Re: DSM: Subtle Coercion?
Sat, 6 Jan 2001 13:15:49 EST


This is Stuart from Cedarwood Sudbury School, commenting on school agendas
and school-provided activities.

Startup democratic schools need to decide whether they want to be homogeneous
or heterogeneous. Committing the school to an agenda, such as an
environmentalist one, will discourage those who have other beliefs from
joining. I myself have views on political and social issues that are outside
the mainstream; if I thought a school was going to take positions on such
matters, I would not join.

Incidentally, that is why I would oppose our school's joining the National
Coalition of Alternative Community Schools, to which many democratic (and
not-so-democratic) schools belong. The NCACS clearly supports a political
ideology: "Our mission is to unite and organize a grassroots movement of
learners and learning communities dedicated to participant control and the
elimination of human and ecological oppression."

Yet I do not have a problem with individual staff members expressing their
support for political ideologies, either verbally or through their actions.
If a staff member, for example, feels strongly about organic gardening, then
he or she should feel free to try to make an organic garden happen. Students
can benefit from hearing about the staff member's interest, and from watching
him or her pursue that interest.

However, such learning has costs. The most important cost is that
staff-initiated (or "school-provided") activities distract students from
becoming fully responsible for their own lives. Students need to realize that
they have to make things happen for themselves. This is a very hard lesson. A
student who talks idly about the school getting a basketball hoop is
ill-served if a staff member takes up the idea and makes it happen.


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