DSM: "Education"

From: Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. (ardeshir@sympatico.ca)
Date: Thu Mar 07 2002 - 18:49:21 EST


Hi all,

I wonder why many people on this list think that whether one calls
Sudbury "education" or not is merely splitting hairs. It is far indeed
from being so, especially in the context of the kinds of discussions
that are relevant to the SVS model. As Patrick Schimpke wrote
about a month ago:

[QUOTE]

     I would like to support Ardeshir, also to prevent the impression as
     if he was the only one holding this point of view.

     Also, I disagree with the opinion that this is merely a theoretical
     or "strange" discussion. Contrarily, I think that a change in the
     practice and philosophy of this single point - unsolicited help and
     interference - would not only be philosophically and logically
     correct, but would also strongly decrease the objections most people
     hold against the SVS model. I mean, a correction in this point would
     also be a chance to make SVS much more popular and likeable in the
     population. I'm going to explain this after the next paragraph.

     Finally, I have been seeing - at least so far - the DSM list as an
     opportunity for discussion, TOO, not only for sharing ideas etc.
     (Which is slightly being supported by the list's name "_Discuss_
     Sudbury Model", by the way...) So I think this discussion should be
     welcome on this list, isn't it?

     To bring forth this discussion, I would like to share two comments
     and ideas, the second of which is the most central one:

     Firstly, to Travis: Your statement that "everything that makes up the
     collective culture of society is of no importance in defining the
     goal of Sudbury Valley" is partly right and partly wrong. I'm quite
     sure that in the end, SVS students and -staff are designing their
     school according to their liking, not according to society as a
     model. Nevertheless, I'm as sure that in Sudbury's philosophical
     foundation, one of the most influential guidelines is to mirror
     society - and let it only be those parts that are being liked by the
     inventors of the SV school. Am I wrong when I say that a great
     majority of SVS advocates oppose the view that children need
     to be separated from the world around them during their
     schooltime? I don't think so. Contrary to almost all other types of
     schools, SVS pays a lot of respect to its students, SVS doesn't
     separate students by age, SVS is organized democratically, etc. pp.
     These are all features mirroring the relationships among adults in
     SOCIETY.

     Secondly, to Mike: Thank you for quoting the SVS by-laws:
     "The purpose for which this corporation is formed is to establish and
     maintain a school founded upon the principle that learning is best
     fostered by self-motivation, self-regulation, and self-criticism;
     [...]."
     I read this as a real proof that the SVS by-laws are, in fact,
     AGAINST unsolicited help and interference. For our discussion, it has
     the consequence that the question can no longer be what SVS advocates
     to do, but in question are the SVS by-laws themselves. Despite being
     fascinated by SVM-schools and despite seeing them as the best school
     type in the world so far, I must clearly argue that right this
     assumption, that
     "learning is best fostered by self-motivation, self-regulation, and
     self-criticism",
     is partially false. Instead of that, my opinion is that IT IS
     WRONG TO MAKE AGE-FOUNDED DISTINCTIONS in
     treating children. This standpoint is called Anti-pedagogy and
     was most clearly explained by the German author Ekkehard von
     Braunmuhl ("Antipadagogik", 1975/1993). One of the central arguments
     is that you are withholding freedom from children already at that
     moment in which you are making up any _goal_ the child ought to
     achieve according to your opinion. Primarily, the SVS philosophy
     as well claims not to make up goals for its students. But then: how
     can it ever be possible to invent a differential way of treating
     children without having made up a goal that is to be achieved by this
     treatment?? If you have REALLY never claimed superior power over
     children (e.g., by defining a goal on their behalf), then how can you
     have any idea how to treat them differently from treating adults? You
     can only behave "naturally", that is like you do towards adults. This
     is the crucial point in which the SVS philosophy isn't consistent,
     neither by content nor by logic. A true and consistent philosophy, in
     my eyes, is this:

     1. It is unfair (and undemocratic) to make up goals for other
     people's lives, including children.
     2. Thus being "legally" equal with children, there is no reason and
     no justification for treating them differently than adults on
     principle.
     3. Unsolicited help and interference should be offered to the same
     extent to children as to _equal_ adults.

