DSM: RE: convesation wandering Our Trojon Horse digest

From: Alexander / Michiru Streater (uigui@oregano.ocn.ne.jp)
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 16:03:18 EDT

: RE: convesation wandering
> > Good point. I enjoy wanderings. I just wanted to raise my hand and say
> > that I am lost.....and to ask for a description of where we are....or
> where
> > we are going. Any takers? Can anyone summarize what we've concluded?

OK here goes:


1) Definitions
2) Introduction to this summary
3) Main thread,
     1 Scott David Gray,
     2, Sam in SactoVS
     2 beta, on moving from the traditional model
     2 gamma, on half pregnant
     3 Ardeshir and Joe Jackson,
4) Conclusions

1) Definitions:

            ordinary people:

Those mot yet exposed or aware of SVS or Summerhill education philosophy.

           SVS : Sudbury Valley School
           SHS : Summerhill school

2) Introduction to this summary

Dear everyone,
OK, this thread has started to fray & split into some interesting topics,
though not every one of them is "on the nail". I'll attempt to show where
the splits occurred, and where we are, (or anyway, where I am :-) It is
quite possible that some other posts were made since I last connected, and I
apologise for the crossed posts.

P.S. People, please be more inclined to adjust the subject line to reflect
splits from the thread.

3) Main thread.

This Thread split from: And the right answer is . . . there is no paradigm .
. . er . . . I think. When Bill We started when Bill Richardson asked
Alexander Streater what Alexander thought of the following:

> Mimsy Sadofsky, in one of the tapes, fields the question as to whether
> could be a hybrid school, a school between what Sudbury Valley is and
what a
> traditional school is.

He replied:

My best answer is that no, they are really two different things (the 2d and
the 3d). They are orthogonal.

The reference to 2d and 3d is from an earlier post, in which Alexander was
trying to describe the difficulty he was having, bringing understanding of
SVS / SH philosophy to ordinary people. Ed

Alexander felt there was an inadequate definition of the word "hybrid":

A hybrid school. Is this one where:

a) some of the kids that attend belong to the "free" part of it while
the other half of the kids attend lessons as normal (and look out of the
window to see the others wasting their time on the grass while they settle
back into their chairs comfortable in the knowledge that they will certainly
"make it")

Alexander was sure "that the first is un-workable"

Due to evidence provided by Jerry Mintz

 Strange to say, I was just at a conference where
 I heard about a program which fits this model.
 It is in an inner city public alternative school of
 1200 students which, itself, has a democratic
 parliament for running the school, and the school
 allows any student to leave any class without
 explanation. It is a constitutional right. But within
 this school there is a voluntary program which
 now has 75 students. They call it "Park Schooling,"
 using the park analogy, in which the student may
 go anywhere he or she pleases, work with younger
 kids in the school, go to the library, do "nothing,"
 etc. Where is it? It is in the School of Self-
 Determination, in Moscow, Russia.

 Jerry Mintz

Alexander has changed his mind to "open" on the first definition.

b) A regular school that provides more choice to it's students about what
they do during the day ?

Alexander felt case b) is "a resounding Y-E-S . . . with provissions, the
main one being that the school allows itself to move further in the
direction (of, say, freedom, or back to traditional learning) as the system
evolves and shows itself to be workable."

Alexander went on to say:

Free schools frighten many people simply because they have no idea how it
can all work. Having a "all or nothing", "take it or leave it" approach does
nothing to bring the nervous on board. A sliding approach needs to be
provided. Interestingly enough, it is my observation that the more extreme
and regimented a school is, the more easily, smoothly and successfully the
school can be "converted".

! ! ! ! ! ! !

This is where the melted ice-cream and banana cream pies hit the fan, and we
get a major mis-understanding and the first and second splits:

Split one.

