DSM: RE: Unsolicited help

From: Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Date: Sat Jan 26 2002 - 10:09:00 EST

Thanks, Ardeshir.

> 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!

This is a very concise description of one of the major distinguishing
factors behind Sudbury schooling, IMO, which is that it is often
counter-"common sense".

Common sense is quite overrated, and is, as the inimitable Einstein
said, "a collection of prejudices we acquire prior to the age of
eighteen". Common sense in most western cultures, of course, is that
school age children need unsolicited help and encouragement or else they
will never acquire the interest and exposure they need to become fully
actualized adults. Of course, for families who have taken the risk and
acquired the perspective of both conventional schooling and the Sudbury
movement (which, ironically, is completely intuitive to *children*),
this common sense is proven entirely counter to the reality of the
relationship between schooling and children.

> 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 don't remember in any
> place that I have lived in or visited wherein adults did NOT
> offer unsolicited help AT ALL to one another.

Well, I don't know how much more clearly I can tell you that ALL
unsolicited help is not inappropriate at the schools. I'm a little
bewildered, as early in my last post you seemed to acknowledge that I
said the line is an art rather than a science, and yet you seem to still
be railing against an impression of totalitarianism indifference by
staff you picked up somehow. I don't know what to tell you other than,

> 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.

Hmm. Would you walk into an kibbutzim and tell them how counter
common-sense their gruffness is, that American AMS Montessori schools
are very non-gruff and kind and considerate of children? What would the
point be, and what is the point now?

Sudbury staff are very kind and considerate of students, just that they
try to stay out of the way. All you seem to be doing is pointing out
differences between schools. I don't really know what your point is.

> I just don't see the justification for over-reaction,
> frankly, by making it a "prime directive" never to offer
> help.

Firstly, I didn't say that staff "never offer help". But of course,
"over-reaction" is a phrase conjured from looking at something through
the lense of your experiences and prejudices. Of course, in a world
dominated by the institutional descendants of the English schooling
tradition, the idea that leading children through their educational
experiences diminishes their appetite for learning and ability to lead
themselves should be considered an "over-reaction".

> It's also not the way adults treat one another.


> as
> adults we all offer unsolicited help quite often -- in EVERY
> kind of society.

Certainly. I'm a big-time softy when it comes to lost tourists and
people who can't seem to find the gas cap on their car. But I beseech
you to hear me when I say that staff will often ask a student if they
need help when they are new and obviously looking for something or
homesick or a five-year-old who can't find her lunch.

And also, comparisons with how adults interact with one another in open
society do not dictate how adults should relate with children in a
Sudbury School. They should not. The situations and objectives are
entirely different.

In any case, in general, I think you are overreacting and running with
it, Ardeshir.


> > 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 don't 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
> don't 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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