RE: DSM: JC etc.

Linda Jackson (
Sun, 11 Mar 2001 16:54:44 -0500

Thank you for your post about JCetc. I found it very moving and compelling.
It is good for adults discussing theory to hear the remembered perspective
of a 10 year old boy. Thanks,
                        Linda from Fairhaven

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Scott
> Gray
> Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2001 5:24 PM
> To: Sudbury Valley mailing list
> Subject: Re: DSM: JC etc.
> Hi Marko,
> The reality is that adults have an awful lot of persuasive and personal
> power in social relationships with kids. I remember when I was 8 years
> old people argued with their peers in a relatively equal way, but if an
> adult said something (even a _reasonable_ adult) it always felt like a
> pronouncement -- and it was a much weightier matter to actually disagree
> with the adult.
> What attracted me (when I was 10 years old) to the Sudbury model, and
> what still attracts me, is that everything possible is done to minimize
> the amount of power that adults weild just _because_ they are adults.
> "Guidelines" work well in a group of people who know each other well, in
> which there is little disagreement, and in which there is little danger
> that some will be easily coerced by others. And that was what, when I was
> 10 years old, I _most_ feared I would find at Sudbury Valley -- gentle
> coercion which is virtually impossible to fight against, to accept the
> adults' vision of the guidelines.
> I was _so_ relieved to learn that Sudbury Valley was a community
> governed by laws and not by men. The existance of a set of written rules
> (as opposed to "guidelines" or "common sense") were, for me, a
> pre-existing condition for feeling personal power and responsibility as a
> student at Sudbury Valley.
> Being a young person at a Sudbury school is a truly empowering
> experience. That is, rather, the point. Each student is given
> sovereignty over his/her own life. And that requires a couple things on
> the part of the school community:
> 1: Any school policy should be part of a public record, which any member
> can review, and under which all members of the community are equal before
> the law. If those in the neighborhood with personal power were only
> answerable to _guidelines_ rather than the laws as written, you can bet
> that the neighborhood would come to believe that the right interpretation
> of those guidelines is the one presented by the most influential
> neighbors.
> 2: Those with personal power in the school feel a sense of obligation to
> exercise it as little as feasible, particularly in areas which are closer
> to the core of another person. This is one reason why you wont find many
> people involved with Sudbury schools who like the idea of the Staff
> performing a thereputic function.
> I think that what you are looking for is highlighted by your suggestions
> that the School Meeting would work better if it followed the consensus
> model. You like the idea of a school community which is all on the same
> page, all looking for the same thing.
> If everyone in the community agrees, and has similar motivations, sure
> guidelines are enough. If it is a good thing for everyone to agree, then
> of course there isn't a problem for staff to be left with more persuasive
> and personal power.
> But, to be honest, this is not what I was looking for in a school when I
> was ten years old. I wanted a school in which it was recognized that I
> had my own set of wants and needs, disctinct from everyone else's; in
> which I was welcome to disagree in the School Meeting (or any
> other forum)
> and as long as I abided by the laws I didn't have to _agree_ with them in
> order to be part of the community. I was _sick_ of rooms full of teachers
> and administrators and guidance counselors trying to convince me that
> their way was the right way -- I was happy to let them have their way so
> long as they would leave me to mine. I wanted a _pluralistic_ society.
> It is a very empowering thing to be twelve years old, and to argue an
> issue with other members of the school from age 6 to 60, and to _lose_ the
> vote. It reminds you that your opinions are yours and yours alone and
> that though you have a voice in the community and care deeply about that
> community, you are an individual and not _synonymous_ with that
> community.
> All of this is not to say that your ideas for a school wouldn't be
> interesting and/or valuable. But the ideas you propose are incompatible
> with what Sudbury schools do. The act of "incorporating" those ideas into
> a Sudbury school would be a strike at the very heart of what it means to
> be a Sudbury school; it wouldn't be a Sudbury school any more.
> On Sat, 10 Mar 2001, Marko Koskinen wrote:
> > This discussion has really helped me to think about this issue. Here are
> > some of my thoughts so far.
> >
> > First, I want to say that I really admire the work SVS has done. I
