Re: DSM: Almost Democracy

From: Todd Robinson (todd@ClinicalSoftware.net)
Date: Sun Nov 04 2001 - 23:46:46 EST


In my opinion, efforts to pursue limited democracy and freedom within
regular schools are a drop in the bucket compared to the true democracy and
freedom at schools such as SVS.

However, I am not particularly bothered by teachers in regular schools who
let their students play at democracy and/or freedom. Increasingly
"learner-centered" education within regular schools is a natural progression
that has been going on since the late 19th century, but even after that 100+
year timespan regular schools are still at the other end of the continuum
from SVS et. al.

It would be great if all these "cool" teachers helped their students to see
the unjust nature of the system they are a part of, instead of trying to
give them "a taste of democracy[/freedom]", but maybe at least some of these
teachers will get tired of bloodying their foreheads and they'll leave their
positions to start a Sudbury-model school. Maybe someday I'll make some
money and then I can create a trust fund that will help pay salaries for
ex-teachers who become new staff members at Sudbury-model schools. Well,
better yet, I guess I shouldn't limit my trust fund to ex-teachers because a
lot of them probably don't make good staff members (no offense to anyone who
successfully made the transition!).

I am an Assembly member and parent at The Clearwater School in Seattle and
have read extensively about the Sudbury-model schools for the one-and-a-half
years since I've known they existed. Everything I read, and everything I
experience personally, strengthens my belief that my son is involved in a
model that is very, very, very, very, very, very, very radical.

Todd Robinson

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alan Klein" <Alan@klein.net>
To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
Sent: Saturday, November 03, 2001 9:53 AM
Subject: Re: DSM: Almost Democracy

> 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.
>
>
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