> I don't get your point. Are you saying that all un-requested
> offerings of help are bad? Why, in heaven's name?
Hi Ardeshir. I don't want to put words into anybody's mouth, but in my
estimation, knowing as a staff member what is beneficial or harmful to
the school environment is much more of an art than a science.
Certainly, if I was staffing (currently I am not regular staff, but
substitute once in a blue moon) and a student was carrying something
very heavy, or a student was hurt or crying, I would immediately offer
help or comfort. On the other hand, I would likely not walk up to a
student having trouble with a problem or another student and attempt to
I think the trick here is for staff members to be sensitive to how
quickly and easily the helpful intentions of adults can take the
initative away from the students. My sense is that you, Ardeshir, would
likely have an excellent intuitive feel of this dynamic were you to see
it in action! (As you know, some things have to be felt and not
One of the things that happens, though, is that so many newcomers cannot
distinguish between unsolicited adult help lifting something heavy and
unsolicited adult help learning to read. Staff members and founders get
in the habit of pushing the button of "now you *do* realize in these
schools that students have to initiate everything and we are *not* going
to pull them along" in presenting the school and in admissions in order
to really make sure parents understand this.
Founders and staff become very sensitive to the general difficulty
people have in understanding our schools, so when they hear people say
"yes, yes but when genuine help is obviously needed we should give it",
it raises alarms. At face value, of course this remark seems to miss
the point or disregard the prime directive of Sudbury schooling, which
imo is to have an environment wherein kids learn to start and follow
through with their learning processes on their own initiative. The idea
is that this instills a high degree of *internal* discipline, as opposed
to the *external* discipline that traditional schools apply.
This might be why you have gotten a reaction which seems to paint the
picture of a school wherein staff won't help a child with a broken arm
if they don't ask for the help. However, I'm pretty sure that you would
"get it" if you had the opportunity to step into one of these schools
some day. :)
> 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
> > then I could not disagree more vehemently.
> > If you are implying that their is no harm in "offering"
> > help, well, the only thing I can say is that you seem to be in
> > disagreement with the Sudbury Philosophy. I grant you, this
> > (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
> > 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,
> > 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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