Re: DSM: Interest increasing?

Bruce Smith (
Sat, 6 Jan 2001 22:24:36 -0700

> My point of confusion is this. Sudbury purists maintain to make available
>items of possible study without first waiting for students to express an
>interest is wrong. How does a Sudsbury student even ever get the idea that
>something exists, such as clay, to pound or touch if the lump of clay is not
>on the table.

How many reasons would you like? Let's student or staff brings in
their own clay; someone makes a motion for the school to buy some clay; the
art corporation votes to supply the school with clay; someone sees a friend
or acquaintance using clay somewhere else; someone reads about clay in some
craft book, sees it on television or at a friend's house or at church, gets
it for Christmas or a birthday, etc. etc. etc...

Who knows how and where people get exposed to things? But they do, to a
bewildering variety of things. My point is that at a school where every
student is free to pursue her/his own activities, the number of activities
going on at any one time, and over time, is mind-boggling. Any student who
has eyes and ears will see a ton of things they never before knew existed.

Part of the confusion, I think, is that all students may be exposed to
things that one student, or a committee of students and staff, introduce.
For example, because one student requests that the school buy a soccer
ball, all students will likely be exposed, to some degree, to soccer,
regardless of the fact that most of them didn't first express an interest
in it.

As staff we simply try to avoid becoming program directors, deciding in
advance what students "might" or "should" be interested in doing.

I hope that clears it up a bit.

>How would any child learn to talk without first being exposed -
>enticed - or preemptively directed by an adult - to express a verbal sound to
>ask for something?

Gosh, maybe they just enjoy making noises and copying older people! My
six-month-old niece doesn't seem to need enticement or preemptive direction
to produce all sorts of sounds (even/especially in solemn places like
church :).

Have you read John Holt's _How Children Learn_? He goes on at some length
about how, if we taught speaking as we do most things in most schools, most
kids would never learn.

>As a parent I have always done my best to expose, or as you would say -relish
>in the deceptively-benign insidiousness of adult interference for all my
>children. To have children without enjoying insidious interference would seem
>to put the function of parents into nothing more than sexual objects producing
>offspring for the benefit of the offspring rather than having any benefit to
>the "parents".

But the roles of parents and staff members are not the same! I've noticed a
few people in this discussion criticize Sudbury staffing by comparing it to
the function of a parent. This is not a fair comparison, because the home
and school environments are so different; accordingly, the "rules" for
interaction between adult and child cannot (and should not) be the same.

Of course parents have a profound influence on their children, exposing and
teaching and guiding. That's as it should be. Sudbury schools complement
that sort of nurturing by giving students a place where they can live and
learn independently, as their own people and not members of a family. As
such, staff try to step back from the degree and type of influence a parent
is expected to exercise.

As I said, this is meant to complement, not to duplicate or replace, family
dynamics. _Because_ kids have such a fundamental, close, complex bond with
their parents, Sudbury staff strive for a much more equal relationship with
students than the parent-child relationship could ever be. I believe there
is great value in both, and ample reason for maintaining the distinctions.

Thanks for sharing your questions, John.


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