[Discuss-sudbury-model]Re: DSM: Re: TCS (Taking Children Seriously): Non-coercive Schools?

From: David Schneider-Joseph <david_at_davidsj.com>
Date: Sun May 5 15:38:00 2002

On Friday, February 22, 2002, at 06:35 , Ardeshir Mehta, N.D. wrote:

> Hi Alan, Laura and David,
> Thank you for your posts.

You're welcome, and sorry for taking so long to write my reply. I get
lots of email and get lazy about it sometimes.

> And finally, David, you wrote:
>> 2) The TCS position on coercion is that coercion is *harmful* to the
>> person being coerced, not that it is always wrong. In fact, the TCS
>> position is that coercion is often perfectly moral, and sometimes the
>> ONLY moral way to act. It is coercion, for example, to use force in
>> self-defense, but perfectly moral. A common preference cannot be found
>> with someone who's not interested in finding one.
> "Moral" is hardly what I would call using coersion (or force) even
> for self-defence -- if by "moral" one means something good. The
> result could well be the death of a human being, or at least harm to
> him / her; and how can the death of, or harm to, a human being be
> called "good" an *any* sense of the term?
> As Lao Tzu says,
> To rejoice in a military victory is to rejoice in the slaughter of
> men, women and children! How can the government of a nation
> be entrusted to people who rejoice in such things?
> Note that he does not talk about a "just" war as opposed to an "un-
> just" one. Winning World War II was a military victory for the Al-
> lies, but though it was better than *losing* the war, it was hardly a
> *good* thing: it resulted in the slaughter of more than twenty mil-
> lion people. The *real* good thing would have been to *prevent*
> WW-II -- for example, by *not* imposing the Treaty of Versailles
> on defeated Germany after WW-I, but rather having a kind of
> "Marshall Plan" at that time too -- as a result of which it is highly
> unlikely that Hitler would have risen to power.
> If the TCS position is that coercion is on occasion moral in the
> sense that it is *good*, then I dispute that claim most vehemently.
> If it's their position that it is sometimes the lesser of two *evils*, I
> agree: with the stipulation that the word "evils" be emphasised, as I
> have done above, so as to cause no misunderstanding whatsoever as
> to what is truly good and what isn't!

The TCS position, which I agree with, is that events which result in the
coercion of people (even people that are doing bad things) are bad. But
picking the lesser of two evils is itself a good choice, even if the
event is bad.

But I think we're just arguing over the definition of terms like "evil"
and "good" and such. We can both agree that it's the proper decision to
coerce in self-defense, even if we should at the same time take no
pleasure in the fact that our coercion will hurt the person we are
defending against.

> You added:
>> 3) I think a good analogy with a Sudbury school is that of a town
>> government. In many ways it serves the same roles. It allocates some
>> communal funds, hires some people to keep things running smoothly, and
>> sets basic rules of behavior so that everyone feels that their rights
>> are being protected. It also has a judicial system for dealing with
>> rule violations. By their nature, rules are coercive to someone who
>> does not want to follow them. And enforcing those rules with a judicial
>> system is also coercive. But IF the rules only outlaw actions that are
>> violations of the rights of others, then it is perfectly moral to use
>> coercion to enforce those rules. It just so happens that the rules at a
>> Sudbury school only exist as a defense against coercive behavior, i. e.
>> theft and assault, not to coerce people "for their own good", which are
>> what most of the rules in other schools and homes are there for. In
>> this way, there is nothing contradictory to TCS philosophy in the
>> Sudbury model.
> Here I agree, with the proviso that the rules should clearly spell out
> that rules *are* coercive, and the justification of their being coer-
> cive is that they are the lesser of two *evils*, for *not* having
> these rules means that people would be free to coerce *others*.

I would agree with you. But again this is a matter of definition. It
is good that rules exist. It is bad that people do things that
necessitate those rules existing.

> But even then, the TCS philosophy is, as I understand it, that there
> may always be more *creative* ways than counter-coersion to deal
> with people who feel an urge to coerce others -- such as persuasion.
> (After all, this is what TCS itself does, by *persuading* parents not
> to coerce their children, rather than by making *rules* about it!)

There may be, yes. But when it's not someone you're in a close
relationship with like your own child, you have no responsibility to
sacrifice your energy finding common preferences, which itself can be
coercive to you.

> Why should anyone at SVS feel the urge to indulge in coercive be-
> haviour in the first place? If there is no such need, then I see no
> need for rules to *defend* against such behaviour, either.
> If on the other hand someone at SVS does feel such an urge or a
> need to indulge in coercive behaviour, then surely it should be ad-
> dressed, in the sense that its deeper causes sought, and dealt with,
> preferably by persuasion.
> Coersion -- whether via rules and sentences, or otherwise -- only
> deals with manifestation, not with causes.

I agree with that. Ideally, no one would infringe on the rights of
others, and the root of those actions should be addressed in addition to
merely protecting others from the harmful results of those actions.

But just because the root of those actions *should* be addressed, that
does not mean that every possible way of addressing them is
appropriate. For example, you wouldn't want your town forcing you to
undergo therapy when you got a speeding ticket. Personal change --
change in motivations -- has to be something that is internally desired,
even if externally inspired. Because Sudbury Valley does not try to
educate people against their will, persuading people should not be
something that happens on the level of the institution. It should be
something that happens with conversations between friends. That can
include the person whose rights were infringed, or members of the
judicial committee, so long as they are speaking on their own behalf,
and not in any official capacity.

It is very easy to look at the explicit structure of Sudbury Valley's
government and assume that because there is no institutional way of
addressing the root of people's behavior, it never gets addressed. But
that's like assuming that no one learns to read just because Sudbury
Valley has no rules about reading. I can assure you from my own
experience at Sudbury Valley that it is a tremendously supportive and
nurturing community, and experiences there can make a huge impact on
someone's personality.

> However, as I said, I agree in most part with you, David. And as I
> also said, I am sending your post to David Deutsch on the TCS list
> for his comments, if he has any: for his article obviously makes it
> clear that in *his* mind the philosophies of TCS and SVS are *not*
> compatible.
> Best,
> Ardeshir <http://homepage.mac.com/ardeshir/AllMyFiles.html>.

David Schneider-Joseph
Received on Sun May 05 2002 - 15:08:51 EDT

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