Re: DSM: dancing

Anne and Theo Julienne (
Tue, 23 Jan 2001 15:16:07 +1100

I'm glad I've been able to voice concerns that are parallel to yours.
It sounds like we're both at a very similar position on our journeys toward a "free school".
At $AU800, the Starter Kit is far too expensive for me to contemplate at this stage (although it will be considered if and when we expand to a larger group).
It also worries me a bit for the following reason:
It sounds like the Starter Kit consists of virtually all that SVS has published to date. What ever happened to the Art of Condensation? A.S. Neill condensed his educational philosophy into a series of essays that fit into one volume that I borrowed from my local library. ("Summerhill: a radical approach to education", 1973, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London) That one book, intelligently read, is sufficient to convey his approach in all its complexity. You can freely download the handbook from Windsor House and find out how they do things. One crisp concise document. (Well, maybe it's a bit long for an HTML page, but it's not book-length.) I recently paid $AU15 (half that in $US) for a magnificant and beautifully written condensation of the history of science, 500 pages packed with deep knowledge and insight, the story told on a grand sweeping scale without arrogance or condescension (and the fact that Maxwell was accorded the honour he deserves was a sign the account was not superficial or shallow). I don't want to wade through dozens of books, however wise, just to get to the core of the Sudbury educational paradigm. I'm convinced that there is merit in it, but I remain sceptical for now. I'm a sensible post-modern citizen.

I think it's really sad that you see it as your problem that you are worrying about the decisions you make and how they will impact on your kids' lives. You are a parent. It's your responsibility to worry about that. You have an adult role, an adult responsibility. That's all.

Take things like listserves. I'm on a few of them and this one is clearly related to the project of starting a new school, a project concerning my son and I. He knows about the lists, he can see the emails marked "DSM" or "AERO" or "TCS" (Taking Children Seriously - ), etc. It's all too much adult babble for him to bother with. He wants me to, he expects me to, sort through all this stuff, identify what's relevant and important, and "feed" him selected bits that I think he'd like. I've learned what he will and won't like from trial and error. For example, if anyone is a member of the "savesummerhill" e-group, check out the following:
Message 2940 at
That one got his 100% approval.
Most times he shrugs off my offerings as "boring". And that's OK.
(BTW, he loved Chapter 2 of Greenberg's "Free At Last", but it didn't send him running to read Chapters 1 or 3.)
He's currently immersed in a workshop on aerospace engineering at our local university (UNSW) and there's no way I could get him to take the slightest interest in his educational future. Not just now.
But that's OK.
When we talk further, I'll have a lot more information and ideas under my belt. And - Susan - I know he'll appreciate my efforts. OK, it's fun for me too. I'm enjoying the research. But it also fulfills my parental responsibilities in this area.
It's not fair to kids to ask whether you can trust them to decide everything for themselves. They have a right to what you can offer in the form of life experience and adult-style wisdom. That is not incompatible with their self-determination.
When I first heard of Summerhill, it was through a TV program. Zoe Readhead was an interviewee, but also on the panel of expert opinions was Canadian home schooling advocate Wendy Priesnitz (at ). She had "allowed" one of her kids to go to a mainstream coercive school - for a substantial period (two years of high school, I think). That's a true sign of self-determination.
I would like to invite stories in this vein from DSM participants, I'm sure the stories are out there. They would help people like Susan and me a great deal. Stories about "Sudbury" parents with offspring in a mainstream coercive school (by the choice of the kid, not due to the circumstance of no "free school" being available).
You see, how do I know, how does any "newby" know, that Sudbury kids aren't being coerced into behaving as Sudbury kids should?
Ever sceptically,

      I want to personally thank you for asking the Hard questions. I'm sitting over here in my comfy little office with my BIG TOE stuck in the Sudbury water, with similar concerns.
      I recently read the book, "The Parents' Guide to Alternatives in Education" by Ronald K. Koetzsch Ph.D. He references Sudbury and Summerhill and others in Chapter 17 titled Free Schools.
      Presently, my statement is: I want my kids to go to a Free School.
      I am waiting on my Sudbury Starter Kit. My statement may or may not change with more research.
      I also have difficulties with the idea of not offering courses. It seems to me that this is a common concern. I think it has more to do with Trust than anything else. Do I trust my kids to decide what they want for themselves? I have no problem with other people deciding what they want to do. I am fearful that I will make the wrong choice for My Kids. What if they never learn to read? What if they become undisciplined little brats? Sounds like My problem, huh?
      I just really feel that if an error is to be made in a school regarding coercion, subtle or blatant, I'd prefer an error on the side of NOT coercing people. In my grown-up life I am faced everyday with people trying to coerce me and believe me I do not Trust these people. Unfortunately, the kids will have many opportunities to be coerced.
  Susan Jarquin

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