     Apart from the fact that, strictly speaking, already the goal to
     "best foster learning" can be interpreted as undemocratic, I suppose
     that also for this goal, the way I advocate to treat children is
     much, much better than the way of the smallest possible interference.
     Unsolicited (or maybe just _nonverbally_solicited_???) help, in the
     end, is nothing else than just even more supplies of knowledge, in
     addition to all others available at SVS. If you only offer help in
     such situations in which you think that it's good _and_ welcome for
     the child, and you don't have the *goal* to indoctrinate, freedom and
     democracy is not being restricted.

     Last, I believe that refraining from all age-founded differential
     treatment of children is not only good for learning, but also optimal
     for child development and socialization as a whole. Socialization
     means getting to know the rules and behaviors that are common within
     a given society. The more differently you treat children from these
     cultural habits, the less of the true cultural habits has a child the
     chance to learn. Quite simple...

     Patrick Schimpke, Germany

[END QUOTE]

I particularly draw my readers' attention to the three sentences,
which I repeat for the sake of emphasis:

     If you have REALLY never claimed superior power over
     children (e.g., by defining a goal on their behalf), then how can you
     have any idea how to treat them differently from treating adults? You
     can only behave "naturally", that is like you do towards adults. *This
     is the crucial point in which the SVS philosophy isn't consistent,
     neither by content nor by logic.*

(My emphasis.)

It also seems relevant to point out that it doesn't matter *what*
definition of "education" one uses: the goal of educating any person
by one or more *other* persons is *PER SE* unfair, unjust and
indeed morally unjustifiable.

No matter what the goal of the Sudbury Valley *School* is, it is
inapplicable to the *students* of Sudbury Valley. Those students
who *want* to make their own goal the same as that of the school
are welcome to do so, of course; but it would be morally reprehen-
sible for the school to make it the goal of *all* students, or even of
all *prospective* students.

And to prove my point I give a couple of definitions of "education"
from Webster hereunder:

[QUOTE]

     Main Entry: ed·u·ca·tion
     Pronunciation: "e-j&-'kA-sh&n
     Function: noun
     Date: 1531
     1 a : the action or process of educating or of being
     educated; also : a stage of such a process b : the
     knowledge and development resulting from an educational
     process <a man of little education>
     2 : the field of study that deals mainly with methods of
     teaching and learning in schools

     Main Entry: ed·u·cate
     Pronunciation: 'e-j&-"kAt
     Function: verb
     Inflected Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
     Etymology: Middle English, to rear, from Latin
     educatus, past participle of educare to rear, educate,
     from educere to lead forth -- more at EDUCE
     Date: 15th century
     transitive senses
     1 a : to provide schooling for b : to train by formal
     instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill,
     trade, or profession
     2 a : to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically
     especially by instruction b : to provide with information :
     INFORM
     3 : to persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a
     desired way <educate the public to support our position>
     intransitive senses : to educate a person or thing

[END QUOTE]

The most benign definition here is "2 a" under "educate", but even
that refers "especially" to "instruction".

Note that the very word did not exist before the 15th century!
Surely one can't argue that Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, for exam-
ple, arguably being by the above definitions "uneducated", were
fools!

Anyway, the following is the crucial question: If a child were a
student who would rather remain uneducated, would Sudbury
Valley accept him or her? If it did, it would be contravening its
own stated goals. On the other hand, if it didn't, it would be at
least potentially refusing admission to a budding Archimedes,
Pythagoras or Euclid.

But of course it doesn't matter if the child doesn't become any per-
son of note later on in life. As long as remaining uneducated is what
he or she wants, it's her right to want it, and nobody's right to take
it away from him or her.

And it doesn't matter here *what* definition one gives to the term
"education": it's the child's own definition that is of any relevance
here!

Best,

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

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