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

From: Melissa Tyson (mvtyson@hotmail.com)
Date: Fri Nov 09 2001 - 16:13:26 EST


There are no rights. People are going to hurt each other no matter how you
legislate it. It doesn't matter what you think is morally wrong.

>From: "Dawn Harkness" <dawn@harkness.net>
>Reply-To: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
>To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
>Subject: Re: How We Come Off to Others (was RE: re[2]: DSM: democratic
>classroom)
>Date: Tue, 6 Nov 2001 13:39:27 -0500
>
>William, I have wracked my brain and cannot remember a single time a
>student
>has asked me a stupid question. Maybe staff members will have different
>opinions on this because they have more contact with students than I do as
>a
>parent and Assembly member. What distinguishes me from most other parents
>is that I also happen to be an attorney who has worked with many teens, and
>over the years I have been approached with a wide range of legal questions
>from SVS students. Not a single student has ever asked me what I would
>consider to be a stupid question. If I did hear a stupid question I would
>treat them as I treat adults: Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.
>Be that as it may, I have heard some stupid statements from students (as
>well as other parents, trustees and staff members) over the years and I
>treat them just like I treat anyone who makes stupid statements. Those I
>challenge head on.
>
>I have given much thought to your criticism when you wrote:
>
>"As an "outsider" who asks questions, all I can say is that I see an
>attitude of extreme belief in the Sudbury model and a sometimes snooty air
>in defending it."
>
>I think it is funny that you consider yourself as an outsider. Maybe that
>is true in this forum, but for the most part it seems to me that you are
>part of the dominant culture which sees at least some value in the
>traditional educational system.
>
>Having said, that, I have heard this criticism (in words to that effect)
>over the 7+ years I have been a parent of an SVS student many times. It is
>similar to comments I have heard directed at me on several issues having
>nothing to do with SVS, like my absolutely unbending commitment to (read
>extreme belief in) lesbian and gay civil rights and children's civil
>rights.
>And when I was younger I tended to take those words to heart more, naively
>thinking that it was important to accommodate those critics' feelings so
>they would like me and maybe I could over time educate them so that they
>would see things my way At this point in my life, I just don't give a damn
>what those folks think of me or my core beliefs. I know I am right and
>they
>are wrong and I have no conflicting feelings about it. Other folks I know
>who feel as strongly as I do take a different approach, and try to win
>people over with gentle persuasion, a populist approach, if you will. And
>to some degree I admire
>those who succeed using those political skills. I don't have those skills
>and I don't particularly wish to acquire them. I'm not about being popular,
>I'm about being right and making a clear impression. My experience tells
>me, mine is the more effective approach, even if it makes some folks very
>uncomfortable.
>
>Let me offer an example: I have a friendly acquaintance with a Universalist
>Unitarian minister. One day we were discussing our approaches to people
>who
>hit their children in public. She told me that once when she was on the
>subway, she observed a mother spanking and slapping her child. She got
>right next to the woman and said in a sympathetic way, "Gee, some days it
>really is hard to be a parent isn't it. Parenting can be so tough,
>especially when you are having a hard day. Is there something I can do to
>help"
>
>I don't know what it is about me, but I tend to be a magnet for the
>criminally insane and people who hurt their kids. My approach to dealing
>with parents who hit their kids is usually one of two options. I say, "
>Hey, would you like to take a swing at someone your own size who can defend
>themselves?" Or if they are much bigger than me, I say something like,
>"You
>are going to make a great candidate for elder abuse. I bet when you are
>eighty and can't defend yourself, your kid is going to smack the shit out
>of
>you." They always stop hitting their kids, and get very embarrassed and
>sometimes defensive. Maybe they even think I'm nuts, but no one has taken
>a
>swing at me yet.
>
>Both the minister and I realize that we are out of step with the 90% of
>Americans who legally hit their kids. Both of us are in the even smaller
>minority of bystanders who refuse to ignore people who hit their kids, and
>so we feel some affinity with each other in this matter. We both believe
>that no matter what we do, that parent is probably going to hit that kid
>again at least in the isolation of their home. However, we both agree that
>her approach is likely to be soon forgotten while my approach is likely to
>ring in their ears for a long time. I think that they will stop and think
>before they hit their kids again in public if only because a crazy woman
>may
>speak up in their child's defense.
>
>Why is that true? I think it is because her approach is, by design, not
>critical and non-judgmental. Her goal is very short-term: she is strictly
>parent focused, hoping to gently distract the parent from hitting at that
