Re: DSM: Diversity - YEAH!

John Axtell (
Wed, 20 Dec 2000 15:32:34 -0800

Dear Joe,

 You asked - "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?

The point of my response to Dawn's well put response was to tell Anna that I do
not agree with Dawn's believe that working in a public school where everything
is not how you want it to be is a waste of time, or however she put it. I
especially wanted to tell Anna that I encouraged her to do her best in a
country and political system that can, with little problem, eliminate
"undesirables", which Anna could easily become, without having to give up her
massive salary of $10 a month or go to jail for her "unhealthy" thoughts she is
trying to instill in the students of the nation she is entrusted with.

When I was in international personnel I worked with individuals in 23 different
countries a was responsible for placing their children in appropriate schools.
I value Anna's attempts to make a change in the public school system I do not
consider her efforts worthless.


I will be the first to agree to do it if we can get 100 people committed to the
concept. That would give us $ 1,000 a month income. That would not be much and
we might want to wait until we have 100 people at $20.00 a month to make sure
we have enough money - I am not sure but I expect you get the idea.

Since her large teacher's salary that Dawn is concerned about is only $10 a
month we could at least double her salary.

When I get a large enough sum and Anna has worked out the finances and legal
problems and has learned how to implement a SV model in her country, with the
help hopefully of people on this list and a donation of the $400 package, I
will wire the money to her. By then we might even have more people donating to
the cause.

Now Joe to the issue of diversity.

Diversity to me means that there is no one right way to do anything. The
concept of "right" is relative, not absolute. I also do not believe that
government has the "right" to define what is "right" and what level of
"diversity" is acceptable, but they do it.

Dawn, in her posts seems to think that there is no place for the public school
system, in any country!!!! the SV model is THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIGHT. I
admire her conviction but do not agree with it.

I am the same person who is outraged with a government that takes great joy in
social engineering and using tax dollars taken from taxpayers to do it. Believe
it or not I really do believe in freedom, real freedom, not the kind that we in
the United States pretend to have. I believe not only children but adults have
the right to association, to serve who they want to serve, and to do so in a
public building. I do not believe my right to use a public building should be
based on conditions except that I take care of the property that I am using.

I have a very hard time understanding how a person who feels so strongly, and
in my opinion rightly so, that freedom for children is a right but not for
adults or that it is the proper role of government to limit our right or

If one follows the logic you use that government has the right to force our way
of thinking we will end up in the same situation Anna is in. Her government has
really decided who she will associate with, what she can say - so as not to
offend any of the "chosen" ones who shall not be offended and on an on. ( As I
remember it they just lost their freedom of the press.) However they let their
kids drink hard liquor and smoke, something I expect that those espousing
freedom in the SV model would legislate against taking away individual freedom
with no feelings of guilt at all.

By this time you may understand that I am thinking broad policy and educational
and social outcome, not now it might be implemented in a very, very small
school with a few like mined people.

Now to get back to the real point I was trying to make in replying to Anna.

I think Dawn's response represents a very narrow view of life that I disagree
totally with. I am sure she disagrees with my broad perspective of the ranges
of educational paradigms that may be appropriate in different locals, nations,
cities, and cultures. I am not sure a SV model works for blacks as a group in
the inner city, but I am not sure it does not, that is why I am part of this
group - to learn.

Dawn certainly has a right to her opinion and I honor her right to have it. I
honor your right to have your opinions. I actually value Dawn's and your
opinions - they really make me think as to what the consequences are of ideas
different from my own and I try to think what would happen if the ideas were
put into policy.

By the way black's personally are not even an issue for me as there is not one
black person I know of for miles and miles from our community but there are a
lot of American Indians. I am interested in how the model works for different
segments of our society.

I hope this explains what my concept of diversity is and that I do not believe
diversity is something that should be socially engineered by our government as
they have managed to do for years and are now beginning to reverse.