> > wouldn't be here wihtout them, so they have all my gratitude. I also
> > agree on most things about it. And I may agree with all aspects of it,
> > and that's what I'm trying to find out with this discussion.
> >
> > There are some things people have been misunderstanding, at least I
> > think so. One thing is that I would want to create some kind of mental
> > health institution of the school. Well, that is not true. I am just
> > thinkin wheter there could be some ways to include students who cannot
> > behave nicely enough. And I'm thinking that the way could be to include
> > some kind of more visible and active therapeutic process. With this I
> > really don't mean any kind of procedure of which the student wouldn't
> > agree on. If the student really wants to be at the school, s/he might
> > agree on some "messing with his/her mind". In no occasion would I want
> > to "mess with someone's mind" without consent.
> >
> > SVS bases it's philosophy on some presumptions about human nature.
> > According these presumptions are that some things are good for the
> > students and that some are not. And I'm just interested why cannot we
> > add one more presumption to the model? SVS doesn't currently make any
> > presumptions about feelings (If I've understood correctly) and this,
> > while understandable, is not a thing that couldn't be changed. Or is it?
> > Why aren't feelings included in SM? Why is there so much opposition
> > against "psychologizing"? Or have I misinterpreted?
> >
> > One reason for this might be that mental health systems have
> > traditionally been regarded as coersive institutions, as they still
> > mostly are, but I think there are methods that are not coersive, but
> > rather liberating. Another reason might be that feelings easily come
> > between home and the school. With this I mean that if there's something
> > wrong at home and the students get help for this from the school, the
> > parents might think their privacy is threatened. Third issue might be
> > just simply that nobody feels competent to handle such things. If there
> > are other reasons, I would really like to hear them, because this is a
> > cruisal issue for me and I really want to figure out what's the best
> > alternative for us in Finland.
> >
> > What comes to the rules, there wouldn't be any. Sure there would be
> > written "guidelines" and "suggestions" for procedures and unhoped
> > behavior decided by school meeting. These "guidelines" wouldn't be
> > enforced though. They would exist for people to know what kind of
> > behavior pisses people off and what kind of procedures are found out to
> > work well. If this kind of governance is anarchic, then so be it, but it
> > sounds rational and also functional in practice to me and I would
> > consider it less coersive. But to function, feelings would probably be
> > needed to think about and guidelines probably should be written. If
> > someone thinks this kind of system wouldn't work, I'm interested to hear
> > some examples of situations that it couldn't handle or that the
> > "rule-enforcing" system could handle better from the viewpoint of
> > personal freedom and social responsibility.
> >
> > Also, the way the school meeting makes decisions, could possibly be
> > improved. Sorry, if I sound like I would like to put the whole model
> > totally anew, I'm not, I'm just trying to figure out ways to possibly
> > improve it. I was wondering about an alternative way of meeting. It
> > could go e.g. followingly:
> > 1) introduction for the issue being discussed about
> > 2) round of discussion so that everybody willing to speak would
> > announce themselves and everybody would get to say what they wanted to
> > say
> > 3) round of suggestions for the problem so that everybody having one
> > would announce themselves and everybody would get to say their
> > suggestion
> > 4) discussion in pairs for (e.g.) 2 minutes about the suggestions
> > 5) vote for the suggestions
> > 6) if there wasn't an agreement, would go back to 2)
> > 7) repeat until unanimous decision reached
> >
> > I think I've explained enough of the mediation process, but if there's
> > something to be added, please ask, or if there are some things that you
> > think wouldn't work, please tell me. And first of all, if there's
> > something about the philosophical framework that you don't understand or
> > agree to, I would like to hear that also.
> >
> > Marko
> >
> >
> --Scott David Gray
> reply to:
> ============================================================
> Everything you've learned in school as "obvious" becomes
> less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe.
> For example, there are no solids in the universe. There's
> not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute
> continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight
> lines.
> -- R. Buckminster Fuller
> ============================================================

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