Re: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom

From: Alan Klein (
Date: Fri Nov 02 2001 - 10:15:41 EST

Hi all,

This whole discussion is one we have recycled over and over. I am struck by
a theme, or perhaps a tone, that seems to recur. Whenever people talk about
their experiences of "sort of doing democracy" in public or private schools,
we fall all over ourselves to come down on them. We go to great pains to
tell them about the evil they are foisting upon their unsuspecting students.
(Hyperbole, for sure, but I think I am accurately noting the gist of what
goes on here.) I wonder why this is so.

Back in teh early days of The Highland School (early 1980's), we used to
have this discussion a lot. Is The Harmony School in Indiana sufficiently
democratic to be considered a friend or are they the devil incarnate because
they talk freedom but don't practice it to the level we believe necessary?
Why did kids in Chris Mercogliano's class at The Free School in Albany
(mentioned in a SKOLE article he wrote) have a math class they had to rebel
against rather than being free to choose their own activities? Did this mean
that The Albany Free School is a sham...a mere pretender to be cast away and
scorned by us true believers?

I have come to believe that this level of heat in this discussion is a
problem for us as a community of people working for democracy in education.
Simply put, I think it is counter-productive, in that we drive off more
people than we attract. And in this business we need all teh friends we can

Scott David, Mimsy, Dawn, and Joe ...don't reach for your keyboard yet! I am
NOT suggesting that we water down our philosohies to attract more people. I
am not suggesting that we tell half truths to prospective parents to lure
thm into the fold. I am not suggesting that we bestow the "SVS" brand or the
democratic school label on any school or classroom that decides to claim it.
I am not suggestign that we stop vigorously discussing and debating our
philosophical and pragmatic practices.

What I AM suggesting is that we tone down the rhetoric that states or
implies that people do harm to kids when they do their best to apply
whatever they can of democratic methodology to their classrooms in
non-democratic schools. Certainly we all may wish that they would abandon
those efforts and join us in our democratic schools. The question then is,
"What is the best way to get them to do so?" My experience tells me that
taking an appreciative look at our own experiences and sharing them with
others is the best way. Telling them that they are going to Educational Hell
for not quitting their jobs in order to start a democratic school is not.

Thanks for listening. You may now fire away!
~Alan Klein


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