>moment. My goal is to stop the hitting, and send a clear unequivocal and
>memorable message to the parent, the kid and bystanders that what the
>parent
>is doing is wrong and there could be dire consequences down the road. I
>don't see anything wrong with being judgmental and confrontational under
>these circumstances. In fact, I think it is a moral imperative to let the
>parent, the child and every other bystander know that at least one person
>in
>the world thinks hitting children is absolutely wrong. I think it is
>important to demonstrate that not everyone will go along to get along. I
>also think my friend does more harm than good because her approach is not
>critical and sends the wrong message to everyone involved, particularly the
>child, that this behavior is human and understandable under stressful
>circumstances.
>
>Whether anyone agrees with me or not, I have a deep belief that not being
>subjected to physical violence is a basic civil right. When adults do the
>exact same thing to another adult, it is illegal and we call it domestic
>violence or assault and battery depending on who is doing the hitting and
>who is being hit. Unfortunately, our legal system does not extend this
>right to bodily integrity to children. If the person is a parent or
>educator, then it is called discipline or corporal punishment. If the
>person who is doing the hitting is another child, it is frequently swept
>under the rug as normal kid stuff. I think this is absolutely morally
>wrong. This legal subjugation of children is as important a civil rights
>struggle as others are to me, and I'm not diplomatic about it.
>
>I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The difference between many
>others in this discussion group, particularly the educational reformers,
>and
>me is that I'm not at all concerned with concepts like "is this the best
>way
>to turn out Nobel Prize winners." I think this same attitude is expressed
>in
>your post, William, when you wrote, "You may be right, but I am still
>exploring and formulating my ideas on how education should be offered. "
>To
>me a Sudbury school is an oasis which extends civil rights (extending
>beyond
>the very basic issues of bodily integrity) to children in a world which
>categorically denies them. This key component is absolutely absent in the
>traditional authoritarian traditional schools. And no matter how much
>those
>"cool" teachers try, they cannot change this basic fact of life for their
>students in these systems.
>
>Maybe you'll take this as just another sign of my arrogance and snootiness
>but to date, I haven't worried about whether my child will learn what she
>needs to learn to become the person she wants to become. On this I have
>had
>no doubt whether or not she is home schooled, attends SVS, or most other
>traditional schools. That is not what I worry or care about, although over
>time I have come to believe that SVS is the best place for her
>educationally
>as well. What I really care about is whether she can enjoy as a child
>what
>most of us enjoy as adults, basic civil rights, freedom and liberty. What
>reform types care about is very different.
>
>If one looks at the world as I do, there is no shame in being passionate,
>uncompromising, critical or judgmental in defense of my core beliefs. If
>traditional teachers and ex-teachers want any support for their complicity
>in this repressive system. I think they should look for a different
>discussion group. Because while there may be some diplomats among us, this
>discussion group has some people who will not compromise our values to make
>them feel comfortable with what they have done to children. I'm less
>concerned with making them feel ok than I am making a clear statement to
>all
>the students, parents, and others who may be bystanders/lurkers and trying
>to figure out why they feel so out of step with the rest of the world.
>Ironically enough, my controversial style hasn't hurt me none, as far as I
>can see. I have found that the best people like me for my convictions and
>my willingness to express them. In my opinion this separates the
>proverbial
>wheat from the chaff.
>
>Dawn Harkness
>
>
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "william van horn" <wmvh1@excite.com>
>To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
>Sent: Monday, November 05, 2001 11:33 PM
>Subject: RE: How We Come Off to Others (was RE: re[2]: DSM: democratic
>classroom)
>
>
> > As an "outsider" who asks questions, all I can say is that I see an
> > attitude of extreme belief in the Sudbury model and a sometimes snooty
>air
> > in defending it.
> >
> > You may be right, but I am still exploring and formulating my ideas on
>how
> > education should be offered. I certainly do not think that the public
> > schools are doing a good job and I am skeptical that they could ever
>change
> > enough. I think there may be too much inertia built into the system. And
> > though I see Sudbury as a fantastic answer, I am not totally convinced.
>But
> > I am part of this discussion to learn more, so excuse my naive
>questions.
> >
> > I'm curious, how do you respond to a student when he or she asks what
> > appears to you a stupid question?
> >
> >
> > William
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________________
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> >
> >
> >
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