DSM: Re: Prompting discussion

Todd Robinson (tsr@speakeasy.net)
Sun, 26 Nov 2000 19:03 -0800


Thanks for your response. I would like to offer a few thoughts and clarifications.

> There is no formal or informal affiliation between the schools, but there
> is constant contact and communication between most of the schools (largely
> through the DemStartup listserve).

Is the DemStartup list-serv publicly available? If so, how does one join it?

> Since the purpose of our PR is to let folks who might want to attend our
> school know about us and what we do, we have chosen to do "aim" what
> outreach work we have done directly to parents and students, and not other
> schools. Our goal is not to change other schools.

>From your comments and others I have read, I can tell that the efforts to successfully open and run an Sudbury-model school require all the attention of everyone involved. However, I believe that any successful movement for social change must debate and define its long-term visions on an on-going basis. These visions will vary somewhat from person to person, and not everyone involved may share every vision, but the overall theme of the movement must be shared and reflected on in order to address short- and medium-term problems.

Based on this, I would like to hear a bit about the visions of the various people who are involved in Sudbury-model schools. To what extend and in what ways do people feel the Sudbury-model will (someday) extend into the public consciousness and behavior. Additionally (and I alluded to this in my initial post), I would like to hear about the places where the long-term vision was challenged most in the short- and medium-term.

> Many have tried and failed to get grants for our schools.

I would like to hear more about this. What was attempted and why did the attempts fail?

> ... the interests of the school in operating democratically extend only to
> the fundamental mission of the school, which is to provide the said
> environment to our students. While a student's awareness of the dynamics
> of personal freedom and democratic principles might be desirable to some
> adults, the school should not have any institutional bias towards whether a
> particular student should learn such principles, as the resulting
> _institutional_ agenda would inevitably preempt the incredible gifts of the
> self-initiated learning paradigm.

(also, in another post today, Joe wrote)
> The institution should have no political philosophy. Aside from the
> legality of a 501(c)3 org. engaging in pertisan political activities, an
> institutionalized political orientation would fly squarely in the face of
> what is to me the prime directive of the model - self-directed curriculum!

These statement are well-said, and I generally agree with them, especially the underlying concept that _most_ adult viewpoints, however valid, should not be forced onto children. But I want to raise a few issues:

(a) I am not very familiar with the political limitations on a 501(c)3 organization, but doesn't it extend mostly to overt political activities such as supporting candidates? If a 501(c)3 organization has processes that come from a certain political or social viewpoint, I am not aware of legal limitations on that.

(b) You wrote about the fundamental mission of a Sudbury-model school .... Are the by-laws, mission statement, or other similar documents available for SVS and/or other schools? I believe some of my questions would be answered by reviewing this type of information.

(c) In any situation where opinion differs (i.e. almost all interactions between humans), people assign varying weight to the input of different people. It appears that the Sudbury model involves a much broader respect for the input of people with different ages, different levels or types of experience, etc. -- in contrast to the "real" world, where age, money, and power usually rule. However, a particular situation may lead an older student, a staff member, or another adult to express a certain viewpoint eloquently and/or vehemently, due to their experiences. If enough people (especially adults) express similar viewpoints, the result may be a de facto institutional bias. In addition, an institutional agenda exists in terms of the mission of the school. Biases are a reality, and not automatically bad. However, where is the line drawn between biases (de facto or institutional) and the importance of self direction? Is a different line drawn when dealing with personal curr!
icula, interactions between people, and school operations? Feel free to respond with examples, as that may be the most enlightening for me or for others who have similar questions.


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