Re: [savesummerhill] [Discuss-sudbury-model] [democratic-schools-israel] Is this correct?

From: David Rovner <>
Date: Sun May 11 12:45:00 2003

Chris, Carol and Brian,
I hope you don't mind if I try to create some contact between this three
discussion lists: after all the three of them basically refer to democratic

Hopefully NOT globalization (even though I think globalization shouldn't be
seen as a three letter word),

~ David

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Brian King
  Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2003 6:53 PM
  Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Is this correct?

  Hi All
  I am from the Marin startup (which will open it's doors this fall as Big
Rock)-- I have taught in both large and small high schools (Bloomington High
school 900 freshmen about 3500 total students, Colusa High 350 and currently
Lone Pine High 120 students). Here is my 2 cents. I also had the
misconception that small schools do not create alienated and apathetic, or
hostile and vengeful young people. In a small school in a small town the
kids grow up together sharing the same playpen and traveling together as a
group as they go through the system of public school. As the group grows up
it develops it's own personality good or bad. I teach science where all 9th
are in a single science class and all 10th are in single science class, both
classes are required. On the first day of class with the 9th graders I have
them introduce themselves and tell me what they do for hobbies or fun. As
we started around the room the first girl said "gossip" and like popcorn
students were saying "ya - gossip that is all there is to do in this town"
"if there is nothing to talk about then you can make it up". In fact, the
interim superintendent at his going away party told a joke about gossip in
this small town. This class was boasting about how bad they (the class of
'05) are and how many of their teachers go on disability or take early
retirement; and how they can get teachers canned. I have worked with that
group of kids for two years and I have never seen a group of students that
are so mean to each other. It being a small school the kids that are on the
"out" have no place to go. I have seen them terrorize new kids or just kids
that move from being "in" to "out" until they drop out. Two years ago a
parent was accused of molesting one of the girls. Another girl collaborated
with her in the accusation. It went all the way to trial. During the trial
the "victim" admitted the she made it up because the two girls were mad
because he would not buy them beer. I have had other parents tell me that
the same thing happened to them, with other girls from this class (the girls
being in elementary school at the time). I have seen this class walk out on
a sub because they did not want to do the classwork.
  There is a nucleus of girls that have strong personalities and are mean
spirited and a group of kids that are followers. The kids that want to be
serious about their studies do not have a chance.

  Bottom line is there are dysfunctional big schools and good big schools.
Big schools can offer more opportunities but kids can get lost in a big
school. There are good small schools and dysfunctional small schools. With
the right support teachers can more easily change the material to best suit
the individual. But in a small school the students have no choice but take
all of their classes with the same students, good or bad.

  If there are hostile and vengeful students or staff there will be
alienated and apathetic students and staff.


  From: Carol Hughes
  Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2003 4:12 PM
  Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Is this correct?

  "more easily avoid the risk of creating the large numbers of alienated and
apathetic, or hostile and vengeful young people associated with large

  Hi David,
  How incredibly simplistic and ridiculous this idea is. I am so weary of
the educational aristrocracy's inability to speak intelligently to all the
adjectives above mentioned. While it is somewhat encouraging that the words
"avoid the risk of creating" are implying some willingness to take
responsibility for the obnoxious results the current school system is now
getting, how silly to decide that the numbers of students will somehow
magically change the dynamic.

  I have personally experienced some great teaching and studying at so large
a school as Boston University. However, when it gets right down to it a
good learning experience is always somehow an intimate setting of a few
people. A much smaller school of U Mass Lowell which had a curriculum with
a good reputation for putting out good music teachers, was a dreadful
education, very very disappointing. I dropped out after one year. The
curriculum was ironically keeping me busy with mandated dry courses that
would not in any way contribute to my ability to teach music. There was no
time in my schedule left to play the piano which is my instrument.

  Large schools can and do have more money oftentimes and can therefore
offer wonderful opportunities. I have seen good and bad in large and small
schools. So?

