Re: DSM: Re: the need for rules

John Axtell (
Thu, 08 Mar 2001 09:57:59 -0800


I take a very strong exception that you choose to suggest that my use of the word
"God" is inappropriate for this list.

I can not find any evidence in my e-mail that my reference to "God" implies that
I am referring to "my" God. This is the second time in a week that someone has
assumed that I said something I did not say. The other person took it upon
himself to assume that a spanking was the result of a parent's decision rather
than the democratically instituted punishment agreed to with a neighborhood gang.

I should make it clear the reference is in regard to the ten commandments found
in the Bible that is used by Christians around the world as the basis for their
religion. I should probably also make it clear that in that book, after God made
ten commandments men managed to continue to make more and more rules that,
depending on one's opinion, did or did not have any basis.

The point I was trying to make, and may have failed to make, was yes, I do
believe that good ideas usually start with a short statement and a very few
rules, for example the United States. A nice short Declaration of Independence
and a Bill of Rights seemed to be enough. As the United States has grown it has
managed to put so many rules together through a democratic process that we now
have the highest ratio of citizens in jail to those out of jail than any country
in the world. Through that democratic process we seem to be achieving the
distinction of having more shootings in our democratically created schools,
through many, many rules, than any country in the world. Yes I have grave doubts
as to the value of a preponderance of rules!

If this list can not tolerate differing viewpoints and philosophies the entire
concept of the SV model is a true joke.

I also disagree with your quote that follows:

"Rules constitute the main protection for reason, intellect,
objectivity, and detachment in a group context, as opposed to feeling and
emotion. This is because rules ritualize the equality of all views and all
people." (p. 166)

Rules ritualize the inequality of all views and lift some far higher than others.
And for what reason should we protect "reason, intellect (whatever that may be),
objectivity (does anyone really believe there is such an entity that can be
agreed upon) in a group context". What makes a person a real person - feeling and
emotion or the ability to function according to someone else's rules?

This gets me to one of the points I continually watch in the discussions of this
list. As much talk as there is of the value of the freedom and respect given each
individual student the discussions seem to focus on the rules of the model. I am
beginning to conclude, possibly in error, that the rules and the enforcement of
the rules is central to the model, which the above quote would seem to support,
as would the fact that you somehow feel there is a rule that makes the use of the
word "God" on this list serve "inappropriate" - did I break someone's rule ?

I look forward to your response.

John Axtell wrote:

> This is Robert Murphy from Cedarwood.
> I am responding to John Axtell ( who was responding to Marko Koskinen) as
> quoted below.
> <<
> > But if somebody/something (community) gives itself the right to punish
> > that person for what s/he did, then it becomes a moral issue.
> >
> <<<
> >>Marko,
> >>The right to punish a person has, in my philosophy, noting to do with
> morality but
> >>with power. . .
> >>. . .As you design your school I suggest you ask just how many "rules" you
> really need.
> >>God only needed to make 10. It may be because people choose not to obey
> those 10 they
> >>perceive the need for millions :)
> >>In developing policy and guidelines for our school I have found the need
> for a
> >>minimum of rules. In fact almost everything I write empowers people and
> encourages
> >>them to do something - not prevent them from doing something.
> >>I have been writing policy for over 30 years and I normally find that the
> best policy
> >>expands people's visions while limiting them from getting themselves, or
> others, into
> >>dangerous areas without proper review. After all the only reason to have
> policy is to
> >>have a set of parameters within which to freely operate and then know when
> to call a
> >>meeting of the appropriate individuals when you need to violate the policy.
> >>John Axtell >>
> John,
> I admit I 'm a bit of a bureaucrat, so there's my bias. So, I agree that a
> great many of the rules that spring up around here are about empowering
> people (individuals, clerks, committees, corporations. . .) to undertake
> certain activities, while preserving oversight at the School Meeting level -
> which keeps access to the regulation these activities within everyone's
> reach. But, I disagree with what seems to be a negative value you place on
> rules ("the fewer the better".)
> See Free at Last, Chapter 12, 22, & 27; and The Sudbury Valley School
> Experience, (pp 140-148.)
> Also, The SVS Experience's defense of the use of "Robert's Rules of Order," I
> think, is a good justification of the rule of law, and the proliferation of
> rules in general. (pp166-173.) Among other relevant passages:
> "Rules constitute the main protection for reason, intellect,
> objectivity, and detachment in a group context, as opposed to feeling and
> emotion. This is because rules ritualize the equality of all views and all
> people." (p. 166)
> Additionally, as it is my understanding that this is List-serve is not
> restricted to those of a particular faith, I think your reference to your
> "God" as universal, is inappropriate.
> Respectfully,
> Robert

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