Re: DSM: Re: Subtle Coercion?

Bruce Smith (
Sun, 7 Jan 2001 12:33:28 -0700

>If, in
>the case of children, you deliberately put a clamp on your beliefs so as not
>to coerce them you are being equally manipulative in that which is being

I agree with you in the sense that, if I hold back from being myself with
students, I'm shortchanging them (not to mention misrepresenting myself).
However, I think it's important to bear in mind that adult-child
relationships can rarely, if ever, be truly even. In most settings, the
adults carry the weight of authority (in too many settings, an authority
backed by force). Even when blatant coercion isn't part of the picture,
most adults still have far more experience than most kids. If we insert
ourselves too much into their thinking, we run the risk of inhibiting their
own experience-gathering. So my take on the holding-back aspect of Sudbury
staffing is that it's primarily an attempt to level the playing field, to
make sure students are free to live their own lives, to create their own
world as opposed to merely reacting to the beliefs of adults.

Regarding the example of your friend and reading, this is actually
something I could see happening at a Sudbury school, because -- and only if
-- it grew out of an established relationship. If I'm talking with a
student, and they mention some frustration that I might know a way around,
then chances are I'll offer that alternative for their consideration --
because they're my friend, and because they feel free and comfortable in
saying no to my suggestions.

The fine line that many people have mentioned is that of an adult being
her/himself, telling students what they think, without preempting or
smothering the students' ability to decide things for themselves. It's not
a black-and-white matter of hands-off vs. coercion; we simply try to remain
aware of this dynamic, and give the students a lot of space and respect.

>But the more I think about it the more I find
>I'm at odds with myself over it. There are many imperfections. That is

If you wish to pursue this, I'm curious as to the imperfections you see.
Perhaps I can learn something, and perhaps there's more to the model than
you've had the opportunity to see.


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