Jesse, your post is difficult to answer without making ad hominem attacks or
inviting them. Using your personal experiences as fodder for your argument
puts me in an impossible position. Either I tell you what I really think of
your story, and risk violating the rules of this discussion group, or I
water my opinion down, and seem to duck your question, which could give the
wrong impression that I didn't really mean what I said in my first post. So
I'm going to limit my answer to say this: I don't think I misjudged or
misinterpteted anything. I'm glad to know you're not in the system
anymore, although I knew that the first time I posted. Redemption is good
As for the only non-personal/hypothetical question you have asked:
"Would you also criticize the motives a person who out of compassion for the
captives in a concentration camp, takes a job as a guard, shows the inmates
some mercy, lets them have a small measure of self-government (at the peril
of his own job and life)? Would you call his efforts manipulation? "
My answer is: Yes.
As for my efforts in the battle, I have written about this before, and you
can find that in the archives. If you read those posts you will have a
better understanding of where I am coming from. However, I'd still rather
stick to discussing the issues rather than the personalities in this forum.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jesse Fisher" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Sudbury discussion list" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, November 03, 2001 6:36 PM
Subject: re: DSM: democratic classroom
> Dawn, I just realized you were addressing me! (My name is Jesse, not
Jeff -- easy mistake -- many do it).
> I think you misinterpreted my meager efforts and misjudged my motives. I
was attempting to give my Eighth grade classes a glimpse of the reality of
their situation as incarcerated students -- I was very specific in how they
were trapped in an autocratic social institution, being denied all the
rights they are expected to wield later as adults. I showed them how the
same philosophies which resulted in the greatest tyrannies of the last
century were the same philosophies behind public education. I also wanted
to give them a glimpse of what was possible (ala SVS). Was it 100%
democratic? Certainly not. More like 15-30% -- which is quite a bit more
than they were getting otherwise. Wouldn't you agree that even 15% is
better than none? After I left, they went back to having none.
> Would you also criticize the motives a person who out of compassion for
the captives in a concentration camp, takes a job as a guard, shows the
inmates some mercy, lets them have a small measure of self-government (at
the peril of his own job and life)? Would you call his efforts
> I paid a price for my efforts. The stress of it all ruined my health, I
still have effects from it 5 years later. I had to act contrary to my
conscience to remain a public school teacher -- caused me immense intestinal
turmoil. I truly felt like a traitor in the enemy's camp -- because I was.
What I did was treasonous to public education -- it was intended to plant
seeds which would some day contribute (in some small way) to bringing about
the end of the unjust power of the system over students. At one point, I
simply had to stand up to the system, job or no job -- I let the principal
have it with both barrels -- telling him that every fiber of my being told
me it was wrong to compel students to learn what they haven't choosen to
learn, it robbed them of their dignity, it sapped them of their natural
initiative to learn, it in no way prepared them to be members of a free
society. I told him that I had tried to give them a taste of freedom
hoping, praying, that they m!
> ight see enough of the light to know it was good, to know that it was
worth striving for. Needless to say, that act weakened my career as a
public school teacher, but it certainly strengthened my resolve to be a
voice for freedom and democracy in education.
> Dawn, maybe you could tell us about your efforts in the battle.
> Jesse Fisher, Founder
> Freedom Preservation Foundation
> > Now Jeff, I don't know where you get your definition of democracy,
> > doesn't ring true to me. The following definition comes from
> > Dictionary.com:
> > 1.Government by the people, exercised either directly or through
> > representatives.
> > 2.A political or social unit that has such a government.
> > 3.The common people, considered as the primary source of
> > power.
> > 4.Majority rule.
> > 5.The principles of social equality and respect for the
> > within a community.
> > Nothing about your classroom experiment sounds like democracy to me.
> > your ultimate veto power it sounds like Soviet style democracy, yeah
> > everyone has the right to vote, but you can only vote for big brother
> > you can only vote for what big brother wants you vote for. To me,
> > irrelevant how much your students professed to enjoy or learn from
> > exercise in manipulation, that's still exactly what it was, more of
> > same
> > old classroom manipulation of students by teachers. I believe these
> > of experiments by authority figures/teachers are ultimately harmful
> > students since it blurs the lines between freedom and incarceration.
> > traditional school teachers want to teach their students about
> > think they should get up every day and point out all the ways kids
> > enslaved by the traditional school system. And then they should
> > for profiting from it.
> > Dawn Harkness
> > SVS parent
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Jesse Fisher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > To: Sudbury discussion list <email@example.com>
> > Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2001 12:12 AM
> > Subject: re: DSM: democratic classroom
> > > Actually, I had a successful go of it -- giving students a healthy
> > of
> > self-government on a class basis, not on an individual basis.
> > > Democracy = self-government, and a class can be self-governing,
> > the individuals unfortunately can't be.
> > >
> > > Taught my 8th grade US Government classes basic Parliamentary
> > using a game I created. Also explained how PP protects the rights of
> > individual to be heard. Then acting as constitutional conventions
> > class came up with a fairly good constitution for a student
> > whose aim was to create a free democratic school.
> > >
> > > I did chart out their real position in a very top-down
> > heirarchy to help them see the value in a democratic school [sure
> > a traitor in the enemy camp! Expected the PC Thought Police to barge
> > anytime and yell, "Treason! Treason!" and haul me away]. I had
> > hoped to have them bang out a constitution for a Sudbury-style
> > they weren't up to that. I figured if they ever were to be
> > in life in groups, they would need to understand how self-governing
> > organizations function. Creating a constitution for the student
> > associations did the job.
> > >
> > > If I remember correctly, it took about a month and a half for them
> > finish their association constitutions. I would instruct them for
> > the first third of class about constitutions, preambles, etc., then
> > would
> > call the convention to order and get down to business. I personally
> > it very rewarding. The kids were very much into it. In fact, my
> > neighboring teacher reported that the kids pleaded for using
> > procedure on occasions in her class. She had no problem, since it
> > maintain order and protected individual rights.
> > >
> > > I did reserve ultimate veto power, but rarely had to use it. After
> > several days, I braved letting the elected association President be
> > of
> > the convention. They usually did a remarkable job.
> > >
> > > Guess my point is this: Although a public-school teacher might be
> > to grant children intellectual freedom, en masse -- giving them a
> > opportunity to practice self-government at least prepares them for
> > political
> > freedom much more than they otherwise would be.
> > >
> > >
> > > Jesse Fisher
> > > Freedom Preservation Foundation
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