DSM: Marko's examples

Tue, 6 Mar 2001 13:49:51 EST

    I want to say at the outset that I have absolutely no problem with Marko,
or anyone else for that matter, identifying the kind of school they want to
establish, articulating the theoretical basis for their school, and trying to
find parents and students to participate in the school. The more variety is
available, the better the chance that every family will find the kind of
environment in which they are comfortable.
    The purpose of this posting is to discuss the examples that Marko wrote
about on this list, and present my understanding of how Sudbury Valley views
these examples. By presenting my "take" on these examples, I hope to place
into sharper focus the differences between the approach I believe the school
takes, and the approach Marko is exploring for the school he intends to
    Here is Marko's first example:
  "Problem 1. X throws a snowball at Y after Y had asked him not to.
  "Solution: Y goes to a PS and tells the story. PS then seeks X out and
asks him if he feels he considers this incident something that he
shouldn't have done. If X says he shouldn't have done it then the PS
askes what X would like to do to fix the problem. X might come up with a
solution that satisfies Y and the problem would be solved. If X couldn't
come up with a satisfying solution, Y could bring the issue up again and
X would be given another chance and probably the PS could ask wheter X
would like to have some help in figuring out a better solution. If X
would want help he could ask the PS or another PS to help him or he
could ask Y to discuss with him about the issue in which case Y could
ask PS to join them as a mediator/chair.
  "If X didn't think he had done anything wrong, then the PS would gather
both X and Y and let them decide wheter they would want some PS to be a
mediator or not and if either one wanted to have a mediator, then they
would have one, which would be chosen by the one willing to have one. If
both wanted to have different mediators, they could both have one. And
the negotiation would go on until it would be solved.
  "The role of PS:s would be to see that each member involved in the
problem, would be equally allowed to talk."
   Sudbury Valley views this event as an infraction against the community's
laws governing behavior - laws that were established by the community
according to its established procedures - and not as a personal matter
between X and Y. So, to begin with, the school is not interested in
establishing whether X "considers this incident something that he shouldn't
have done", but rather it is interested in establishing whether the Judicial
Committee, after investigation, considers this act as something that violates
the school's rules. Second, the school is not interested in "a solution that
satisfies Y", because the function of the judicial system is not to provide
personal satisfaction to various members of the community, but rather to come
up with solutions that satisfy the community's desire to maintain the
integrity of the community's system of laws. The JC, and the School Meeting,
are not in the business of encouraging X to find "solutions" to problems he
creates in the school, but rather of finding effective ways to have X modify
his behavior so that he will not continue to create the problem at hand. In
our existing system, "if X didn't think he had done anything wrong" then X
would not be required to deal with Y personally, or with a mediator; X would
plead "not guilty" to the charge presented by the JC, and would go to a trial
before a jury of peers, who would decide the case. If X lost the case, he
could continue to think he did nothing wrong, but by the rules of the
community he would have to accept the fact that the community has judged his
actions to be in violation of its rules and can proceed to impose a
consequence for this violation.
    Here is Marko's second example:
  "Problem 2: Z didn't do the trash on her day.
  "Solution: G finds this out and tells it to the PS, who then seeks Z out
and asks if she thought she should've done this. If Z thought she
should've then the PS asks what would she do to fix the problem. If the
solution proposed satisfies G then the problem would be over. See above
what would happen in other cases."
    Once again, not doing the trash is a matter of breaking a School Meeting
rule. Whoever discovers that the trash was not done hands over the problem
to the JC, which is the body established by the School Meeting to be its
representative in dealing with rule infractions (and on which over fifty
School Meeting members of different ages serve each year). G, who happens to
notice the infraction, is not the agent of the school who has to be
"satisfied" with the solution. (If this were so, then we would have a
perfect example of vigilante justice: any infraction could only, or
primarily, be cured by satisfying whatever individual happens to notice it.)
In fact, G is not even empowered to decide whether an infraction that he
thinks he noticed actually happened! One of the main functions of the JC is
to investigate allegations made by G, or anyone else, that an infraction
occurred and to decide whether the allegation has a basis in fact. G's
opinions on the matter are no more important than Z's. So, from the school's
perspective, this example identifies the wrong person entirely as the agent
of the School Meeting who decides whether an infraction has occurred and
whether the consequences are appropriate.
    Here is the third example:
  "Problem 3: C, H and T were roughhousing and this upset L.
  "Solution: L would tell this to a PS who then would seek C, H and T out
and ask them if what they'd done was something they shouldn't have done.
Let's suppose they didn't think they did anything wrong. Then the PS
would get all four (including L) together and all four could decide
wheter they would want a PS in their problem solving group or not. If
they did, all requested PSs would come. And once again, the discussion
would go on until mutual agreement would be reached."
    Again, the perspective is not that of the school. Roughhousing is
against the rules (it disturbs the peace of the school), whether or not L is
upset. The issue for the school is whether or not the JC thinks a rule was
broken, not whether C, H and T thought "what they'd done was something they
shouldn't have done". It is not C, H, T, and L who have to be personally
satisfied with the outcome of their deliberations; rather, it is the
community, acting through the JC (and later, by review, through the School
Meeting, to whom the JC reports all its findings), that has to be satisfied -
first, that an infraction of the rules had occurred at all; second, that the
people who broke the rule are properly identified; and third, that an
appropriate consequence for the infraction has been found. Once again, if
any of the alleged violators thinks they were wrongly charged, they have the
recourse of a "not guilty" plea and a trial, as pointed out above.
    Sudbury Valley is a real-life community, just like a real-life town. It
is organized on the principle of giving every member the maximum amount of
personal freedom compatible with a minimal number of laws set up to enable
all members of the community to co--exist without disruption or friction.
The community expresses its will through the School Meeting, in which every
member, regardless of age, has an equal voice.
    Personal disputes between individuals, which do not come into conflict
with any of the rules set up to protect public order, are left entirely to
those individuals to settle in any manner they wish (including, if they so
desire, recourse to disinterested third parties). The community carefully
avoids entering into such matters, as it avoids entering into the private
worlds or its members.
    I would like to emphasize once again that I have not brought into this
discussion any of my philosophical differences with Marko's point of view, or
any of the practical considerations that I would mention in debating the
relative merits of this or that system. The sole purpose of this posting is
to clarify as well as I can, from my personal point of view, the differences
between the way I believe Sudbury Valley deals with judicial matters and the
way Marko has suggested as a possible alternative method.
    Dan Greenberg, Sudbury Valley School

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