Re: DSM: Almost Democracy

From: Scott David Gray (
Date: Sat Nov 03 2001 - 19:39:30 EST

Both are bodies NAMED in the founding documents of the
school, with separate powers and duties.

On Sat, 3 Nov 2001 wrote:

> Which is the legal corporation of the school, the Assembly, or the School
> Meeting?
> Harlan
> In a message dated 11/3/01 11:57:59 AM, writes:
> << On Sat, 3 Nov 2001, Alan Klein wrote:
> > 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.
> So, no, the Assembly could not "pull the plug" on the SM,
> any more than the Massachusetts legislature could "pull the
> plug" on Massachusetts democracy. Sure, it is "possible"
> however, there are very high hurdles to be met in order to
> dissolve the existing constitution and to rewrite it.
> Some parental Assembly members _are_ sometimes confused
> about the division between these two houses (always a
> minority, thank goodness), and believe as you suggest that
> the SM derives it power from the Assembly. In order to make
> the relationship between the two plainer, I sometimes
> consider a motion to amend the By-Laws, to require that any
> future amendment to the By-laws to originate in the School
> Meeting.
> Parents who send their children to SVS know that they are
> _not_ enrolling themselves. they know that they are letting
> their children join a tightly knit political community --
> and they generally know that their children gain more
> benefit from this community precisely _because_ they (the
> parents) leave the school to the School Meeting. They know
> that the wider community of the Assembly has limited powers
> vis-a-vis the school, just as the Federal government of the
> US has only limited powers vis-a-vis the town of Framingham.
> That is to say, most parents at SVS look at the bigger
> picture. Even if, as an individual, a parent disagrees with
> a School Meeting decision, s/he knows that his/her kids'
> happy and healthy development in the context of the school
> _depends_ upon the sovereignty of the School Meeting. And
> so, most parents wisely do _not_ attempt to turn SVS into a
> parent coop. (This does not mean that such attempts don't
> happen -- in 1968, and again in 1986 the school split over
> these issues.)
> I commented on the parental role in the school more
> thoroughly elsewhere. One place to see my thoughts on why
> it is good (for both parents and kids) that parents are
> _not_ involved in the daily community of the school is at
> > ~Alan
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Scott David Gray" <>
> > > << 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.

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
As a rule, there is no surer way to the dislike of men than
to behave well where they have behaved badly.

-- Lew Wallace ============================================================


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