Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] SVM and TCS

From: David Rovner <>
Date: Tue Jun 3 13:55:00 2003

[. . .]
. . . I want to present the world view that will underlie all of the following chapters - namely, the democratic ethos. This philosophy of life stresses a kind of "balance of powers" between the individual and society, between individual rights that are sacred, and community decisions that are made through a democratic procedure. This point of view starts by placing primary importance on the sacredness of the individual, while social organization is viewed as something existential but secondary. Now this means, for example, that I am going to be stressing over and over again the primary importance of expressing each individual child's full potential, rather than the primary importance of preparing children for service to the nation, or for service to God or to an ideal. I will always view social encroachments on individual expression [as an evil that is to be minimized unless it can clearly be shown to enhance individual expression]. There will be many examples of this.

         This focus on individuality within a democratic ethos is my specific starting point. Much of the literature in child rearing, and education, invokes the idea of individual potential like a ritual incantation. But always some qualifiers are added immediately afterwards which make it very clear that individuality is to be tolerated only within fixed limits which are governed by the needs of society. The primary considerations turn out to be the qualifiers, and individual expressions soon get subordinated to the primary restrictions. I want to do it the other way around. My primary focus is the expression of the individual, and although that will be qualified from time to time, it is the qualifiers that will be subject to severe scrutiny and not the expression of the individual. Wherever some social stricture comes to limit individual freedom, it's the social stricture which is going to be under fire, and will have to prove itself, and not the other way around.

[excerpt, An Approach to Child Rearing, Child Rearing, Daniel Greenberg]

~ David Rovner

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joe Jackson" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2003 6:37 PM
Subject: RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] TCS

> Tom, thank you for your reply.
> > At SVS you are not
> > "allowing" a child to learn. You are simply not getting in
> > the way of them doing so.
> I feel this is semantics. By putting up the bread and sending a child
> to a Sudbury School, the parent is "allowing" the child the privilege to
> be in a extremely desirable and beneficial culture. The school meeting
> "allows" members of the school to have certain rights and freedoms. The
> child "allows" school meeting to place limitations on her behavior in
> exchange for the privilege of being there and enjoying the rights and
> liberties, etc. In the whole concept of common preference, each party
> is "allowing" the other something.
> "Allow" does not automatically indicate a coercive relationship, it
> speaks to a process. And as a person used to explaining Sudbury to
> newbies, "allow" implies the transition from traditional learning
> environments to self-led ones.
> The use of the word "allow" here is secondary to the specific points
> that I have been making repeatedly, which is:
> - TCS, in it's pure philosophical form, has much in common with Sudbury
> in terms of recognizing the rights of children and questioning the
> necessity of coercion in childrearing,
> - that I have been disappointed with the cultural context that many of
> the advocates of TCS have chosen to isolate on one philosophical thrust
> of TCS, take it to it's ridiculous extreme, and use it as a weapon to
> batter over the heads of parents who are unwilling to place the interest
> of the child over the interest of the family at every turn.
> You wrote:
> #1-
> > The same kind of
> > trust is involved, in that one knows that the child's path to
> > growth and knowledge is their own.
> and
> #2-
> > No matter how we might
> > speculate, or think we "know better", the best thing that we
> > can do is to be a trusted advisor, giving them the benefit of
> > our experience and knowledge when they want it,
> #1: Yes, by all means, IMO this is absolutely a primary kernel of what
> makes the Sudbury school so effective in giving the child the space for
> their inner voice to emerge. This bit of truth, along with a dogged
> commitment to finding common preferences, are how I approach parenting.
> And while these concepts are not proprietary to TCS, the literature
> surrounding TCS is very good at making parents look at their own
> behavior when it comes to their children.
> #2: And while the hyperbole is absent, your very next statement is
> precisely the same "grab a single philosophical point and take it to the
> extreme" approach I have seen over and over with TCS proponents. By the
> rest of the family stepping back and relegating themselves to "advisors"
> in the many real-life situations (baby with knife, 13-year-old having
> sex with adult, etc -- not made-up case studies here) we have brought up
> in this discussion, the child doesn't just learn that their desires and
> needs are on-par with the other voices in the family. They learn that
> the family will put itself to tremendous disadvantage in order for the
> child to do what they wish or need to, especially if it is a difficult
> child.
> (And for those of you who think difficult children are a product of
> nurture, you haven't looked around enough. The examples of families who
> have children who are intensely and inherently devoted to common
> preference brought up right next to and using the same environment as
> very high-maintenance kids, abound. My kids were easy coming out of the
> womb, judging from some of the wonderful, respectful parents I've seen
> whose 3-y-o kids wouldn't know a common preference if they poured an
> entire can of paint on it and set it on fire...)
> Again, since the tendency here seems to be to take paragraphs like my
> response to #2, above, and substitute the word "Sudbury": the Sudbury
> school is a culture, and the only single bit of philosophy that
> characterizes the "right" way for an interpersonal transaction to happen
> is that there is none. A culture is a culture, and the good ones
> balance many, many things well. Rights vs. responsibilities, liberty
> vs. the good of the whole, democracy vs. leadership.
> The Sudbury school is not automatically a place where these things
> balance well. It is one part model of a certain "flavor" or culture
> PLUS one part broad overriding philosophies (self-initiated learning and
> democracy) PLUS *ten* parts whatever that the people and community turn
> it into. Determinations of the relative importance of activities: the
> conversations and games that some engage in are important; interrupting
> them without good cause is a "write-up-able" offense -- but official
> school business always trumps any other activity. Why, in the eyes of
> these interpreters of TCS that dominate the listserve can parents not
> "pull rank" by making determinations of the relative importance of
> certain behaviors (babies with knives, 13-y-o's with 27-y-o lovers) with
> the gravity of the potential consequences (pregnancy, disease, injury)
> and the asymmetrical impact these consequences pose to the parents?
> IMO Sudbury is not a philosophy, it is a bunch of schools. So I believe
> that on balance TCS and Sudbury are apples and oranges. If you looked
> at a household wherein the members respected each other and took
> responsibility for themselves, well that's an orange just like Sudbury -
> it's the whole package, not just a single strand of philosophy.
> Given that, I believe that if one were to equate the important Sudbury
> element of "self-initiated learning" with allowing the child to
> similarly lead themselves in TCS, we have no issue here. As long as a
> child's activity does not present an adverse impact on the school or
> family that is disproportionate to them being one person in a school of
> sixty or a family of four, I have no problem. But if TCS is interpreted
> in a way wherein the role of limit-setter is an inappropriate for
> parents at all times, then you are asking parents to always put the
> family's interests secondary. At the least, that's a irrelevant and
> misleading message. At the worst, it's arguably an omission of
> limit-setting that causes children to seek the hard limits in another
> jurisdiction.
> Welcome back, Tom.
> -Joe Jackson
Received on Tue Jun 03 2003 - 13:54:44 EDT

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