Scott David Gray said:

The key to being a student in a Sudbury Model School is that you are trusted
completely, with all the same rights and freedoms as the adults in the
school (more, actually, because the staff are obligated to certain things by
contract). The responsibility and sense of self exhibited by SVS students
and alumni comes directly from living up to this total trust. You are not
showing trust in a person when you create "safeguards" to prevent her/him
from making the "wrong" choices. You are not putting faith in a person when
you tell her/him that THESE hours are hers/his but not THOSE hours. The very
thing that has made Sudbury Schools successful is the fact that the trust
and freedom are COMPLETE. Anything less may be a good thing compared to a
traditional school, in so far as the students are under that much less
pressure. But students in such a school are missing out on _the_ vital
aspect of a Sudbury education; true responsibility for oneself. I do not
believe that a "hybrid" Sudbury School is possible, any more than it is
possible to be "a little" pregnant.

and concurred with by David Rovner, who commented that:

I use to say: Either you are pregnant or you are not. You cannot be HALF

Split two.

Sam in SactoVS here - Alexander Said:

 "Free schools frighten many people simply because they have no idea how it
can all work. Having a "all or nothing", "take it or leave it" approach does
nothing to bring the nervous on board."

To me this is a good thing and exactly the point! We in Sacramento have had
more than our share of "nervous" on board, and after all is said and done
they almost always leave. And usually it is not a pleasant experience. On
the other hand, those who buy the "all or nothing", "take it or leave it" of
our philosophy stick around and are contributing members of the community.
Hybrids do not work. A Sudbury school is what it is, and parts-swapping
creates something that is not a Sudbury school. "A regular school that
provides more choice to it's students about what they do during the day" is
not a Sudbury School. You can call it a hybrid Sudbury if you want, but is
more like a prison that offers McDonalds in addition to the regular dinner
fare. It may offer more choice, but still is not freedom by any stretch of
the imagination. "A sliding approach needs to be provided." You can offer
Taco Bell next year or possibly two or three kinds of toothpaste the year
after, but for all that sliding you still don't have freedom, just a few
more choices. Do the smooth and successful conversion of the more extreme
and regimented schools, but don't tinker with creating the missing link,
because there is none.

Plus various posts pouring cold water on the idea that _nothing_ but the
SVS/SHS model is worth considering.

_Where_ did all that come from???????? Gentlemen gentlemen, I fear you are
showing your war scars after so many years of struggle, indeed battle! We're
among friends. Let's avoid the vitriolic.

The error in split one and two is clear. There is an assumption suddenly
made, that we want to muck around with the SVS/SHS model, ... a "hybrid"
Sudbury School is possible... (Scott David Gray) giving rise to the analogy
"a little" pregnant.

But the original question posed by M Sadofsky was "whether there could be a
hybrid school, a school between what Sudbury Valley is and what a
traditional school is."

1) "a hybrid school",
2) and "between what Sudbury Valley is and what a traditional school is."

Let's put the knives away ;-)

and then:

But Scott David inadvertantly gave birth to the "pregnant"analogy.
Alexander caught onto this. Alexander should have stuck with the "apple pie"
analogy. Perhaps people carry much less baggage when it comes to cooking!

          Split two beta:
          Alexander needed to see a school that had attempted
          to move from the traditional model to the SVS/SHS
          model that had failed. Susan Jarquin suggested
          "ANNOUNCING A NEW SCHOOL..." by Dan
          Greenman. Many thanks for that hint. Perhaps not
          quite what I was looking for, but I'll almost certainly
          read this book in view of the fact that SVS seems to
          so precisely match what I have long expressed, more
          so than SHS. Thread closed.

     Split two gamma:
     Alexander further muddied the water by replying:
     Of course you can! (be a half pregnant) It's called
     "mid-term". And a little bit pregnant is can be can
     be considered " at the start of pregnancy".which
     goes into the detail of when conception occurs,
     and perhaps belongs to the Right to Life/ Right to
     Choose debate, thus way off thread. Thread closed.

Splits one and two threads closed.

But CindyK using the pregnancy analogy, seemed to have picked up on the
essence of the idea that the desired state (full SVS/SHS model) requires
time for many people to get used to, Thus getting us back firmly onto the
main thread. She said:

This is my perspective. I think you can be a little bit pregnant. I have
been pregnant twice and I know. Each passing month brings you closer to the
desired state - having a baby in your arms. (Or having a Sudbury School).
Some people could skip the pregnancy all together and just get right to
having the baby. Others NEED those nine months to get used to the idea and
work towards it slowly. Each step is a step in the right direction. Some
people can jump into a Sudbury School right away, others need to be exposed
to the idea slowly. I think that people with only one choice would jump at
the chance to have two! It may not be a Sudbury School but it would be
better than the traditional.

