re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom

From: Jesse Fisher (freedomworks@burgoyne.com)
Date: Thu Nov 01 2001 - 00:12:25 EST


Actually, I had a successful go of it -- giving students a healthy dose of self-government on a class basis, not on an individual basis.
Democracy = self-government, and a class can be self-governing, even if the individuals unfortunately can't be.

Taught my 8th grade US Government classes basic Parliamentary Procedure using a game I created. Also explained how PP protects the rights of each individual to be heard. Then acting as constitutional conventions each class came up with a fairly good constitution for a student association whose aim was to create a free democratic school.

I did chart out their real position in a very top-down authoritarian heirarchy to help them see the value in a democratic school [sure felt like a traitor in the enemy camp! Expected the PC Thought Police to barge in anytime and yell, "Treason! Treason!" and haul me away]. I had originally hoped to have them bang out a constitution for a Sudbury-style school, but they weren't up to that. I figured if they ever were to be self-governing in life in groups, they would need to understand how self-governing organizations function. Creating a constitution for the student associations did the job.

 If I remember correctly, it took about a month and a half for them to finish their association constitutions. I would instruct them for roughly the first third of class about constitutions, preambles, etc., then we would call the convention to order and get down to business. I personally found it very rewarding. The kids were very much into it. In fact, my neighboring teacher reported that the kids pleaded for using parliamentary procedure on occasions in her class. She had no problem, since it helped maintain order and protected individual rights.

I did reserve ultimate veto power, but rarely had to use it. After several days, I braved letting the elected association President be chair of the convention. They usually did a remarkable job.

Guess my point is this: Although a public-school teacher might be unwise to grant children intellectual freedom, en masse -- giving them a real opportunity to practice self-government at least prepares them for political freedom much more than they otherwise would be.

Jesse Fisher
Freedom Preservation Foundation

> Good points from all. I also worry that the kids will not buy into it. And
> there is no real democracy because they are stuck in that room for those 50
> minutes. But I do think that a teacher can help foster a positive change
> in
> a student, even in a traditonal classroom. It may be severely limited but
> encouraging free form thought (somethig that I think art is a good tool
> for)
> can help change attitude and the way things are percieved. This is like
> convincing those that Joe mentions that don't want to be convinced.

> William

> On Wed, 31 Oct 2001 20:30:46 -0500, discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org wrote:

