the height of the "behaviorist" model of the brain (since pretty straight
out debunked) which assumes that mind is only a "black box" and not worthy
of study and then goes on to assume that the "black box" doesn't even
exist. Bear in mind that we only recently began to hesitantly catalog
some functions of the glial cells in the brain (formerly thought to be
only 'support structures') -- who is such an expert neurologist that s/he
can succesfully say what role any given (let alone every given) neuron or
glial cell is playing? And why hasn't s/he been awarded the Nobel prize
yet? Forget it -- the brain is not just a memory bank, it is a personality
machine and, as near as we can tell, it works to its _full_ potential to
do that well!

On Sat, 25 Nov 2000, Robert Swanson wrote:

> on 11/22/00 6:23 AM, Rick Stansberger at wrote:
> > ...And that's my answer to your question about what I think goes on in
> > sudschools: people doing what they were designed to do. Lungs breathe,
> > brains
> > learn. And by "learn" I don't mean absorb information or record conditioning.
> > I mean interact with the world on the basis of perceived truth, which is
> > constantly being tested, revised, refined. What do you think people do in
> > sudschools?
> > Rick
> >
> >From what I've read it seems the student's at SVS play a lot and talk a lot.
> Surely this goes a long way to supporting development mentally and socially,
> at least as compared to public schooling. I get the idea there is a
> tremendous inner sense of self so different from what I know. This sense
> seems to enable a passage through life with an ease and creativity much the
> opposite from my sense of hesitancy and fear.
> The question that remains for me asks is there more? If sudstudents knew
> people develop 1% of their higher brain potential maybe they too would ask
> is there more. If it is true that potential only develops if it is modeled
> then perhaps we are doing a disservice not actively exposing students to
> people expressing higher function.
> If this is true, what is holding SVS back from moving in this direction? Is
> the intent still there that started the school in the first place?
> robert
--Scott David Gray
reply to:
A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change
the subject.

-- Winston Churchill

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