Re: re[2]: DSM: democratic classroom

From: Scott David Gray (
Date: Fri Nov 02 2001 - 23:08:02 EST

     There are more than 200 members of the
discuss-sudbury-model list. And there are more than 200
different philosophies of human development, dignity, and
education represented on this list.
     Some people on this list feel that the core of a good
school is that the concept of curriculum is abandoned.
Some people on this list feel that the core of a good
community is equality of voice and equality before the law
between students and adults in the community.
     A subset of those people (myself included) also believe
that their vision of a good school is more endangered by
people who _misunderstand_ what they are about, than it is
endangered by people who feel a little ticked off because
some people suggested that it might be counter-productive to
compromise those principles.

     In point of fact I _personally_ believe in my heart of
hearts that putting a democratic face on something that is
not democratic only adds a lie to the list of other sins.
I don't think that it encourages people to think
democratically -- I think that it encourages them to think
cynically and/or to think of freedom as nothing but a word.
     I look back at my own days in public school... And I
think to myself that had the teachers _admitted_ that it was
an unfair and unequal relationship, it would have been
slightly less horrible.

     A military school does exactly what it claims -- it
attempts to dissemble each student and to reassemble him/her
in a pre-determined way. A sudbury school does exactly what
it claims -- it keeps hands off the person and lets her/him
be. However, a progressive school is dishonest by its very
nature -- it uses the language of freedom in order to
further an underlying curriculum. I think that children are
hurt even more by lies, than they are by having to live
unfree to a military standard.
     In other words... I feel that a "progressive" school
which uses the language of democracy is in many ways
_further_ from my vision of a good school than a military
school is. Many people react defensively when a person on
this list criticizes progressive schooling; yet, I have
never seen a person here object to strong words being spoken
by some list members against overtly authoritarian school
environments. This is an unfair bias -- we are glad to hold
military schools up to the light and examine them, but some
people get nervous when a progressive school is similarly

     My position on this debate is a matter of opinion of
course -- I can't "prove" that being systematically lied to
is worse than being forced to make my bed, any more than a
person on the other side can "prove" that getting used to
the language and forms of democracy is more valuable than
honesty. This is an aesthetic judgment, about the kind of
life one wants to live, and the way that one wants to see
others treated.

     So, yes... Given _some_ philosophical priorities, it
may be "counter-productive" to hear people arguing
forcefully against compromise schools. However, from the
vantage point of some philosophical priorities, it would be
counter-productive to coddle persons expecting acceptance or
approval for offering the trappings of democracy in a place
where there is no democracy.
     I would also remind people that D-S-M is _not_ an
advocacy list. The purpose of this list is _not_ to
convince others of the Sudbury Model. The purpose is to
freely and openly discuss the Sudbury Model. This means
that comments from its critics are welcome (though it is
true that few critics subscribe). And it means that list
members are free to actually put forward their positions on
other forms of schooling -- whatever they are -- provided
that they refrain from making personal attacks.

     I would like to reach an understanding with those on
this list who feel that every school which uses the language
of freedom should hold its arms open to every other school
that uses the language of freedom:
     People on one side of this issue will keep putting
forward their opinions. Those on the other side of this
particular philosophical divide will keep putting forward
theirs. These competing positions will continue to be put
forward (after several years it is clear that this
particular debate will never go away). Newcomers to this
list will continue to hear these competing ideas exposed to
full and fair debate, and can decide for themselves where
they stand. Fair?

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
... Another writer again agreed with all my generalities,
but said that as an inveterate skeptic I have closed my
mind to the truth.  Most notably I have ignored the
evidence for an Earth that is six thousand years old.  
Well, I haven't ignored it; I considered the purported
evidence and *then* rejected it.  There is a difference,
and this is a difference, we might say, between prejudice
and postjudice.  Prejudice is making a judgment before you
have looked at the facts.  Postjudice is making a judgment
afterwards.  Prejudice is terrible, in the sense that you
commit injustices and you make serious mistakes. Postjudice
is not terrible.  You can't be perfect of course; you may
make mistakes also.  But it is permissible to make a
judgment after you have examined the evidence.  In some
circles it is even encouraged.

-- Carl Sagan ============================================================


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