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

From: Joseph Moore (joseph@ivorycc.com)
Date: Mon Nov 05 2001 - 18:24:15 EST


Mike - I used 'we' in the sense of people who consistently support the
model, qualified right up front with some of us, some of the time
limitations. I'll try to be much more specific from here on out.

I generalize because I'm talking about a general impression received over
time, the time being the last 7 years. It's often difficult for me to even
recognize immediately what in, or even when, a comment or post has struck me
oddly or made me uncomfortable, which makes it hard to speak up right at the
moment (I'll work on it, though.) It's the cumulative effect I'm talking
about, which I might never have mentioned except for the independent
confirmations that came up on this list the last few days - others are
evidently having somewhat similar experiences.

And 'diversity of perspectives' is of course a good thing - and not at all
what I was talking about. How we (some of us, some of the time, including
most definitely me) come off to people is the issue.

BTW: I've had moments of awe at people's patience here as well - stuff gets
posted that makes me want to whack the PC monitor, yet some of the good
souls here leap in to carry on with near-perfect good cheer, way past when I
would have lost control.

Joseph

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mike Sadofsky [mailto:sadofsky@mediaone.net]
> Sent: Monday, November 05, 2001 2:06 PM
> To: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> Subject: Re: How We Come Off to Others (was RE: re[2]: DSM: democratic
> classro om)
>
>
> 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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