DSM: Taking a moral stand vs. letting others be

David Rovner (rovners@netvision.net.il)
Sun, 24 Dec 2000 13:52:24 +0200

subject: Taking a moral stand vs. letting others be ---
--------moral absolutism, moral relativism, moral objectivism and an alternative
teacher at a traditional school.

Allen (Allan Saugstad <asaugstad@vsb.bc.ca>) and Jeanne (Jeanne Pickering"

It is not a matter of moral absolutism or moral relativism. I am talking about moral


Hagg Sameach (that's happy "holidays" in Hebrew),


---------- Original Messages: ----------

From: Allan Saugstad <asaugstad@vsb.bc.ca>
To: discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 11:33:20 -0800
Subject: Re: DSM: moral relativism

Thank you to Jeane and David for your insightful comments. I will take some time to
digest them!!

One last word from me on this issue (taking a moral stand vs. letting others be).

When I become unsure or confused about an issue such as this, I often find it helpful
to fall back upon this question:

How would I think or act about this around children?

Would I tell a child they are doing something all wrong? If I felt I really needed to
(maybe because the child is hurting another), will my actions help the child learn to
behave in a better way? In other words, if I say , "Hey, stop that!" and the child
stops, why are they stopping?

It seems to me the child will stop only for some external reason, such as fear of
punishment, wish to please the parent, etc. Deep learning does not take place when
is told how to behave; true learning comes from within and is self-motivated - this is
something I am sure we all agree on.

So how do we affect change? We start from within; becoming comfortable with who
we are
and only doing what feels right for us; and then we reach out and build intimate,
supportive connections with others - only then will true revolutions occur.

I have learned a lot about "living in peace" lately, and it has helped me greatly. If
you are interested, check out books by Byron Katie (The Work and
Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), and Wayne Liquorman (Acceptance of What Is) -
powerful stuff which has so many application to the sudbury model.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Yours in support,



From: David Rovner <rovners@netvision.net.il>
To: discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 11:27:42 +0200
Subject: Re[2]: DSM: An alternative teacher at a traditional school

    "I will confine my answer to a single, fundamental aspect of this question. I will
name only one principle, the opposite of the idea which is so prevalent today and
which is responsible for the spread of evil in the world. That principle is : On must
never fail to pronounce moral judgment
    "Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man's character as thoroughly
as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral
judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything, that the good
consists of never distinguishing good from evil.
    "An irrational society is a society of moral cowards -- of men paralyzed by the
loss of moral standards, principles and goals. But since men have to act, so long as
they live, such a society is ready to be taken over by anyone willing to set its
direction. The initiative can come from only two types of men: either from the man
who is willing to assume the responsibility of asserting rational values -- or from the
thug who is not troubled by questions of responsibility.
    "Moral values are the motive power of man's actions. By pronouncing moral
judgment, one protects the clarity of one's own perception and the rationality of the
course one chooses to pursue. It makes a difference whether one thinks that one is
dealing with human errors or with human evil.
    "If people did not indulge in such abject evasions as the claim that some
contemptible liar "means well" -- that a mooching bum "can't help it" -- that a juvenile
delinquent "needs love" -- that a criminal "doesn't know any better" -- that a power
seeking politician is moved by patriotic concern for "the public good" -- that
communists are merely "agrarian reformers" -- the history of the past few decades,
or centuries, would be different."
[fragments from: "How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?" -- Ayn
Rand -- The Virtue of Selfishness]

Still -- among other things -- we can work for The SEPARATION of SCHOOL and
STATE ! ! !

Alexander Tubelsky
Principal, School of Self-Determination; first Proclaimer in Russia

David Rovner


From: Allan Saugstad <asaugstad@vsb.bc.ca>
To: discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000 08:17:38 -0800
Subject: Re: DSM: An alternative teacher at a traditional school

We cannot discount the efforts of individuals like Anna. She is doing
what she can and helping a lot of kids.

I believe it is irresponsible to give up on children (or anyone for that
matter), and when a person advocates that we just ignore or stay away
from a system which is "cruel" to children, we are doing just that.

I see, in my city alone, thousands of families who struggle through
life; without the resources and/or the enlightenment to see that the
sudbury model is something for them or their children.

These families desperately need the public school system; the parents
value it and so do the kids. For many children, including the immigrants
and the disenfranchised, it gives them more opportunity than anything
they could hope for at home or elsewhere in their environment. For many
kids I have known, school is a haven, a place where there is
consistency, a place where they are (sometimes) gently and respectfully
listened to, a place where they will be safe and cared for at least for
5 or 6 hours.

As I said, there are thousands of these kids in my city alone, and in
every city around the world. The public schools exist - they are there,
and the people in them are real people just like you and me, trying
their best to be happy and live a good life.

Working with these people and respecting where they are in life, both
teachers and students, is the only way to make a real difference in our
society. It is not my place, nor yours, to judge these people and
discount their journey through life.

Allan asaugstad@vsb.bc.ca>


From: "Jeanne Pickering" <pickeringjeanne@hotmail.com>
To: <discuss-sudbury-model@aramis.sudval.org>
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 10:52:54 -0000
Subject: DSM: Moral absolutes


Such big questions we have wandered into! As one of those wishy-washy
pragmatists and part-time moral relativists, I'm awed by the willingness of
others to go where I fear to tread.

The problem is that I have seldom seen discussions of absolute moral
judgments not eventually work their way into:

a) rival claims of authority for the absolute value ("God said...",
"Rationalism tells us...", "Nature tells us..", "Science tells us.."),

b) arguments about what exactly the moral authority actually said,

c) arguments about how and whether the judgment should be applied to the
case at hand ("You don't know all the facts about...", "That's irrelevant",
"That isn't a fact, that's an opinion..."),

d) what action the moral judgment calls for: "Just keep telling them they're
wrong", "Pass a law to make them...", "Repeal a law and stop making
them...", "Chop off a body part", "Blow it up").

Then, there are so many examples of moral judgments that make us moral
relativists sigh and say: "Yeah, I gotta agree with that..." and so many
examples that make us say: "There, you see, a moral judgment that went bad!"

And, of course, moral relativism doesn't make for many successful
revolutions. We are certainly at risk of being buffeted by the winds of
absolute moralists sweeping through disturbing our peaceful, slow, piecemeal
attempts at making life a little bit better. And when the dust has settled,
we're back at it again, chipping away at the hard, sharp edges of absolutism
with our annoying little "Just this time..." and "In this particular
case..." and "But it won't do any harm if..." requests.

Sometimes we need you moral absolutists to shake us up, call us to action,
get the blood boiling and make vital changes swiftly. Just try not to get so
frustrated with us that you break our stiff-necks before we get around to
loosening them up so we can turn them.

Happy Holidays everyone,

Jeane PIckering

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