DSM: RE: RE: the digest and public school reform

From: Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Date: Tue May 15 2001 - 00:12:45 EDT


Hi Laura!

> What you are saying is
> it is a waste of time to try to change public schools incrementally. You
> feel if someone really wants to liberate learners they should "go all the
> way." Is this correct?

More specifically, I think if someone is interested in a school that is
owned by students both in the literal and figurative sense, a school in
which the students direct their learning processes free from the prospect of
coercion, it makes little sense to me for that person to direct their
energies towards a conventional school.

The two important points I want to make, 1) public school employees are
generally noble, talented and hardworking souls, and 2) it is certainly
possible to create small and temporary islands of limited democracy in some
public school environments, should not go understated.

However, I've not seen even a person who has successfully maintained a
limited democracy in a conventional setting who would compare it to ultimate
democratic ownership of the pedagogical and administrative processes, as
well as the school corporations and the building and land it is built in and
on.

And yes, I don't think public schools do incremental change in a unified
direction over time (e.g. towards or away from coercion). Much too many
pressures pushing in pulling in too many directions.

> I can appreciate what you are saying about it seeming like a waste of time
> to tinker with something else when compared to actively
> supporting a Sudbury
> school. Or at least, I imagine what it might be like - a big difference!

Unfortunately, all of the people I have come in contact with who have tried
to institute changes of the scope that we are discussing in conventional
environs insist that it is futile.

> What about a school that is something between what a Sudbury is and what a
> public school is? What is your view on that?

I think there is a lot of room for alternatives of every conceivable
flavor - it all depends on what parents want for their kids and what kind of
expectations they have for their kids' schooling...

> Is that still not worth the effort?

For those people, yes; I can't begrudge folks their educational choices and
expect them to tolerate mine :)

> Many newcomers to SVS seem to have a very difficult time
> with total
> freedom concept. (Esp. parents) Even ones who seem to embrace this
> philosophy in all other areas of their lives, they still are so very
> hesitant because there is that ever present worry - "what if I am wrong??"
> What are your thoughts on this?

Yes! - I absolutely agree. I had these kinds of doubts when we were first
becoming interested in the model. I see two major things influencing this:

1) Society has been moving quickly towards using statistics, measurement,
coercion and the evaluation of pedegogy by "scientific" means over the last
decade, and in this culture a non-coercive school seems counter-intuitive.
Or rather counter-culture. And:

2) The only point of reference most people have to decide whether they think
the school will be the right place for their children are
conventionally-educated children. In other words, most people havn't the
opportunity to meet as many SVS grads as I did, and therefore cannot develop
the vision of the continuity of their childrens' lives from present to
adulthood in the context of what the Sudbury Model does for them.

Words can't describe how fortunate I feel to have seen the vastly different
kind of person these empowered individuals are in comparison to the
conventionally-schooled folks who were unable to resist and emerge from
public school as inquisitive, whole people. I am fortunate that, for the
most part, I was able to handle being a bad guy in public schools enough
that I could resist the indoctrination, I am relieved that my kids' energies
can be used otherwise.

I think for many parents, the books and writings of SVS can give them a
sense of the vast context in which the model has existed for the past three
and a half decades, and often can find reassurance there. Many more take a
leap of faith and find the reassurance after their kids start reaping the
rewards ofter a couple of years. And then many others are, frankly, unable
to reconcile what the world is telling them with the track record of Sudbury
Valley School and its wannabes. Many of those people think that a general
business degree from a college is somehow more valuable than a certificate
from a cooking school (inside joke to O'Neill Factor viewers).

So, don't get me wrong :) I only think pub schools are a waste of time for
people that are really interested in really letting go of children. I
cannot speak for those who for some reason need to keep conditional strings
attached, and I mean no malice by that.

-Joe

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