Re: DSM: Almost Democracy

From: Scott David Gray (sgray@aramis.sudval.org)
Date: Sat Nov 03 2001 - 16:26:10 EST


     Let me put it this way... Here is what it would take at
SVS, for the Assembly to change the By-laws to remove or
nullify the School Meeting if parents were present in the
Assembly in proportion to their numbers (generally SM
members are more prone to attend than parents -- especially
when the SM feels threatened):
     If 100% of the parents voted to pull the plug
(incredibly hard to believe), and all of the
non-SM-or-parent Trustees and Public members concurred,
roughly 1/3 of the SM members present (that is, the people
being attacked by the motion) would have to assent to such a
change in the By-laws.

     And yes, we all exist within larger systems that could
"pull the plug" on our freedoms. There were points in the
20th Century (particularly during WWI) when it happened in
the US.

     However, and here is the point; if the School Meeting
makes a decision, the Assembly can NOT stop that decision
from going through. That might _convince_ some parents to
remove their children from the school (goodness knows that
this happens), or even (in the nightmare scenario you
describe, requiring some SM support) amend the SM out of
existance.
     But the Assembly _cannot_ undo or veto a decision made
by the School Meeting. Whereas student governments under
kindly dictators find their decisions vetoed all the time
(such as A.S. Neil -- I was aghast when I was 14 and read
his account of how little he respected the Summerhill School
Meeting or its decisions; it made me angrier than anything I
ever read about military or reform schools).
     A decision made by the School Meeting is legally
binding -- that may move the "Lord Protector" (aka the
Assembly) to dismiss Parliament (aka the SM), but the laws
and contracts already passed by parliament (aka the SM) will
still stand. A. S. Neil and other benevolent dictators will
step in the moment that the "wrong" decision is made, and
prevent it from being carried out. (Neil didn't even let
the SM _debate_ staffing, or budgetting.)

On Sat, 3 Nov 2001, Alan Klein wrote:

> Scott,
>
> 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..."
>
> ~Alan
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Scott David Gray" <sgray@aramis.sudval.org>
> > > 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
> the
> > > 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
> plug
> > > 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
> SVS
> > > and at other democratic schools are dependent on their parents for
> funding.
> > > It is the parents, then, who have the final veto power over the freedoms
> at
> > > democratic schools - no parents equals no students which equals no
> school.
> >
> > 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.
>
>
> ===========
>
> 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
>

-- 
 
--Scott David Gray
reply to: sgray@sudval.org
http://www.unseelie.org/
============================================================
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. 

-- Albert Einstein ============================================================

===========

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