I think the main point is that I value all kinds of educational paradigms,
though I may not support them with my votes - but often I support school levies
and bonds even though I think the system is not right for my children. I
respect the right others have to "do their thing" and would like them to give
me the same right but our government certainly has said no to that.

Neither do I believe that when a school gets $ 6,000 per student a year those
with normal or above normal intelligence should be required to give a lot of
their money to take care of a student who has to have a special school bus, has
to have a person beside him all day long to control his behavior, and simply
can not do any independent behavior at all.

I believe in REAL EQUALITY - each student should get the same amount of money
regardless of race, intelligence, athletic ability, course of study or
whatever. I know I have little chance of seeing that happen. Getting a levy
passed to improve our science department is impossible but passing the same
amount of money to pay for the sports program is no problem at all.
Incidentally has anyone noticed that a lot of sports programs have a
disproportionate amount of blacks on them. Could it be whites are being
discriminated against because blacks are better in sports than whites?

By what logic can someone conclude that an educational paradigm can only be
valid if it allows everyone in. That is just nuts. We are enjoying the
opportunity to have "disadvantaged" individuals in our "regular" classrooms. It
achieves the objectives of social engineering our government has to reduce the
educational level of everyone in the public school. It takes money needed by
gifted and normal students and spends it on students that can not function in
the classroom.

Now as to my personal beliefs. I am trying to understand the SVM without having
the money to buy the $ 400 package. I have home schooled for over 20 years and
just last year my son joined the public school system.

I am trying to grasp the model's concept of "freedom". It is a concept I have a
lot of problems defining. As a home schooler I have practiced freedom. I have
an 18 year old that is just now learning to read. He is doing it not because he
wants to but because I told him he had to. No freedom there. Some of my other
children stopped home schooling in the 8th grade or lower, lived their lives,
entered the community college and have gone on to get a graduate degree now
that was freedom, but on the other hand one has been on welfare since she left
home and the government happily supports her and her three children, now that
is freedom.

I have very good friends that are gay. I got 7 weeks of medical treatment at a
facility and I was the only one who did not have AIDS. They are all dead now. I
miss them. The questions I ask are dealing with the SV model. I have some
specific ones that I would appreciate your take on if they do not drive you

1. Obviously SV model allows gays in. Do they allow cross dressers as
teachers, students ? Do they allow two boys to show affection to each other
physically or do they have to hide their feelings. Is the same standard applied
to boy / girl relationships and if there are standards where does the freedom
of expression and the "right" to be oneself come in or where does it stop.

2. Is the SV model of freedom simply defined as what the JC allows, or the
bylaws allows or is there really freedom of expression. Can student's smoke or
drink if they wish?

I do not have my mind made up that there is little difference between a
"teacher" in the SV model and a traditional setting. In fact I am trying to
understand how a person in the SV model could possibly hold the title of
"teacher" rather than coach or resource person. The definition of a teachers
seems contrary to the purpose of SV model.

I would find it most interesting to know why you feel the SV model is not
changing minds. From what this list says I think that the SV model is more
effective in changing minds than the traditional school system. I am not
placing a value on the function of changing minds but simply believe it occurs
daily and can not be prevented and I happen to think the paradigm of SV model
is more "mind changing" than a public school setting.

Again I really value the input of everyone on this list and never take offense
at others having differing opinions, in fact I enjoy the debate. I wish you and
Dawn and everyone on this fantastic list a wonderful holiday season.

John Axtell

Joe Jackson wrote:

> 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,
> "diversity":
> > 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
> give
> > tax advantages to private schools based on their submission to the value
> system
> > being imposed by the government. That certainly is the ultimate in
> > discrimination. It is the same attitude the gays have. You have to accept
> my
> > philosophy but I will not accept yours, or the black's attitude that
> they)
> (snip)
> 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:
> []On Behalf Of John
> Axtell
> Sent: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 8:08 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: DSM: An alternative teacher at a traditional school
> I totally disagree with Dawn's entire premise.
> Anna,
> 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
> others.
> 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 <>
> >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.
> Anna,
> 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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