DSM: Unsolicited help

From: Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. (ardeshir@sympatico.ca)
Date: Fri Jan 25 2002 - 20:46:51 EST


Hi Joe,

Re. this:

> > 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
> offer help.

Right. The second kind of "help" is a bit like offering a lift in a car
to a jogger!

> 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
> initiative 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
> explained)

Quite.

> 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.

But this is not common sense. I have not personally seen any Sud-
bury school in action, but I HAVE visited Summerhill in England,
and read virtually everything its founder, A.S. Neill, has ever
written: and he was always in favour of using common sense. If the
Sudbury philosophy is so greatly opposed to common sense, then
I am afraid I do take exception to it!

It's also not the way adults treat one another. I have lived for years
on end in four different countries, and visited at least a dozen for
shorter periods, and even vacationed in Cape Cod a couple of
summers; and I donít remember in any place that I have lived in or
visited wherein adults did NOT offer unsolicited help AT ALL to
one another. Even on the Israeli kibbutzim, where the people are
the rudest I have ever met -- and even take pride in being rude! --
when help is offered, though it may be unsolicited, it is accepted
gladly, though sometimes gruffly.

> 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.

Of course. On the Israeli kibbutzim too the aim is to have everyone
exercise as much initiative as possible. They HAVE to do it: after
all Israel is a pretty hard environment to live in, and without initia-
tive where would they end up? But as I said, even there one often
finds unsolicited help both offered and accepted. even with thanks.

I just donít see the justification for over-reaction, frankly, by
making it a "prime directive" never to offer help. I think we should
all behave toward one another like adults, and use a modicum of
common sense when doing so! Then I'm pretty sure we will all get
along quite well. And as adults we all offer unsolicited help quite
often -- in EVERY kind of society.

> 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.:)

Yes, of course. But I donít mean just a broken arm. Most times I
myself have been offered unsolicited help, and was glad of it, was
when I did not know that such help was at all even AVAILABLE.
It happens to me even nowadays, and I am almost 60 years of age!
It happens with many sorts of things: for example, with help with
my computer, with cooking or doing the dishes, with the Theory of
Relativity, and in all kinds of different matters, important and un-
important. If I donít want the help I say so! But most often I find
the unsolicited help I am offered very -- ahem -- helpful.

All the best,

Ardeshir <http://homepage.mac.com/ardeshir/AllMyFiles.html>.

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