Re: DSM: Interest increasing?

Malc (
Wed, 03 Jan 2001 23:17:03 +0000

At 16:17 03.01.01 -0500, you wrote:
quote >>> It is very easy to become very enthusiastic about setting up a school
shortly after beginning to think very seriously about educational
philosophy, if there are no schools that appeal to one in one's immediate

-- Daniel Quinn

So many good points in one mail!
And the point about the school starting then closing is very salient.
It's depressing for the kids when that happens.
I went to one of those schools - Dartington Hall School, Devon, UK.
Founded by the Elmhirsts, it got off to a great start, loads of money -
great guy running it (Curry) - He died and it was downhill all the way
until it closed. Though there may be a revival - watch this space.

Summerhill on the other hand got off to a great start, no money, great guy
running it (AS Neill) and has just got better. After 80 years - it's still
standing. Or rather it's still dancing. AS Neill's daughter; Zoe Readhead,
is Head, her husband (despite having another full time job... and more) and
the staff are very committed. They kept it in the family.
The number of dedicated people can be small, like one or two for instance,
with an appropriate factor of dedication of course.

But it seems to me that schools are on their way out as a concept, and the
community as a whole should be taking on the responsibility of providing an
environment for its children to grow up without having to come back in a box.
So perhaps emphasis could be on consolidating communities, rather than
starting new schools.
If a teacher in your local school is not a part of the community, um, well
what is it doing in the job?
And if the school is not a place your child feels as their own, and wants
to be there rather than hanging round the house, knock it down!

That phrase of AS Neill's... "I have created a playground out of a school,
and my bairns (Scottish for children) are happy..."
Do we really have anything to teach our children? Not really. We as adults
have a poor track record in managing even something as simple and self
supporting as this planet, never mind philosophy.
  I think we should learn from the children. But this means listening to
them, and that is not easy. Make a school out of your back yard and trust
your instincts rather than other peoples handbooks.

I posted a piece to the AERO group about Horses Arses and the Space
Shuttle, stop me if you've heard it, but it is very much about doing things
based on other peoples handbooks.
I call it "following horses arses":

(don't ask me who wrote it)

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet 8.5
That's an exceedingly odd number.
Why was that gauge used?
Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates
built the US railroads. Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the
pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did 'they' use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that
they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break
on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the
spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads?
The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by
Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.
And the ruts?
Roman war chariots first made the initial ruts, which everyone else had to
match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels and wagons. Since the
chariots were made for, or by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the
matter of wheel spacing. Thus, we have the answer to the original question.
The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives
from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot.
Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are
handed a specification and wonder which horse's rear came up with it, you
may be exactly right.
Because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to
accommodate the back ends of two war-horses.
But there's a modern twist to the story...........
When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big
booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are
solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. Thiokol makes the SRBs at their factory in
Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them
a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to
the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a
tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The
tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is
about as wide as two horses behinds. So, the major design feature of what
is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined
by the width of a horse's arse!

Malc Dow

a:sk - abc - Berlin

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