  It is, in my opinion, the fundamental belief that children are empty
vessels into which one must pour certain information in a particular way in
order for them to turn out functional and succesful human beings that is the
problem. It never ceases to amaze me that educators and parents who spend
any amount of time with children can stick with this premis.

  Democracy is a natural desire in people. Everyone wants a voice,
knowledge, their own power, a place in society that has meaning. This is so
of a large or small group of people. And you can bet that if you put people
together on a regular basis, they will move heaven and earth to "get their
way", because that it what we do. Large groups naturally break themselves
up into small groups. Frankly, it's not even optional.

  The information is there, the students are there, the truth is there. We
must as a society stop looking to fear of something for a motivating factor
in how the schools will be governed or organized. What I value most about a
Sudbury Valley School is good old fashioned guts. Every day is an unknown.
Sometimes that is wonderful, sometimes it's very tough. But, oh, is it real
and powerful.

  School is mandatory. Large numbers of students exist. Budgets and
buildings and teacher's unions are the main focus in the American Public
School system. It is a great tragedy that children are not being
celebrated, encouraged, nurtured in their learning process. I sometimes
can't bear the tension I see in my six year old piano students. They are
totalling freaked out and worried about making a mistake, about getting
approval, about what I might say and do. I recently told a six year old
that if he didn't like a piece in his lesson book, then he could just skip
it. There's lots of other music he could play. He looked at me
incredulous, "Are you sure?". Yes, I'm sure, but his question breaks my

  Size of classroom, size of school, give me a break. Children can only be
taught self-respect while being treated with respect. I had straight "A's"
and an F in conduct on my first grade report card. The teacher even yellow
marked the F. Guess I ticked her off. I used to finish my work quickly
(those darn Dick and Jane books) and all I was given to do was crayons to
color the books. I would cover every inch of the page with color. That
teacher was a dictator. It was a very small school. No democracy there.
But still, I never stopped wanting it.

  Okay, so I've rambled a bit. You asked, I reasoned.

----- Original Message -----
From: "knowbody" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2003 2:22 AM
Subject: Re: [savesummerhill] Is this correct?

> Thanks David, for your last couple of posts. The pages I've read from the
> 'Natural Parent magazine' are great. Regarding Small schools the analysis
> seems fine to me. Democratic Intention is key and I feel consensus is more
> democratic than voting. Consensus is easier to reach with smaller numbers.
> Accordingly I feel small schools have more capacity to be genuinely
> democratic than large ones.
> Chris (Hunt)
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "David Rovner" Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2003 6:15 AM
> Subject: [savesummerhill] Is this correct?
> >
> >
> > Is the following declaration correct?
> >
> > ~ David
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------
> > Small Schools and Democratic Practice
> >
> > by Clive Harber
> >
> > Small schools are an international experience, for they exist in large
> countries and small, rich countries and poor. They also exist in public
> sectors and private. Despite being so common, they have both advocates and
> opponents. Those in favour applaud their personal atmosphere and their
> democratic role at the centre of local communities. Those against believe
> the accountants' claim that they have high unit costs, a claim that is in
> dispute. It is also asserted that they can only offer a restricted
> curriculum, a claim increasingly weakened by the changes in communications
> and computer technology.
> > The issue of school size is not merely a matter of numbers. Comparing
> authoritarian schools that happen to be small, with authoritarian schools
> that are large, in terms of which is most 'effective', results in a futile
> debate because deliberate and planned attempts to create small schools
> often been associated with aims and values quite different from those
> in the majority of larger schools.
> >
> > This book, therefore, examines the issue of school size in relation to a
> democratic ideology of education. What is it about a small school that
> facilitates the development of democratic behaviours and values? Small
> schools, it is argued, may well be a better investment for contemporary
> society because they can more easily educate for the democratic and
> people required for the next century, and more easily avoid the risk of
> creating the large numbers of alienated and apathetic, or hostile and
> vengeful young people associated with large schools.
> >
> > Dr. Clive Harber is Professor of Education,University of Natal.
Received on Sun May 11 2003 - 12:44:48 EDT

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