Re: DSM: degrees of illusionary freedom

From: Scott David Gray (
Date: Wed Nov 07 2001 - 09:43:53 EST

On Wed, 7 Nov 2001, Alan Klein wrote:

> Ultimately, the monetary power is held by the parents, as they can decide
> not to pay the tuition.

Monetary and legal power over an individual student is held
by her/his parent(s). But not over the school as a whole.
Did anyone ever maintain that the "American Family" is or
could be democratic?

> As to governmental power, I was referring to governmental entities outside
> of the school, but which can have some say (or a lot of say) over the
> school. As students cannot vote, adults hold that power ultimately, as well.

I don't think that any person has suggested that it's
unfeasible for outside forces to destroy democracy in one of
these schools. Just as an armed invasion by Italy could
destroy the democratic structures in San Marino. To have a
_precarious_ democracy is not synonymous with having
day-to-day choices made and power held by the outside
authority with physical might.

> Within our schools, at least in the SVS model itself, the Assembly holds the
> power over the bylaws. As I believe that, if they all came out, adults make
> up a majority of such bodies, they hold the ultimate veto power over the
> fate of the school.

The Assembly has more SM members than it has parents, and
kids have the same vote in the Assembly as their parents
(1), the Assembly's power is limited to very specific areas,
and the By-laws require a super-majority (2/3) to change.
So, again, what is the problem?

> I have never said, and do not believe, "that there are operational factors
> in the operation of Sudbury Schools from which students are excluded".
> However, even within our schools adults may hold particular authority that
> is denied to students. For example, at SVS (at least when I visited a couple
> of times) adults kept the phone with them at all times.

The power to do anything with school property (including
answering the phone) resides in the School Meeting. And the
School Meeting has given that authority (through its elected
Office Clerk) to certain members of the community (including
some students, though I don't see how that matters in this

The Prime Minister of the UK has never been a person of
sub-Saharan African descent -- does that mean de facto that
the persons of sub-Saharan African descent in the UK are not
partners in UK democratic structures? You are positing a
view of "democracy" that defines democracy as impossible in
_any_ context!

> My main point is simpler than all this, actually. It is that all schools,
> and all classrooms within schools, exist within a system which impinges
> those schools and classrooms in various ways. Some of these schools and
> classrooms are pretty close to what we would idealize as democratic
> education. Most are pretty close to what we would demonize as totalitarian
> education. A few are in the middle somewhere. I would like us, as a
> democratic school movement which hopes to gain larger acceptance, to simply
> be mindful of the old adage that "you catch more flies with honey than with
> vinegar".

This, I think, remains the core difference between you and
me. I (with most people) use the term "democracy" to mean
that the "final say" rests with the body politic... You are
suggesting that democracy can be "doled out" to people on
someone else's timetable. I guess this is why I (among
others) do not consider the Parliament of Henry VIII to be
democratic -- he doled out power _to_ his Parliament.
However, the Parliament under Charles II had crossed a clear
threshold, in which for the first time the Monarch clearly
recognized the Parliament as a sovereign body (though later
contests came over _what_ Parliament was sovereign _over_
and _who_ was to be part of the UK body politic).

> ~Alan Klein

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong
impulse to see it tried on him personally. 

-- Abraham Lincoln ============================================================


If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email TO with the following phrase in the BODY (not the subject) of the message:

unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model [the-subscribed-email]

If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is too much, you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing to "dsm-digest"

This mailing list is archived at

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Wed Mar 27 2002 - 19:39:48 EST