DSM: Diversity - YEAH!

Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Tue, 19 Dec 2000 22:35:11 -0500

I think a person who is the least bit willing to briefly consider the
possibility that there is a really monumental difference, an incredibly
enormous gulf, between what an environment that is relatively free (can use
the bathroom without permission, can read certain books whenever they want
_this_ year) and an environment **unknown to them** that is truly free (can
stay in a tree all day, can hack perl all year and all next year, can sack
an idiotic staff member or suspend a physically abusive student) does for
kids is, by definition, an open-minded person.

On the other hand, a person who admittedly knows little about the Model, but
has their mind made up that there's really just a little bit of difference
between it and a conventional classroom where the progressive teacher's
trying really hard to "change minds"... well, my six-year-old can figure
that one out, but only after (or if) she gets back from the bathroom.

I find it interesting that the more people there are that are suddenly
popping up all over the world wanting to start a Sudbury Model school, the
more I hear this idea that the 100-year-old reform movement is going to
suddenly start working if we all steer towards the bandstand when we dance
with the devil.

And incidentally, I'd like to hear John Axtell's definition of the word,

> I firmly believe in, diversity Dawn does not.

Is this the same John Axtell talking that was outraged to learn our
government will not allow a non-profit school to operate if they bar
students from attending based on race, color or creed?

(John Axtell wrote at 10:16 am on Monday December 11th:
> I am so out of it I did not understand that our government has managed to
> tax advantages to private schools based on their submission to the value
> being imposed by the government. That certainly is the ultimate in
> discrimination. It is the same attitude the gays have. You have to accept
> philosophy but I will not accept yours, or the black's attitude that


What is the premise of John Axtell "firmly believing in diversity" and Dawn
Harkness "not"? Is it that she thinks that reforming public schools is a
waste of time? Subsequent to that, is it his position that the movement as
a whole does not value diversity as highly as he does?

-Joe Jackson

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org
[mailto:owner-discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org]On Behalf Of John
Sent: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 8:08 PM
To: discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org
Subject: Re: DSM: An alternative teacher at a traditional school

I totally disagree with Dawn's entire premise.
I firmly believe that it is a very high calling to stay within the system
you are in and to change the minds of those you have the privilege of
working with. Many think that prisons are buildings, they are not, they are
the limitations people put into their heads.
I do not know much about the SV model but reading this list I can tell you
that what you are doing is of as great, or possibly greater, value than
teachers in alternative schools, whatever they may be.
The SV model is as effectively shaping and molding the futures of the
children attending their school as any school in the world, possibly more so
because it is so effective. Every book, song, conversation, and smile has an
impact in forming the thinking of our future leaders, and yes some of them
will lead our countries.
Dawn talks about free will. I wonder how many children would "find" a SV
model school and willingly get themselves there - positively none. Once
there they might want to come back but lots of kids like to go to public
school and really enjoy the social interaction and the learning they
participate in. Every child going to anything, unless it is your next door
neighbor, has an adult making decisions for the child.
I totally reject Dawn's assertion that the main purpose of teachers is to
deprive children of their free will. In fact I think just the opposite is
usually the case. Teachers are in a system, as we all are, that limits our
freedoms at every turn, some governments more than others, some cities more
than others and some families more than others and some schools more than
My experience with most teachers is that they do their best to try to get
their students to expand their thinking which families, newspapers, tvs, and
society tends to teach them to limit. In fact I personally think that an
argument could be made that children actually have more freedom in our
public schools to be themselves than they do at home under the supervision
of their parents. I personally know a lot of kids that lead "private lives"
their parents know nothing about, and these are home schooled kids.
Dawn takes the position that somehow the work you are doing is "useless".
Dawn and I see the world from two different perspectives and two different
value systems. I firmly believe in, diversity Dawn does not. I believe the
publc school system serves a multiple of purposes and if, at least in our
country, everyone was given money to go to the school of their choice most
would go right to the public school. A SV model school simply is not going
to cut it for everyone. I would never expect any particular educational
paradigm to meet the needs of an entire population.
I am a product of the public school system and it did not do too badly with
me. I have home schooled for twenty years and now have a child in an
alternative public school program which provides him with total flexibility
and freedom. He gets to do exactly what he wants to do and does not do what
he does not want to do. And this is totally funded with public tax money. He
goes to school when he wants to, well really he goes to school when I will
allow him to, which is less often than when he wants to. The teachers are
the greatest and very responsive to his needs.
Believe me when I tell you that you can make a difference right where you
are and you can really change minds. In your country you are going through
a very difficult time. I pray that your freedoms will be increased but it
looks like the reverse may be happening. You can be an alternative teacher
in a "regular" school and in a "regular society", just do not get arrested.
One person working within a system can make much more progress than one
hundred people in jail that refused to work with the system.
I have a friend in one of the old Soviet states that has a grandmother that
was an algebra teacher and at times she was not treated very well by the
authorities. I am sure you understand what I mean.
I wish you the very best in your effort to free minds from their prisons
even if it may not be possible to free them from the school, family or
society they find themselves in. I think you are doing a great job !!!!!!
May you have the very best during the upcoming holiday season.
Your Friend,
John Axtell
"Dawn F. Harkness" wrote:

-----Original Message-----
From: John Axtell <newlife@theofficenet.com>
>Being an "alternative" teacher in a "traditional" school is a real
blessing to yourself and your >students.
>Alternative teachers in alternative schools face very few real challenges
and the value of their >contribution to the school is minimal compared to
the opportunity you have where you work.
>I can think of no higher calling than to be an alternative teacher in a
traditional school. It is a >great service to your students. The key, it
would seem to me, would be to integrate as much >alternative teaching as the
traditional administrators will allow. After all if you get fired you will
>have accomplished nothing. One of your students may well become a leader of
your country.
I think this kind of thinking represents the model where teachers (authority
figures) mold (allegedly benevolently) young impressionable minds. The goal
for these benevolent teacher/authority figures is to manipulate the minds of
all their students and maybe if they are lucky, to shape the thinking of a
future leader of an entire country. What a legacy! Clearly, the author
believes that this is an appropriate educational model. Anyone who thinks
this is the highest calling clearly reflects a perspective which I think is
an anathema to the model established at SVS. However, being that this is
the Discuss Sudbury Model listserv, I wondered if this was the perspective
you were looking for?
The SVS model absolutely rejects the traditional school model. In fact, SVS
stands for the exact opposite of what traditional schools stand for. As
someone who believes the model established st SVS ought to be an absolute
civil right for children everywhere, I reject the traditional school model
as being evil at its core and harmful to children everywhere. I don't
believe there is a fundamental difference between traditional teachers at
traditional schools and teachers who label themselves as "alternative
teachers" at traditional schools. For the most part, teachers at
traditional schools are agents of the State whose main purpose is to deprive
children of their liberty and freedom of expression and to collect a
paycheck for their efforts. Teachers at traditional schools cannot confer
any real freedom or liberty on their students as long as children are
required to attend schools against their free will.
I would say, not only is this useless work, it is work which perpetuates
harm against children. If you want to know more about my opinion (along
with several others) on why there is no such thing as an alternative teacher
in a traditional school, you may find more information in the archives of
this listserv. But don't read it if you are looking for affirmation of your
choice to participate in the traditional school system even though you know
it is oppressive to children.
Dawn Harkness

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