RE: DSM: troubles at PacVillage

From: Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Date: Sun May 27 2001 - 11:23:59 EDT


Hi William,

About half of our incoming students fit this description. My response is
that certainly they are not dismissed back to public schools! The only way
a student gets "dismissed" from Fairhaven is if they decide they do not want
to abide by the rules set by them and their peers.

Our experience does not bear out that these students need encouragement or
direction to become aware that they make their own choices; in fact, our
experience reinforces what SVS's reveals: that external encouragement or
direction to make choices will prevent them from ever knowing what choices
they want to make, thus making decision-making an academic exercise.

The fact that students drive their own agenda is *so* central at the school
on a minute-to-minute basis that it is something that anyone who stands in
the school for five minutes cannot miss. So needless to say, the students
coming over from less-than-optimum educational environments learn about the
existence and authenticity of this new freedom very quickly from watching
the other students, not from staff or anyone encouraging or directing them.
Using this freedom, as you might expect, is often an entirely different
thing.

Typically, students coming from a schooling situation in which they have
received a high level of externally-applied discipline tend to spend much of
their initial time in a Sudbury Model school "decompressing". This is the
"you know, like, hanging out" part that "Sixty Minutes" made a big deal out
of. I attribute this to the fact that the sheer volume of, among other
things, "learning to follow the rules of others" has drowned out the "inner
voice" of the student; the part of them which knew all along (and continues
to learn) what they want to do and be in life. For these students, it takes
a while for them to create the space and quiet they need to rediscover their
voice.

So what I am telling you is that not only will a student, given space and
lack of pressure over a period of time, *inevitably* discover their passions
and learn that they are "worthy of pursuit", but that, in our experience,
external direction and encouragement *prevents* them from realizing and
acting upon these passions.

Only then do we typically find that the student activates, and becomes
involved with their passions. They routinely *fire* into these passions at
the level of involvement normally found in professionals in these fields,
immersing themselves into the respective cultures of these new-found
pursuits. Sometimes it "takes", sometimes not, but they figure it out very
quickly.

However, some students hit the ground running the day they get into the
school. (In my mind, these students are like I was: perhaps they were able
to resist what the conventional school tried to do to them regardless of the
cost (read: constant interactions with the disciplinary machinery :) ), and
emerged from the coercive environment with their inner voice relatively
intact.)

As far as "Sudbury or nothing", the students who have sacrificed their old
schools and friends to come to these kinds of schools, as well as the
parents who have sacrificed and paid to send them there, quite simply feel
that the Sudbury model school is the only acceptable place for them. So in
that sense, you are correct. But I don't really understand how could be
construed as disrespectful to students. Could you elaborate on this
question?

-Joe Jackson

> Just as an introduction: I am currently going for my teacher
> certificate in
> Arkansas for secondary school art. I am also substituting in
> local schools,
> in every subject they offer. I was introduced to the SVS model just this
> year, stumbling across it during some web surfing.
>
> When I was in a traditional public JRHS (late 60Õs) I read
> OÕNeillÕs book on
> Summerhill. It made me feel cheated by the schools I had been attending.
> Although I couldnÕt articulate it at the time, what most attracted me was
> the respect the students got from the school. This respect seems inherent
> in Summerhill and SVS just because they listen to the student and
> allow him
> to make his own decisions. As all of you know, there is very
> little of this
> in public schools. The system itself does not allow it.
>
> I can see that SVS is an ideal situation for many students. But
> what of the
> students who are not ready for complete responsibility, who would
> be lost in
> that situation because of all the "learning" they went through, to follow
> othersÕ rules, in public school or in their families? It seems that the
> people on this site involved with SVS just dismiss them back to the pit of
> public schools. "They donÕt *fit in* with us, so away with them!"
>
> Some kids need some initial direction or encouragement to get started, to
> become aware that they can have the freedom to make their own choices, and
> that those choices are special to them and because of that, worthy of
> pursuit. If we truly respect the individual we will recognize
> this need and
> respond to it. If this canÕt be done at SVS, where can it happen? Its
> unlikely to happen at public schools. What IÕm hearing on this
> list is that
> it is SVS or nothing. Everything else is less than SVS. I donÕt see how
> that is showing respect for students as individuals. You're saying the
> "system" of SVS is more important than the needs of the kids.
>
> William Van Horn
>
>
>
>
>
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