And: I think the trouble is in the wording.

You are always on the ball CindyK!

Further, she went onto say:

The hybrid would lie somewhere in between. It would be a middle ground
school. Not a traditional school and not a Sudbury School. Better than
traditional, not as ideal (for me, maybe perfect for others) as Sudbury.
That's how I see it anyway.

Quickly adding: I am not arguing with anyone.

(Mmm, the knives are put away now.)

Finally: I just wanted to show you my picture, my model of the world.
That's what conversation is for right? Sharing our models? Welcome to my
world. :) Take Care, CindyK

(I think I'm partly in your world CindyK, and it's beautiful. Mefi and all)

I could end here. CindyK so eloquently describes the précis.
Similar echos from Joe Jackson:

Snipped--- I have seen many attempts to give students limited freedom in
conventional schools, and while these steps confer limited benefit upon
students, I shudder to see these schools compared to a Sudbury School. ////
The kind of people that will be frightened merely because the school
currently runs counter to our nation's educational culture mindset are a)
often not "keepers", and b) will feel more comfortable in the future when
they see hundreds of SM schools with thousands of families of the former
type, rather than dozens of schools with a dozen families each.

And a stronger voice from Jerry Mintz:

>From the POV of a student or teacher (or parent) in an authoritarian school,
there is a world of difference between Ms. Grundy and a teacher who is
flouting convention by implementing limited democracy within their own
classroom. I know - I was that teacher for several years in public schools
in Ann Arbor. By no means do I claim to have been running a fully democratic
classroom, for I was within a decidedly undemocratic system. On the other
hand, my students' experiences with democratic decision making (including
creating their own rules governing behavior and creating a judicial process
to enforce those rules) was of many orders of magnitude different than the
experiences of students in traditionally run classrooms. >> In the latest
issue of our magazine, The Education revolution, there are two diaries of
public school teachers describing their process of democratizing their
classrooms. My feeling about this is that teachers in any setting may do
this, as long as they are honest with their students about what freedom is
possible in the situation. For example, I remember when I was demonstrating
democratic process in a public alternative school for "at-risk" students on
Long Island. One of the students complained that he wanted to change the
rule that prohibited hats in school. A teacher replied that it was a
district rule and he had no authority over it, but he would be glad to go to
the school board with him to try to change the rule. You could sense their
perceptions about eachother changing. They decided they wanted to have
weekly democratic meetings for the rest of the year. At the end of the year
they were the only students to demonstrate when the district axed some


Jerry, been there, done that! Well done! Only a little drop of democratic
medicine (poison) is needed to wake the sleeping giant.

Main Thread closed.

Split three.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Ardeshir and Joe Jackson began
discussing the absoluteness of absoluteness. Initially not apparently
relevant, I am grateful to Ardeshir as he concluded:

But here I appeal to everyone's sense of what is reasonable. To illustrate:
if you add just one molecule of pure water to a gallon of milk, that milk
can hardly be called "adulterated". Even if you add a thousand molecules it
is unreasonable to call it adulterated. But if you add a *cupful* of water,
it is; and if you add a gallon-full, it is *definitely* adulterated!
Similarly, if there is a school model *very* close to the Sudbury model, it
can be called "*nearly* a Sudbury school" (or some such thing.) But on the
other hand, if you insist on calling a school like Eton or Harrow a "Sudbury
school", that would hardly pass the laugh test. Reasonably speaking -- and
even logically speaking -- there *has* to be a certain amount of leeway in
the definition of what validly constitutes a "Sudbury school".

People tend not to like teasing out details like this when they become
emotional about something. But it helps us to define who we are and to
accommodate varying themes in a tune.

Split three thread closed.


1) No-one has ever suggested that an SVS/SHS model school should be altered
to satisfy the parents who don't quite trust their children in that type of

2) All in all, people seem to be madly agreeing with each other. This from

If it's not a Sudbury, then we don't call it one. Makes sense to me. NO
problem there for me. Am I wrong, but is anyone saying otherwise on that?
No Laura, but some people are still searching for THE fight. This is a sad
reflection on the state of public awareness, that we, as a community of
concerned people should have become so defensive. Perhaps it is time for us
to reclaim the vocabulary of -true- education. I would like to start a new
thread on that matter at a later date.

