Re: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom

From: Dawn F. Harkness (dawn@harkness.net)
Date: Fri Nov 02 2001 - 09:14:05 EST


Thank you Warren. You are too kind.
Dawn

P.S. Apologies to Jesse for misspelling your name. Spellcheckers don't
catch those mistakes and unfortunately, neither did I.

----- Original Message -----
From: Warren McMillan <warren@bmts.com>
To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2001 7:51 PM
Subject: Re: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom

> Hi Dawn. This is what I was trying to say in my wordy way. Thanks for
> saying it better.
>
> Warren
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Dawn F. Harkness <dawn@harkness.net>
> To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
> Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2001 6:35 PM
> Subject: Re: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom
>
>
> > Now Jeff, I don't know where you get your definition of democracy, but
it
> > doesn't ring true to me. The following definition comes from
> > Dictionary.com:
> >
> > 1.Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected
> > representatives.
> > 2.A political or social unit that has such a government.
> > 3.The common people, considered as the primary source of political
> > power.
> > 4.Majority rule.
> > 5.The principles of social equality and respect for the individual
> > within a community.
> >
> > Nothing about your classroom experiment sounds like democracy to me.
With
> > your ultimate veto power it sounds like Soviet style democracy, yeah
sure
> > everyone has the right to vote, but you can only vote for big brother
and
> > you can only vote for what big brother wants you vote for. To me, it
is
> > irrelevant how much your students professed to enjoy or learn from your
> > exercise in manipulation, that's still exactly what it was, more of the
> same
> > old classroom manipulation of students by teachers. I believe these
> kinds
> > of experiments by authority figures/teachers are ultimately harmful to
> > students since it blurs the lines between freedom and incarceration. If
> > traditional school teachers want to teach their students about
democracy,
> I
> > think they should get up every day and point out all the ways kids are
> > enslaved by the traditional school system. And then they should
apologize
> > for profiting from it.
> >
> > Dawn Harkness
> > SVS parent
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Jesse Fisher <freedomworks@burgoyne.com>
> > To: Sudbury discussion list <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
> > Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2001 12:12 AM
> > Subject: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom
> >
> >
> > > 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
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > ===========
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> > >
> > > > William M. Van Horn
> > > > wmvh1@excite.com
> > > > http://www.angelfire.com/art/inmystudio
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > > _______________________________________________________
> > > > Send a cool gift with your E-Card
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> > >
> > >
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