Re: DSM: playing school rules

Alan Klein (
Tue, 30 Jan 2001 19:41:41 -0500

While I agree that there is always a choice (barring extreme coercion or
impoverishment), the existence of a choice doesn't always equate to HAVING a
choice in reality. There are many forces that impinge on a kid's ability to
act on the choices that exist for them.

I am reminded of a kid I student-taught in an alternative public school
classroom as a fourth grader. While the class by no means lived up to the
standards to which we would hold a democratic school, it was (in its
context) the best place for kids in the Ann Arbor public school system (in,
of course, my opinion). This particular fourth grade boy was very
successful, by almost all measures in this mixed fourth through sixth grade
class. His father, however, was a traditionalist and was not happy with the
"child-centered" philosophy of the classroom. In addition, his older son was
quite the extravert while the younger one was much more introverted. In
fact, he and I worked a lot on his sense of self-worth throughout the year.
My sense (and his) was that he was making excellent progress in this area.
His father, however, was not convinced and placed him in a very
traditionally structured class the following year.

I had many occasions to chat with this young man throughout the succeeding
three years as he made his way through the traditional classrooms in the
school. What dismayed me most was his "swallowing" of his father's opinions
of his abilities and his self-worth. He maintained (despite much "objective"
and subjective evidence to the contrary) that he "needed" the structure of
the traditional classrooms in order to be academically successful. My sense
is that, psychologically, he could not take a different stance than his
father took. So, while "choice" was there, it was ephemeral, at best.

Melissa wrote:
> There's always a choice.
> >Responding to Anna, who said:
> >
> >There are many kids who accept public school as the part of their world,
> >inevitable and obligatuary part of their lives. That's the lie of the
> >public school supported by teachers, parents and the state. It's kind of
> >madness which children catch from adults.
> >
> >Your child understands that she has a choice. It's the best thing.

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