3) The final split.

There was some doubt about why we were discussing this at all on this board.
I was a little surprised. This, again from Laura:

I also agree that this is a "Discuss-Sudbury-Model" list. So what are we
talking about here?
Due to an early mix-up, the thread became, shall we say, knotted and frayed.
But the topic is very important. There are for me two main reasons for this.

1) The simple humanity of allowing people to be free should be extended to
children. It has always disgusted me that any sentient be abused, and have
their rights to choose the simple things in life removed from them. Of
course I'm not suggesting that people be allowed to run riot, I assume that
we on this list don't need to have _that- discussion. I suppose we are
climbing out of the Victorian era still.

2) Make no mistake. This philosophy is destined to become mainstream. We
will wonder at the stupidity and short-sightedness (née blindness) of people
who now are unwilling to let the Industrialised era go. As we move further
into the I.T. era, SVS, SHS, and the many other closely related models will
show their strength.

And thus it is in all our interests that we pursue any and every avenue
available to us in order to create as many such institutions as possible.
Even ones that are converted from traditional model schools, with varying
degrees and flavors. These children, who are now going through the system
will have an edge, (perhaps not clearly visible now, but greatly magnified
as time passes) that will enable our nations to function.

 Although I'm no historian, I've noticed that through every major change in
human history, there have always been the dispossessed left thrashing around
in the wake of change. And although most such changes occured after war, in
every case the dispossessed posed a temporary threat to those that appear to
lead or epitomise the new order. The wider the understanding, the greater
the chance that the new era can prevent tragedy and poverty.

 I've been following along, very interested in this topic, but I've lost the
whole jist of this thread.
We must forgive the little trouble and re-focus. One of the things that is
worth consideration is what Laura concluded with, as this question should
make us aware of the danger of becoming like a religious fringe group

I am more interested in discussing why it is the prevailing view that
anything that is NOT a Sudbury cannot succeed. Any thoughts? Why so much
disdain for other alternatives that are at least closer to SVS than

Why indeed? The attitude that we must avoid is one that prevents pluralism
and experimentation. After all, that is the SVS/ SHS philosophy, is it not?
We must never be guilty of creating a climate of fear in which people can
experiment through discussion on ways and means at creating better school
institutions for our children and ourselves. If we become too inward
looking, we will have nothing to say to each other except the same worn out
dictums, taken from "The Holy Book" and the Word of the 12 disciples!

Those of us SO locked into the "perfect" solution, I believe have lost the plot. Let's take a step back and remember we are not some political or religious fringe group. We are among the first, in a sense, to notice that the education Emperor wears no clothes. But in the story I tell, we all wear the same clothes, so we all wear nothing. It's unimportant who noticed first, or how nude we are, or what exactly we should be wearing. We must just start dressing, each other before the storm comes.


>From Derek

Who do you mean by asking / suggesting "let us". We don't need to do anything. Being involved in a Sudbury model school is enough for us.


We have no need (but maybe a wish) to do anything about Schools in general. ---- I don't agree at all. We all need to be aware of the situation around us, and I know you probably do. But we have not finished just because we have what -we- want.

Derek said:

Obviously anyone involved in mainstream education can seek change, and there are many Schools following different paths. Some of us have sought change, some see it as a pointless cause knowing the bureaucratic systems that control and oversee such Schools. And others of us know that doing what we are doing is bringing about changes in education, by being simply one of the diversity of educational choices.

Again, quite true. However, I put it too you that many of us on this list intuitivly know that we have something beautiful. The right answer actually. Personally, I think that with this gift comes a responsibility to make such basic a freedom available to as many children as possible, for the many reasons I have tried to clarify in this document. I know that many of us are exhausted after fighting so hard to establish what little toe-hold you have. But when the tide turns in our favor, well thought out ideas that can lead to a better environment for all will surely be appreciated.

Alexander Streater ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Message to fellow teachers Children learn in spite of us, not because of us!

My god! It's 5:30 am, monday morn. Sorry if this post crossed any of yours.

Looking forward to any supportive suggestions.



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