RE: DSM: troubles at PacVillage

From: Liz Reid&Errol Strelnikoff (
Date: Tue May 29 2001 - 01:35:59 EDT

> While Neill was big on the integration of psychology within
> his school in
> his time, that aspect has, to put it mildly, faded. IMO, the
> fact that
> Neill performed therapy sessions on students was not one of
> the best things
> about the school, which has a great many things in common
> with the Sudbury
> school.

I know very little about the details of Niell's therapy sessions. The
books of his that I have read don't give a lot of detail, so I can not
give an opinion on whether it was one of the best, better or worst
aspects of the school.

Playmountain also has many things in common with Summerhill.

> That is, of course, entirely different from
> whether the school employs therapeutic measures. IMO the model is the
> antithesis of a school that tries to affect behavior by
> attempting to cure
> the student of underlying psychological conditions.

Perhaps I am using the wrong word with therapy, but I can't think of a
better one to describe the kind of teaching Phyllis did. She never said
anything about curing underlying ills. She just had a wonderful
understanding of children and a knack for getting parents to see things
from a child's view. When I call her a teacher, I mean only a teacher
in the sense that just spending time with her was a learning experience.
I do not mean the kind of teacher that people picture in front of a
classroom. Neither do I mean the kind of therapy that Niell practiced.
I mean the therapy one gets from being with someone who has a very good
understanding of their field.

> I don't think so; if you were a student at Fairhaven, I
> believe you would
> know exactly what I'm talking about, as you would likely *share* my
> experience of having been in both worlds! If on the other
> hand you *did*
> think that, you would tell me so, and would quickly learn
> that I do not lack
> said experience in the ensuing conversation. This is the
> common way such
> exchanges go at the school. (Interestingly enough,
> comparisons like this
> between Fairhaven and conventional schools is a favorite
> topic among the
> students at our school. And hearing the experiences of our
> students has
> done much to reinforce my opinions of externally discipline
> versus internal
> discipline).

I don't quite get what you are talking about here. Are you saying that
without having experienced being a student at a Sudbury School I cannot
understand what you are talking about?

I could never be sure that I understand you even then. But tell me,
would having been a student at two schools that were also like
Summerhill and like Sudbury, but without the student government, but
rather anarchic instead, make it possible for me to concieve of what a
Sudbury school is like? I have visited one Sudbury school and I have
spoken plenty with people from and involved in Sudbury schools.

At Kirkdale school in London we tried the whole student government thing
and we found that it was too time consuming having meetings and so they
just went away. Now and then the adults would try and get us to do them
again and we wouldn't want to. So perhaps we were really a Sudbury
school that voted not to do the government stuff, as was discussed on
this list in a recent thread. Although we didn't vote on it we just
stopped doing it.

I think that we were pretty young as the school only went up to eleven
and we weren't so interested in all the details of right and wrong and
who is to blame. We were too busy playing armies and forts. We usually
got the staff to do woodwork and stuff with us. They also knew some fun
games. Maybe had the environment been less absorbing we would have had
more interest in having meetings. Or maybe the staff could have been a
little better at getting these things organised. They may have done a
better job at doing the government stuff if they had had access to one
of those Sudbury kits. It was probably easier for them to just let us
run wild rather than try and convince us of the need for meetings.

> There are very many "Playmountains" and "Phyllises" in the
> world. My wife
> and I have worked in scores of schools as teacher, director,
> clinician and
> administrator. And each one of these places does terribly
> nice things for
> students on occasion. And yet I am quite sure that the Sudbury school
> offers students the best chance to learn to take responsibility for
> themselves.

Are you saying that you and your wife worked in scores of free schools?
Wow, you must know all about them then. I don't remember the school
doing terribly nice things to us, but then we were way too busy having a
terribly fun time.

> And the fact that they educate themselves and come up with
> conlusions that
> offend the way others see the world does not make their
> conclusions "cheap"
> and "bigoted". Throwing those terms in there just makes the
> speaker look
> bad, does it not?

It seems like I may have offended you. I guess the ability to be
offensive may be an aspect that *all* free schools have in common and
not just the Sudbury ones.

Liz Reid


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