Re: DSM: On Certainty and language.

From: Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. (
Date: Wed Jan 30 2002 - 02:11:35 EST

Hi Darren,

Thanks for your response.

You wrote:

> It does make for a very different reading (believe it or not) when CAPS or
> tialics or asterisks are used. I can imagine (although it will be a bit of
> a stretch for me to do so) that the conversations I have been trying to
> follow don't *sound* like yelling matches. It is not so much that I
> *object* to CAPS, it is just that for someone (like myself) who has had
> others point out particular e-mail etiquette and has since followed it,
> reading e-mails by others where CAPS have meant something specific can be
> confusing and a source for annoyance.

Right. I shall stick in future to asterisks, then.

> > A lot of schools do have education as their goal. But SVS, as I understand
> > it, does not. Its goal is freedom, and *nothing* else. Indeed that is also
> > the means to the goal. (It is not often that the mans and the goal are the
> > same!)
> This is an interesting thought, but I am not one to respond to it since I
> have not yet seen nor spent any useful amounts of time at SVS (or an
> SVS-like school). I can see how freedom may be the means, but I really
> don't know if one could say that that is the goal. I don't think that such
> a goal could ever be achieved by participating within any social structure -
> including SVS.

Well, let's put it this way: the goal of SVS is *social* freedom.
*Individual* freedom is something that can, as you say, be
achieved outside a social setting. One can go live free in the wil-
derness, for example. Indeed that is how many Hindus try to attain
*Moksha*, which literally translated means "liberation". That is
the ultimate goal of Hinduism, as (perhaps arguably) Salvation is of
Christianity. Perhaps that is also what encouraged the Prophets of
Israel to go into the wilderness for years on end.

But in a *social* setting freedom is a somewhat different thing. In
society we are always curbing the freedom of others. We often do
this unconsciously. Thus we *need* rules which allow *everyone*
to live free.

Of course rules can also be made so that a privileged *few* enjoy
freedoms which others don't. That's the difference between Roman
Law and Common Law. The Romans made laws to make sure that
they enjoyed the most freedoms, while their subjects enjoyed less.
The common law -- for example, the Magna Carta in England,
which the barons forced King John to sign at Runnymede (though
this is still not the very *first* document of the common law, as is
sometimes thought) -- evolved as an effort on the part of those
who did *not* enjoy freedom to *make sure* that they did in fact
enjoy freedom.

> > I am reminded re. this of a quote from a play by Bernard Shaw, in
> > which a defrocked Irish priest is telling his listeners about his idea of
> > heaven: "My notion of heaven", he says, "is a place where work is play
> > and play is life: three in one and one in three. " *This* is what I mean
> > as well!
> I like this anecdote. In fact, I pretty say a similar thing to people who
> wonder why I go to university. My work is my play. And, I enjoy what I do
> and would have it no other way. Why do something that you don't enjoy?!?!


And why force someone else to do it either? That, precisely, is
why one should not force a child to learn. Or for that matter, to
anything else that is supposedly "good" for him or her!

> > Freedom, by its very nature, *cannot* be absolute, because one cannot
> > have the freedom to *take away* others' freedom! So rules are absolutely
> > necessary to preserve freedom, and to ensure that *everyone* lives free.
> Fair enough. But your second sentence sounds like it is meant to be a
> foregone logical conclusion. Which is to say, that it does not follow. I
> would hazard the guess that so long as people participate within human
> social structures/systems that people are not absolutely free. This is not
> to say that people cannot be absolutely free. Perhaps, *simply* (if only
> life could be so simple!) not participating within such structures is all
> that would be needed.
> To live within such a system then, would seem to require the necessary
> provisions of rights and responsibilities - hence, rules.

Correct. Freedom from an *individual* perspective needs no rules.
But freedom from a *social* perspective does.

But although the former statement is true, it is hard to live by -- for
as you say, "if only life could be that simple!"

Still, I *have* tried it, and benefited from it greatly; and I think
everyone might benefit from at least trying it. (Keeping it up for all
one's life, however, is another thing entirely!)

> What then do we
> mean by rights? I have seen that word crop up several times since i joined
> this list without having *any* sense of what that means. What *rights* do
> people/children/adults have? In a system, these get determined in a
> particular way. Outside of a system, the notion of rights makes no sense.
> Of course, if one is so inclined to viewed the earth or an ecosystem is
> participating within a system, then we might be talking about something.
> These are ecological sensibilities. Because it is a different system from
> a human social system), there may very well indeed be different rules to
> follow. All in all, at every corner I turn, there seem to be different
> rules and responsibilities at every corner I turn. In the end, however, I
> think that greater concern could be for respect others, rather than ensuring
> personal freedoms. just an extended thought (which i wasn't planning on
> writing here).

I think there are at least two kinds of rights: that is, social rights.
(And as you say, *outside* of a social system, the notion of rights
makes no sense). On the one hand, there are the social rights one is
*given*. And on the other, there are the rights one *claims for one-
self*, mostly because one feels intuitively that the demands of jus-
tice require that one -- and others also -- should have them.

In different societies different rights are *given*. But one should
not be satisfied with these. One should, I think, constantly ask one-
self: "Should I -- or this or that other person -- have rights other
than the ones that are given?" It was by thinking thus that in the
past slaves were freed, and women got the vote. Indeed that's what
the barons at Runnymede thought, when they made -- i.e., com-
pelled -- King John to sign the Magna Carta!

These days, children are pretty much in the same position as slaves
were in the past. They are admittedly not bought and sold (at least
not legally); but they *have* to do pretty much as they are told to
do, at least as far as "learning" this or that subject goes. Their
physical and mental inability to resist the forces brought to bear
upon them by adults makes the situation all the more reprehensi-

What I believe is that children should have rights at least the same
as adults. And one of the most important of these is the right to
run their own lives as they see fit.

But in addition they also, of course, have the right to be protected
from harm. And harm can arise from their sheer ignorance of life,
due to their inadequate amount of life experience. Children, simply
because of their young age, are often ignorant of many things which
adults are not ignorant of. Thus if it is clearly obvious that the
course upon which a child is set will cause him/her to come to
harm, he/she should be protected therefrom.

It is the rights of children that we are most concerned with in this
forum; however, let us not forget that they do not live in a vacuum.
If the rights or adults are violated in order that children have their
rights, then that's not just either. And injustice cannot be compati-
ble with freedom.

That, basically, is what my argument with Travis and Joe is about.

> > You are completely right about leisure being connected with the
> > word "school" (via the Greek. ) And yes, in *that* sense Sudbury
> > *is* a school. But it is *not* a school that provides *education*:
> > at least not as the word "education" is mostly understood to mean.
> I don't find much to disagree with over these statements. . . although I would
> say that education seems to have more to do with imposing rather than
> offering or providing anything. . . whether that thing is wanted or not.

Right. That's what "education" means to a lot of people.

Even Martin Wilke's pointing out that in German, there are two
different words for what in English we call "education", one of
them basically meaning "learning" while the other basically means
something done to a child to control his/her character, and the for-
mer is acceptable while the latter isn't -- even *this* notion doesn’t
*quite* address the problem, because we don't know whether what
the child is learning is what the child *wants* to learn!


Ardeshir <>.


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