Re: How We Come Off to Others (was RE: re[2]: DSM: democratic classro om)

From: Mike Sadofsky (sadofsky@mediaone.net)
Date: Mon Nov 05 2001 - 17:05:59 EST


Joseph,

What bothers me most about this post is the extensive use of the
pronoun "we," as if every advocate for the sudbury model speaks with a
common voice and attitude. I have no problem with you speaking for
yourself, but please don't imply that you speak for me.

If you, or anyone else interprets a response here as exhibiting "bad
attitude," you are certainly able to post your own response. What
makes this a useful forum is the diversity of perspectives.

Mike Sadofsky

On Mon, 5 Nov 2001 12:46:58 -0800 , you wrote:

>One vote in agreement here.
>
>I've been guilty of this, too, so not just pointing fingers at others, but:
>Many of the responses in here and many of my own encounters and discussions
>with proponents of the model have been characterized by a more or less
>subtle bad attitude. Not that this happens all the time, but way too often.
>For example:
>
>- been-there, done-that replies (long suffering sigh almost audible) to
>people's questions. Hey, if we can't answer a legitimate question in a
>polite, supportive manner, why not just stay quiet?
>
>- militancy towards people groping forward. People see the problems with
>schooling, and are struggling in what often looks like a near-vacuum to make
>it better. It wouldn't kill us to acknowledge their efforts - ya know, home
>schooling isn't as good as a Sudbury education. So? If someone who may live
>a thousand miles from the nearest Sudbury school has risked the ire of
>friends, family and the establishment to try to give their kids something
>better, that's a great and noble thing. It wouldn't hurt us to acknowledge
>that every once in a while before we unload the dump truck of reasons why
>it's not good enough.
>
>- somebody asks a question here - and gets a reading list or a reference to
>archived discussions in response. I would suggest a reading list is a good
>response to a request for a reading list, but not to a question posted to a
>*discussion* group. It's like we don't have time or interest in responding?
>Then don't respond.
>
>- as Alan mentioned, the whole 'democratic classroom' thing - sure, it's
>partial and limited, and those of us with any real experience with the model
>can see that the whole idea of a democracy within a traditional coercive
>school is fundamentally and fatally flawed - but can't we spend a line or
>two acknowledging the attempt and sympathizing before we shoot it down? And
>then, shoot it down as gently as possible? Just because we may be tired of
>hearing of it doesn't mean it might not be a shining moment for the poster
>who tried it.
>
>I'd chalk this all up to the lack of nuance inherent in an email chat list,
>except that it also characterizes many of the face to face encounters I've
>had. And, unfortunately, it's not just me - I've asked others who have come
>in contact with proponents of the school about how it left them feeling, and
>had a couple of those 'oh, you too?' moments.
>
>Note that I'm not suggesting watering anything down, least of all the
>philosophy that underlies our schools. I'm suggesting a little more sympathy
>and a little less militancy in supporting our views. If I had to describe
>the net emotional impression I've gotten from all my dozens of encounters
>with other proponents of the model on a 'warm, sympathetic and supportive'
>to 'cold, aloof and off-putting' scale, it would be, frankly, way closer to
>the cold end. If it weren't for the beauty of the philosophy (and the
>enthusiasm of Amy Erez, who was my first encounter with Sudbury) I might not
>have been able to see past the defensiveness and possessiveness of
>supporters of the model.
>
>Sorry, this got real long, but one last thing: Maybe the model is like a
>child. Maybe, in our well-intentioned efforts to protect it and nurture it,
>we've in fact been smothering it and stunting its growth. Maybe we need to
>have more confidence in it, to trust that it can stand up and make its way
>in the world without us fussing over it so much. Personally, I've been
>trying to develop a much more open and supportive attitude towards both the
>model and its critics. There's no reason this model should not explode upon
>the world - our kids, with their freedom and their skills, put the lie to
>all the objections and all the claims of coercive schools. We just need to
>run our schools as best we can and embrace our critics as best we can, lay
>out our arguments in as calm and helpful a way as we can and do our best not
>to make any more enemies than we strictly need.
>
>Anybody else feel this way, or am I totally off base?
>
>Joseph (on board for 7 years and counting, 3 kids at Diablo Valley School)
>
>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Alan Klein [mailto:Alan@klein.net]
>>
>> Hi all,
>>
>> This whole discussion is one we have recycled over and over.
>> I am struck by
>> a theme, or perhaps a tone, that seems to recur. Whenever
>> people talk about
>> their experiences of "sort of doing democracy" in public or
>> private schools,
>> we fall all over ourselves to come down on them. We go to
>> great pains to
>> tell them about the evil they are foisting upon their
>> unsuspecting students.
>> (Hyperbole, for sure, but I think I am accurately noting the
>> gist of what
>> goes on here.) I wonder why this is so.
>>
>> Back in teh early days of The Highland School (early 1980's),
>> we used to
>> have this discussion a lot. Is The Harmony School in Indiana
>> sufficiently
>> democratic to be considered a friend or are they the devil
>> incarnate because
>> they talk freedom but don't practice it to the level we
>> believe necessary?
>> Why did kids in Chris Mercogliano's class at The Free School in Albany
>> (mentioned in a SKOLE article he wrote) have a math class
>> they had to rebel
>> against rather than being free to choose their own
>> activities? Did this mean
>> that The Albany Free School is a sham...a mere pretender to
>> be cast away and
>> scorned by us true believers?
>>
>> I have come to believe that this level of heat in this discussion is a
>> problem for us as a community of people working for democracy
>> in education.
>> Simply put, I think it is counter-productive, in that we
>> drive off more
>> people than we attract. And in this business we need all teh
>> friends we can
>> get.
>>
>> Scott David, Mimsy, Dawn, and Joe ...don't reach for your
>> keyboard yet! I am
>> NOT suggesting that we water down our philosohies to attract
>> more people. I
>> am not suggesting that we tell half truths to prospective
>> parents to lure
>> thm into the fold. I am not suggesting that we bestow the
>> "SVS" brand or the
>> democratic school label on any school or classroom that
>> decides to claim it.
>> I am not suggestign that we stop vigorously discussing and
>> debating our
>> philosophical and pragmatic practices.
>>
>> What I AM suggesting is that we tone down the rhetoric that states or
>> implies that people do harm to kids when they do their best to apply
>> whatever they can of democratic methodology to their classrooms in
>> non-democratic schools. Certainly we all may wish that they
>> would abandon
>> those efforts and join us in our democratic schools. The
>> question then is,
>> "What is the best way to get them to do so?" My experience
>> tells me that
>> taking an appreciative look at our own experiences and
>> sharing them with
>> others is the best way. Telling them that they are going to
>> Educational Hell
>> for not quitting their jobs in order to start a democratic
>> school is not.
>>
>> Thanks for listening. You may now fire away!
>> ~Alan Klein
>>
>>
>>
>>
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>
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