DSM: RE: TCS (Taking Children Seriously): Non-coercive Schools?

From: Alan or Laura Gabelsberg (argable@swbell.net)
Date: Thu Feb 21 2002 - 19:27:02 EST

This is interesting, I must say. Thank you for forwarding it for
discussion. Since I am now involved in building a budding Sudbury school,
my view is surely biased. I think the issue of whether a home can do the
job of educating is an issue that a lot of families who enter SVS-type
schools have probably already grappled with and answered for themselves in
favor of "the school" versus the home for their own reasons at that given
time. Sudbury recreates "the village" as much as it possibly can in our day
and age. It isn't a perfect system, but it's better than (most) of the
other schools I've ever seen or heard of in terms of coercion.

I like what TCS has to offer parents in terms of questioning the prevalent
coercive and entrenched parenting and educational thinking. It would be
wonderful if we all consistently exercised our full IQ's and EQ's (Emotional
Quotient) to be able to navigate around every problem without falling back
on coercion. I think Sudbury offers an environment where that kind of
creative thinking is more possible. It is not a perfect system. It is a
democracy. I think the human race in general is just not as highly evolved
as Deutsch expects it to be.

SVS as a model represents the evolution of schools as institutions,
progressing from a completely coercive system to the crawling stage of
democracy that SVS is. Beyond that maybe human beings can develop the
utopian school of Deutsch's argument and common preferences, (wouldn't that
be great!) but I don't see it happening in my lifetime.

As for the practical ideas of offering kids the money instead of paying the
tuition, I think that is fine - but for the school to coerce that/demand
that from the parents is not right. It would have to come from within the
family structure itself - otherwise it would just be another instance where
the school is laying down the law. Also I agree that kids do need to be
given the right to decide if they want to subject themselves to the
structure of any place. If they agree to being there, then they generally
would prefer to abide by the rules to begin with - or - at least to comply
with the consequences for not preferring the rules.


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
[mailto:owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org]On Behalf Of Ardeshir Mehta,
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2002 5:00 PM
Subject: DSM: TCS (Taking Children Seriously): Non-coercive Schools?

Taking Children Seriously

What about Sudbury Valley?

Why the Sudbury Valley School is not TCS
David Deutsch
>From Taking Children Seriously 25

Alternative schools such as Summerhill and Sudbury Valley pride themselves
on their democratic structures and their judicial systems. Take the Sudbury
Valley School, for example. In what follows, indented text is quoted (and
sometimes abridged) from Sudbury Valley web site <http://www.sudval.org/> .
The description of their activities starts like this:
CLAIM: Whatever the time of day, and whatever their age, students in the
school are all doing what they want to do.
So far, so good. I must say, though, I found little in the specific
descriptions that could not be done as well or better at home, especially if
the fees that the school charges were instead applied to solving actual
problems arising in the child's education. In fact, I wonder how many of the
Sudbury School's inmates have been offered free use of the fees as an
alternative to going there. Any non-coercive parent would make that offer as
a matter of course - and any non-coercive school would insist on their doing
Another aspect of the school that is quite prominent on the web site is that
they have Rules. A whole book of them. This fact alone strongly suggests
that the institution is deeply coercive, for a Rule is something that you
have to follow whether you like it or not. Institutions can enforce rules,
or they can promote the creation of common preferences, but they can't do
both at once.
What happens when a child breaks a Rule in this non-coercive school? Just as
in every other school, someone intentionally hurts him for doing so.
The judicial system at Sudbury Valley is one of the keystones of the
school's structure, and has long been our pride and joy.
Let's find out about this judicial system that they enjoy so much. Is it
non-coercive? Here's some of its procedure:
Allegation - A person is alleged by someone to have committed a misdeed.
Investigation - If the allegation is considered to merit further action, an
investigation is made of the circumstances surrounding the allegation. In
the outside world, the investigation can be carried out by the police, by
members of the justice division of the government, or by private
So, as I understand it, the Sudbury School people think that they are a
State. Is it a non-coercive State?
Charge - If the investigation is deemed to have yielded sufficient cause for
further action, a charge is made that a specific law has been violated, and
the alleged violator is brought to trial.
Something which, according to the CLAIM above, the alleged violator truly
wants to have happen to him.
Trial - Once a charge is made, the case comes to trial.
Sentence - If a person is found through the trial process to have done
wrong, that person is sentenced
Since, according to the CLAIM, the person in question wants to serve the
sentence more than anything else in the world, I wonder what the trials are
for. Why can't they just short-circuit the system and let the "violator"
decide what sentence he would most enjoy serving, and then serve it?
I conclude, therefore, that the CLAIM is simply false, and that the school's
regime, though it seems much more humane than a typical school, is
nevertheless systematically coercive both in its overall constitution and in
its detailed functioning.

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