Re: DSM: Almost Democracy

From: Alan Klein (
Date: Sat Nov 03 2001 - 12:53:28 EST


Thanks for the info on the Assembly's makeup.

My point was not about how the Assembly has actually functioned, nor about
how parents have actually functioned. My point, which you corroborated when
you say that the Assembly is the body that can change the Bylaws (as versus
the SM), is that, high hurdles notwithstanding, the Assembly COULD indeed
pull the plug. The analogy to the Massachusetts is faulty, since (I assume)
that changes to the Massachusetts Constitution cannot be made by the
legislature alone, even acting unanimously.

The comparison i was trying to draw was this: Often, when someone brings up
their experience doing "almost democracy" in a non-democratic school,
someone else on this list will say something to the effect of, "Yes, BUT you
retained the final authority and the kids knew that they had better make
decisions like you wanted them to or you were going to pull the plug on the
whole thing."

In point of fact, we all function within larger systems, many segments of
which could pull the plug on our democratic schools. Parents could decide
not to support us, local laws could mitigate against us, etc. So long as we
acknowledge these constraints on our power, I don't see that people doing
"almost democracy" in non-democratic schools are lying to anyone, as you
suggested they do when you said, "I can't 'prove' that being systematically
lied to is worse than being forced to make my bed..."


----- Original Message -----
From: "Scott David Gray" <>
> > In fact, it occurs to me to wonder what the age breakdown of the SVS
> > Assembly is, because that's where the Bylaws live and that's from where
> > power of the SM flows. I hypothesize that there are more adults in the
> > Assembly than students. If I am correct, just as I could have pulled the
> > plug on the democracy in my classroom, so could the Assembly pull the
> > on SVS's democracy. In either case, the adults have the final veto
power. In
> > fact, leaving the Assembly aside, I daresay that almost all students at
> > and at other democratic schools are dependent on their parents for
> > It is the parents, then, who have the final veto power over the freedoms
> > democratic schools - no parents equals no students which equals no
> I believe that there are more School Meeting members than
> parents at the present (we average almost exactly 2 kids per
> family, there are some 1-parent families, and the SM
> includes staff). However, your reading of the division of
> powers in the school is mistaken. The School Meeting does
> _not_ derive its power from the Assembly -- it derives its
> power from the By-Laws (the same document that the Assembly
> derives its power from).
> The division between these two "houses" is very plain. The
> Assembly may discuss broad philosophical issues, vote on the
> award of diplomas, _review_ the budget (it does not author),
> and offer amendments to the By-Laws (requiring a 2/3
> majority). Meanwhile, the SM is responsible for all
> day-to-day operations of the school, including the hiring
> and firing of the staff, the authoring of the budget, the
> school rules and the administration of the school.


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