Re: DSM: Encouragement or passion

Robert Swanson (
Tue, 19 Dec 2000 02:37:31 -0800

Well, my computer deleted this message. I'll give it one more try, maybe
less eloquent.

I remember very few teachers saying anything personally. I remember my
parents rarely having fun with us kids, maybe Christmas carolling or a walk
in the woods. Many memories are of friends my age doing things together.
Finally, few memories are of friends speaking personally. So, I have two
differences to point out. One, the difference between adults' reluctance to
equally participate in an activity, and children's ease of relating
physically. Second, the difference between relating physically and relating
personally. Both physical and personal relating are needed to develop as a
fully expressed human.

It was painful having dinner with my parents tonight. They were successful
modeling aloofness in my youth as our relationship. I ached to say something
personal from introspection, but mom tends to get alarmed and dad tends to
leave the room. Our connection seems a hundred miles apart as we sit across
the table.

Few relationships vary from this aloof standard. A few people stand out as
making a difference. A counselor I know makes every effort to come from
within, from sincerity and speaking from self. Another is a woman who made
radical change in her life. When she got cancer she was ready to carry that
change into death. She invited everyone over to celebrate a review of her
life. Later, we celebrated with her the coming transformation. I had the
honor of sitting quietly with her hours before she died. In twelve years of
Hospice work I have seen nothing like the courage and intimacy with which
she confronted death. Certainly there was no "encouragement" here one way or
another, but there was participation and intimacy, and lots of emotional

Kids are not aloof. They are adventurers. If we modeled emotional
vocabulary, and if we joined them in the adventure, they might remain
adventurers. In fact the adventure could become exquisite.

A foriegn student, I don't remember who she was, but I remember what she
said about friendship. She commented how unusual it is to see people here
speak personally to each other. In her country her many friends freely
opened up to speak of their lives intimately. This brings closeness. She did
not understand that so few people here say anything personal. Friendship as
she knows it does not exist.

I passionately despair over the aloof sickness normal in our society puting
encouragement in place of celebration and honesty.


on 12/18/00 11:19 AM, Bruce Smith at wrote:
> Jeanne Pickering said:
> <<Wouldn't the Sudbury model be just as bad if approaches (such as:
> students should be given the encouragement that would be given to an adult)
> were also uniformly applied to each student?>>
> Obviously, this rule of thumb doesn't work if you wouldn't be respectful to
> the _adult_, either. What it really means is that you treat all people, of
> all ages, with equal respect, and avoid being condescending or shallow when
> you do encourage. The guideline Joe and I described is, in effect, a set of
> training wheels for those of us adults who need/needed a refresher course
> in how to treat kids with full respect.
> Cindy said:
> <<Several of you said that you would encourage students as you would other
> adults in your life. My next question is: Do children of different ages
> need different levels of encouragement?...Does not a 5 year old
> maybe need a little more encouragement than an 18 year old who has had years
> of self esteem building? In other words, are the younger ones not a little
> more vulnerable, maybe needing a little more 'yes, you can' than older kids?>>
> Actually, it's the other way around: older students, if they've been in
> more traditional settings for any length of time, tend to be less
> willing/able to stand up for themselves and to follow through on their
> desires. Their world is, almost by definition, in far more turmoil.
> In contrast, the little ones seldom need much encouragement to say "I want
> this; will you help me?" Sure, the youngest students ask staff for help
> more often than the older ones; but is that what you meant by
> "encouragement"?
> Case in point: we had a suspension debate at School Meeting recently where
> the 7-(I think)-year-old facing suspension spoke up quite eloquently, and
> proposed an alternate sentence that, in its substance, passed. Contrast
> that with an earlier suspension debate, where the 14-year-old in question
> had extreme difficultly saying anything in his own defense.
> I think the more important variable is how new the student is to the
> school. Once any student's had sufficient time to learn that they are
> empowered, and how to get what they want, her/his need for external
> encouragement dwindles drastically (not that we don't all appreciate
> support; it's just that our veteran students seem to need comparatively
> little).
> Again, and always, it depends on the individual in question, and one's
> respectful relationship with them.
> Bruce

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