Re: DSM: RE: JC and SM

Bruce Smith (
Fri, 9 Mar 2001 11:20:13 -0700

>I guess I'm just against these "community norms". I can't really see any
>basis for them. ALL issues can be considered personal disuptes. The only
>community rules needed could be the procedural rules for the PSs, SMs,
>and other possible institutions. And if someone would violate these
>"rules" it would still be a personal dispute between the people who were
>annoyed by this and the violators.

ARG! Look, the concept of community norms is much simpler than this. Let's
take an actual, concrete issue: cleanliness. In any school (or any
household or public place), there are bound to be a wide variety of
standards of cleanliness; some like it messy, some like it tidy. So how
clean is a school kept? How do the messy and the tidy people resolve their
differing standards? Guess what -- it's a *community norm*, a matter of
compromise between various individual standards. (Language/profanity is
another good, concrete example of an area where schools have to set, and
continually discuss, a community norm.)

The dichotomy between institutional and interpersonal is a wicked false one
here. Conflicts in a community can never be purely interpersonal *or*
purely institutional, because each one of them occurs _between_ people who
are _part of_ a community. And groups simply cannot function without norms,
however those standards are set and implemented. That's what puts the
"community" in community norm: it's an ongoing, evolving matter of
defining, as a group, what standards are acceptable. It is a *combination*
of interpersonal and institutional (e.g., SM and JC) discussions, rules and

Marko seems paranoid about anything which smacks in the least of
institutions, collectivities, or formal procedures. If I am not mistaken,
he believes that *anytime* some person or institutional body tells someone
else what to do, the former person/body is inherently
external/coercieve/wrong. I find this most curious, since he has had a
chance to observe SVS first-hand, and since the Sudbury model offers the
highest degree of member participation in and determination of all the
standards and structures of the community.

Perhaps Marko is simply arguing the case for anarchy. That would be one
thing: but suggesting that a Sudbury school operate on purely informal or
anarchical structures would be quite another.

Also, and more significantly, Marko's notions strike me as *wildly*
impractical. Marko fantasizes that every social problem would magically
vanish if we could just talk to each other. His hypothetical example of the
speeding driver, where being talked would be allegedly be much more
effective than a ticket, reveals just how divorced from reality Marko's
proposals are.

I am not opposed to mediation, but like Joe, I strongly believe two things:
one, talking alone is grossly inadequate as a sole means of conflict
resolution; and two, there is room for both interpersonal and institutional
methods in the Sudbury model (not only in theory, but in actual, current
practice!). I also echo the sentiments of those who have found the Problem
Solver system itself much too invasive, psychological, and manipulative.

I appreciate Marko's contribution to the broader discussion, but his
concerns and proposals in this matter appear to me largely untenable.


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