> > I lost track of this thread so can't recall who originally raised the
> issue
> > of democratic classrooms in traditional schools but, whoever it was,
> allow
> > me tell you about my experience with this concept. First of all, I
> don't
> > expect to change your mind. Nothing would have changed mine 25 years ago
> > when I first attempted this.
> >
> > In your attempt, you may be able to withstand the pressure applied by
> your
> > administration and fellow teachers. Even parent complaints may roll off
> but
> > it is the determined and insistent opposition by your students that you
> need
> > to be ready for. It was this last factor that finally doomed my every
> > attempt at democratizing the classroom. Children schooled for any
> length
> of
> > time in a traditional setting have bought the farm, so to speak. They
> have
> > learned how to exist in an authoritarian environment and have settled
> into
> > their passive roles. Democratizing the classroom entails asking them to
> > become active participants with responsibility for their own educations.
> > Most don't want this. It's harder and they have to think so they set
> about
> > sabotaging your plans by turning it into a joke or accusing you of not
> doing
> > your job.
> >
> > There are, to be fair, a few who buy into the whole thing but these are
> the
> > ones you should worry about most. These keen ones learn fast and are
> soon
> > pushing the democratic process into all areas of your classroom. The
> > problem is they just don't know when to quit. They don't respect that
> > artificial wall you have built around your classroom and simply can't
> > understand why this democracy stuff can't work in the rest of the school
> as
> > well. They fan out like zealots, spreading the word of democratic
> freedom,
> > all the way, eventually, into the seat of power in the principal's
> office.
> > There, or somewhere along their path to freedom, they run into the
> reality
> > that their school is not democratic and, furthermore, will not stand for
> it.
> > Play your democracy game in your classroom if you wish but don't deign
> to
> > think you can influence the real order of the school. The door to
> freedom
> is
> > slammed shut in their faces and they are devastated. What's more, you
> are
> > to blame. You set them up with all your talk of democracy in education.
> > These are the ones who are now your most ardent opponents. They have
> come
> > to see democracy as a sham, an idea that doesn't work in the real world.
> >
> > Here is my advice to you, for what it's worth. You can run a democratic
> > classroom if you are prepared to define democracy in very limited and
> > superficial terms so it doesn't leak out the classroom door, but, if you
> try
> > to establish a genuine democracy in action, be prepared for the backlash
> and
> > accept that the risk may be that you end up, instead, with a bunch of
> > disillusioned kids.
> >
> > In my opinion, attempting democracy in a traditional school classroom is
> > trying to convince kids that they can be free as long as they stay
> within
> > the walls of the jail. In order to know freedom, you must be free. It's
> as
> > simple as that. If you must teach in a traditional school, don't play
> games
> > with your students. If you want to help them, tell them the truth about
> > their autocratic education system and help them to see how they are
> > conditioned by it.
> >
> > Warren
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Joe Jackson <shoeless@jazztbone.com>
> > To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
> > Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 10:46 AM
> > Subject: DSM: criticising convincing
> >
> >
> > > 'Sup, Malc.
> > >
> > > I didn't mean to imply that convincing people other than critics is
> not
> > > a waste of time as well, my mensch, just that I am familiar with the
> > > criticisms of Sudbury schooling, and do not feel that convincing
> critics
> > > is anything other than good sport.
> > >
> > > But in terms of the business of promoting the schools it's the whole
> > > idea that burning people-energy and money convincing people that
> Sudbury
> > > schools are good in order to help the revolution along is a waste of
> > > time in comparison to using those same resources to get the word out
> to
> > > people who need no convincing.
> > >
> > > That's why we set up a Sudbury school rather than trying to reform an
> > > existing one: so we wouldn't have to waste our time convincing people
> > > who aren't even going to take Sudbury schooling seriously until they
> see
> > > lots of people going to them. And that isn't going to happen until,
> > > say, forty million people in the United States know they exist and,
> say,
> > > the one out of every 500 of them who need no convincing go to one.
> > >
> > > And I would say that while it was less the end of a long hard day than
> > > the beginning of a hard days' night, I see the goals and methods of
> > > setting up a democratic self-initiated classroom in a conventional
> > > school as being completely different than the goals and methods of
> > > setting up a Sudbury school. The latter is where my experience and
> > > interest lies, but I know that William Van Horn is a right guy and I
> > > wish him luck in succeeding in whatever he attempts.
> > >
> > > Peace out bro',
> > >
> > > Joe
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> > > [mailto:owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org] On Behalf Of Malc Dow
> > > Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 9:07 AM
> > > To: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> > > Subject: RE: DSM: convincing critics
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Joe Jackson
> > >
> > > >There are much, much too many people out there that are hungry for
> > > precisely what our school has to offer for me to waste much time
> trying
> > > to convince critics.
> > >
> > > It is never a waste of time trying to convince critics. Who else is
> > > there to convince?
> > >
> > > >>If, on the other hand, you are attempting to set up a "Sudbury-like"
> > > atmosphere in a conventional classroom, I cannot really advise you,
> and
> > > good luck.
> > >
> > > Sounds like the end of a long hard day Joe!
> > > But luckily there is advice at hand.
> > > Robert van Nood has a set of journals about setting up and maintaining
> a
> > > democratic classroom within an establishment school. You can get the
> > > e-text; "Welcome to Springfield - Population 23 People" in various
> > > formats, for free, from here: http://www.first-ask.de/abc/van-nood/
> > >
> > > (excerpt)
> > > " Another growing trend that is quite disturbing, is the use of
> children
> > > as scapegoats. No longer do they "have problems", they are becoming
> "THE
> > > problem". Any society that turns its back on its own children in such
> a
> > > way shows it's deep seeded sickness. While we continue to push our
> > > children to grow up faster and faster, we blame them for more of the
> > > ills of the society. While we continue to relinquish our control of
> our
> > > communities and our country to the will of the moneyed interests, we
> do
> > > little to protect our youth from the consequences of greed and fear. "
> > >
> > >
> > > Malc Dow
> > >
> > >
> > > ===========
> > >
> > > If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email
> > > TO majordomo@sudval.org with the following phrase in the BODY (not the
> > > subject) of the message:
> > >
> > > unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model [the-subscribed-email]
> > >
> > > If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is
> too
> > > much, you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and
> > > subscribing to "dsm-digest"
> > >
> > > This mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > ===========
> > >
> > > If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email
> TO
> > > majordomo@sudval.org with the following phrase in the BODY (not the
> > > subject) of the message:
> > >
> > > unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model [the-subscribed-email]
> > >
> > > If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is
> too
> > much,
> > > you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing
> to
> > > "dsm-digest"
> > >
> > > This mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives
> > >
> >
> >
> > ===========
> >
> > If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email
> TO
> > majordomo@sudval.org with the following phrase in the BODY (not the
> > subject) of the message:
> >
> > unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model [the-subscribed-email]
> >
> > If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is too
> much,
> > you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing to
> > "dsm-digest"
> >
> > This mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives

> William M. Van Horn
> wmvh1@excite.com
> http://www.angelfire.com/art/inmystudio

> _______________________________________________________
> Send a cool gift with your E-Card
> http://www.bluemountain.com/giftcenter/

> ===========

> If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email TO
> majordomo@sudval.org with the following phrase in the BODY (not the
> subject) of the message:

> unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model [the-subscribed-email]

> If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is too
> much,
> you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing to
> "dsm-digest"

> This mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives

===========

If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email TO
majordomo@sudval.org with the following phrase in the BODY (not the
subject) of the message:

unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model [the-subscribed-email]

If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is too much,
you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing to
"dsm-digest"

This mailing list is archived at http://www.sudval.org/~sdg/archives



This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Mon Nov 05 2001 - 20:24:29 EST