RE: DSM: The Sudbury model -- appropriate for all children, yes or no?

From: Joe Jackson (
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 18:15:33 EDT

> What I am saying is, that if we want to prepare our kids for life in a
> demcracy, and if in our adult democracy we will not under any circum-
> stances send anyone away to a country where a non-democratic way of
> life prevails, we should not do that to the children either. Otherwise
> what kind or message are we sending the kids?

I think we're making this more complicated than it is. In a Sudbury school,
the School Meeting sets up a list of rules democratically in order to keep
the culture from falling apart, and decides some method for seeing to it
that individuals, regardless of whether they are staff or students, can't
harm the culture by ignoring the standards the community they have chosen to
be in have agreed to.

If a student decides they cannot (or are not willing, depending on how you
look at it) live by those standards, they cannot stay at the school.
Whether or not that is best for the suspended student (I believe it *is*
best for them) is irrelevent; the school cannot afford to have students on
that always "get one more chance" unless everyone always "gets one more
chance", and then you don't have a school (at least one my kids would want
to go to).

In the "adult" world (ha, ha), if one cannot or is not willing to live up to
our laws, they are put on probation or behind bars or something like that.
This is the more accurate analogy that I believe Ardeshir was looking for,
and so the answer to her question is, the school is sending the message that
you are responsible for living up to what the culture you choose to live in
agrees to. That is "taking responsiblity for yourself" - satisfying an
agreement you made when you decided to join a group of people. Integrity.

This other idea, that there are students that "can't handle" the freedom of
the school, is an idea that's been invented by a few people on this list
within the past week (actually, I guess it's realistically been around for
centuries - only "revived" on this list). Since the coop days before
Fairhaven opened, I have seen nothing to even suggest that these students
exist. And frankly, the very idea that these students exist only leads to
justifying the further subjugation of children.

I realize that there are lots of people that would look at a student
floundering or "hanging out" or "stagnating" at our schools and say, "that
is not working", they "can't handle" freedom; this would be an incorrect
interpretation. Perhaps the adult in question doesn't, as per puritan work
ethic or something, approve of allowing a student to "stagnate; perhaps they
have never seen a student allowed to "flounder" long enough to see the
changes that follow extended "floundering": what kind of person the student
becomes when given space.

And it seems like the harder they flounder, the more extraordinary the
reward when they're finished.

So we are making this way too complex by confusing the concepts of "taking
responsibility for one's self", which I interpret to be acting in a manner
that is accountable to the baseline standards of community in which one
lives, and "handling freedom", which IMO is a ridiculous concept: not only
can every person on the planet handle freedom, I think freedom is a basic
right of all people.

Then we move back to conversation 1A, which is based on the idea that
Sudbury schools and conventional schools have ostensible differences in how
they "deal with" students that can't take responsiblity for themselves. In
the Sudbury school, the students and staff get together and decides what's
OK and what's not, and if a student can't help but repeatedly do things that
aren't "OK", they have to leave. Conventional schools set hard limits as
well, but when a student repeatedly bumps into these limits the school
diagnoses the child and attempts to do what is necessary to "cure" them
(please chime in on this one, public school people).

So my reaction to conversation 1A is that I believe that the schools that
respond to students who are not willing to take responsibility for
themselves by treating them as mental patients are not doing them a service.
And that the Sudbury environment, which will not "engage" in that game with
students who have not yet decided to look at themselves for their
unwillingness to take responsibility is, in my experience, much more
effective in leaving the student with no choice but to look inward for that
unwillingness (or inability).

Joe Jackson


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