Re: DSM: students rights

From: Bruce Smith (bsmith@coin.org)
Date: Fri Jan 25 2002 - 08:26:00 EST


At 1:57 PM 1/24/02, Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. wrote:
>But GENUINE help, when it seems obviously needed, should al-
>ways be offered. If you find a person injured on the street, don't
>you offer your help? (Talking about adults only here.)

earlier, you said:
> >But even if the help is unsolicited, one can always OFFER
> >to help. If the offer is rejected, fine, don't help! But sometimes
> >a person may not even know that help is possible -- and thus
> >may not even ask for it.

This latter comment doesn't reflect the reality of Sudbury schools. First
of all, even unsolicited *offers* of help are problematic ("hey there, poor
young person, would you like me to rescue you from your difficulty?").
Secondly, as I've said before, Sudbury students are virtually never
ignorant or shy of asking for help: they know where to go, whom to ask.

Ardeshir, I get the feeling that you and I are talking past one another.
You'll say something to the effect of "wouldn't you help someone who really
needed it?," and I'll say, "well, yeah, if they ask or if I have a
relationship with them that permits me to ask them what's wrong," and you
say, "no, really, can't you just offer the help?," and I say, "if you're
talking about Sudbury school staff, there are certain guidelines."

Your use of the injured-person-in-the-street example is an interesting one.
I've never seen someone at school have to wait, or ask, for help when
they're injured. It's one of those instances where we're galvanized into
action. (although I'll also point out that, as staff, I'll remain very
watchful, in the background, if it's just a minor cut or something; wait
until I'm asked to open the first-aid kit, which most of our students can
do just fine on their own. There's a big difference between genuine
distress and a boo-boo.)

Yet physical injury and deep distress are one thing; adult-student dynamics
in traditional schools quite another. To the extent that one solves
problems for another, rescues them from having to confront problems
themselves, to that extent one is disempowering them, taking responsibility
away from them. That's what we try to avoid as Sudbury school staff. The
number of problems that need our active, unsolicited intervention is
amazingly small.

And let's not overlook the fact that Sudbury staff are also full-fledged
community members, and can (and should) speak up when something bothers us.
It's a balancing act -- knowing how simultaneously to respect students and
be active community members -- that's difficult to describe in email.

Bruce

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