There may be a difference of opinion as to what constitutes
It seems that when a person actively says "can you help me
with this" or "how would I find out how to do this" help is
It seems that when a person appears clearly distressed or in
danger, help is solicited. However, the question of how to
define _those_ terms rests on differences between the
cultural and personal styles prevelent wherever the
situation is taking placed.
It seems -- and I think that this is where we get into
trouble when people from one cultural region talk to people
from another cultural region about these questions -- that
when a person has a relationship with another person that
makes it acceptible and respectful to make suggestions, help
is not _exactly_ solicited but it is OK.
Bear in mind that in New England, people think it's rude for
anyone who is not a CLOSE personal friend to offer anything.
It offends our yankee sense of independence and jealousy
over our privacy. In other parts of the world, though, it
is rude (and disrespectful) to refrain from making certain
kinds of offers among one's peers.
On Fri, 25 Jan 2002, Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. wrote:
> Hi Travis and Bruce,
> I don't get your point. Are you saying that all un-requested offerings
> of help are bad? Why, in heaven's name?
> I have often in my life been offered unrequested help, and have always
> been grateful for it. Examples are: a ride on a long road, a hand to lift a
> heavy object, even advice on how to cut a banana without getting one's
> hands dirty. And as a major example, an offer to pay for my university
> education in Israel, where I had never thought of studying, and which I
> was offered also -- and which also I accepted with thanks, and for which
> experience I am to this day immensely grateful.
> And many, many times in my life have I offered someone unrequested
> help, like for example pushing their car when it wouldn't start: and I
> don't recollect anyone ever being offended at my offering, or taken it
> as "coercion" in any way. (And I have offered bigger and more impor-
> tant sorts of help than that, when I thought the occasion called for such.)
> If unrequested offerings of help are "Un-Sudbury" in any way, why then
> it would appear that Sudbury -- under that interpretation -- is "un-human"
> in some way: for I certainly do consider myself human! :-) (This is a joke!
> THIS IS A J O K E ! ! !) <--(Just wanted to make sure I wasn't mis-
> And if you imply that it's okay in an adult-adult situation but not in a
> staff-student situation, then you are artificially distinguishing between
> staff and students, who are all persons. Should not all persons be treated
> the same?
> (I made my views clear, in an earlier e-mail, on the subject of subtle
> offerings of help which are nothing more than thinly disguised mani-
> pulation, so I won't repeat myself there. As I had written, this is dis-
> honesty, and applies to the adult world also, like for example a law-
> yer who takes advantage of his or her client's ignorance of the law
> to give advice which is in the lawyer's best interest, not the client's.
> As I had written, I am NOT discussing such things here.)
> Ardeshir <http://homepage.mac.com/ardeshir/AllMyFiles.html>
> Travis wrote:
> > Ardeshir,
> > I must apologize outright for forgoing the formalities. I will try to be
> > as concise on the issue as I can.
> > If you sir are implying, (and I stress if: again, I hold nothing against
> > you, and find it dangerous when anyone assumes this person meant "X") that
> > this is in the context of Staff-student relationships, then I could not
> > disagree more vehemently.
> > If you are implying that their is no harm in "offering" students help,
> > well, the only thing I can say is that you seem to be in disagreement with
> > the Sudbury Philosophy. I grant you, this philosophy (underlines are inserted
> > for a certain third party)! is interpreted sometimes, as it should be, but
> > the fact remains clear: it falters not at all on the issue of coercion and,
> > especially, UN-requested offerings of help.
> > I do speak from the heart, so please be honest in responding with your
> > true meaning. If this is what you meant, don't be afraid to say so! If it is
> > not, and I interpreted it out of context, I take it all back. I ask that you
> > trust me when I say these things.
> > -Travis W.
> And Bruce Smith wrote:
> > 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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