Re: DSM: Paradigm Shift

Date: Tue May 22 2001 - 23:23:11 EDT

Dear Folks,

What if Sudbury is a paradigm shift? What would be the scope of such a
thing? Here is my take.

My first and foundational viewpoint on this possible paradigm shift comes
from psychology, and 10 years of heavy psychotherapy. I pushed this angle all
the way to something called focusing. The basic idea here is that the
behavior patterns of the usual and prevailing paradigm are probably blasted
into our bodies. They have become highly automated. I think the most telling
marker of this usual and prevailing paradigm is a communication pattern that
I euphemistically call attack and defend. A most robust description of this
landscape is Robert Firestones' "Fantasy Bond". He basically lays out the
"neurosis". And, in a nutshell, the core of the neurosis is crippling
psychological defense. We had to defend to survive growing up, but very soon
thereafter that defense turns into a straightjacket. (This is why I think
that clearly the highest art of Sudbury is the social and cultural production
of free children. Those children are undefended to a much greater extent than
usual). Firestone is basically disheartened and certainly does not see or
chronicle a paradigm shift out, though he has some practice and remarks, in
the direction of community. Cooper, R.D. Laing, Miller and Janov are even a
little more bitter than Firestone. Against this heavy pessimistic backdrop, I
ran into some most fascinating folks doing something called focusing.
Focusing is almost concentrated extract of Sudbury. Or Sudbury is long term
focusing. The foundational work comes from Carl Rogers's client-centered
therapy. The most stunning views are Ann Cornell Wiesers'. If Sudbury is a
reverence for boundaries, she has refined this notion all the way to where
she makes clinical use of respect and regard for boundaries. Focusing ends up
as a discrete application of deep respect and profound regard, and as such,
it yields the expected Sudbury results - tremendous explosive creative

Now in continuing to look for a scope for this paradigm shift, it is apparent
that education is a possible. But, see, to me, it is almost clear that
Sudbury is not about education, but rather about the freedom of children. The
education view is just too light. If I take the heaviest critics of
traditional education like Kozol, or Holt, they simply run out of horsepower
(and they don't see a paradigm shift either). I believe they run out of
horsepower because they limit themselves to education. My point is, if we
have a paradigm shift in Sudbury, I simply do not want to use it up blowing
away the likes of Maria Montessori. I need Sudbury to run against the big
dogs: Firstone (psychological defense), Alice Miller (cruelty to children),
Arthur Janov (automated behavior), Sydney Jourard (definition of self),
Virginia Satir (family systems theory).

And, finally, still looking for the scope of this paradigm shift, my most
current thinking (if this were the Chinese Revolution, this period would be
1958, in the "Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom" era) is that Sudbury resonates
with a fascinatingly wide array of thought. For one example, notice how
Sudbury crushes the distinction between old and young. Then notice how it
crushes the duality between teacher and learner. Well, there is a whole huge
literature on the undual, on the ilusionary nature of duality. It plays big
in Buddhism. Note Hanna's thesis "The Art of Doing Nothing". Hugh literature
on Nothingness also. Even notice Christ crushing the duality: "He causes his
sun to shine on the evil and the good and the rain to fall on the righteous
and the unrighteous". Note here the Neale Walsch stuff, Conversations with
God. They have just started their first school in Oregon - Sudbury is the
model. At this scope of the paradigm shift, we run Sudbury against Steven
Levine (is anyone ever hurt?), Pema Choldron (abandon all hope of fruition),
Steven Harrison (wake up) and John Hart (go sane). I love this scope level;
it feels almost like working in the new paradigm. We no longer argue about,
to or for Sudbury, we speak from it. We finally, at long last, decline to see
even ourselves as "improvers". We abandon completely the faith that we will
become Buddhas. All of a sudden, as if in a paradigm shift, we act and speak
with the faith of a Buddha.

Deep Regard,
Bill Richardson


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