Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Learning to think.

From: Bruce Smith <>
Date: Wed Sep 3 16:03:00 2003

Hi, Helena. I'm a staff member at a Sudbury school, and a former
public-school teacher. I'd like to give your thoughts more consideration,
but for now, here's what's on my mind...

On Thu, 4 Sep 2003, Helena Chester wrote:

> I am all for choice!

Then why is there a need to qualify choice, to limit it? Why do any more
than expect everyone to make choices that don't impinge on others' ability
to choose (and hold them accountable in a democratic setting when that
happens)? If you're all for choice, then what justification do you have
for limited choices?

If you argue that it's better for traditionally schooled students to have
some choices, as opposed to virtually none, again I would tend to
disagree. It's the "slightly pregnant" argument. If children are not
full-fledged participants, with a full voice and vote in their education,
then they are not free -- period. Pardon my bluntness, but I believe that
a minimum-security prison, with humane guards and copious privileges, is
still a prison. Having served as a humane guard once upon a time, I ask:
is it better to have a marginally better experience, to have a humane
teacher as opposed to a dictator? Sure -- but compared to what the
students in question _could_ have, it still sucks. It's so limiting, so
distorting, so unnecessary.

That's what frustrates some of us, and underlies the debate, I believe:
you may see "improvements" as a glass half-full, but I (and possibly
Joe, and possibly others) ask why the glass has to be so damned small??

>But, we CAN improve things for those who are limited to public/compulsory
> education by implementing some of
> the strategies that are part of the Sudbury model...
> it might help some students who wouldn't have had a
> very meaningful education to have a better experience.

I think Joe has a point about the inability to break free of the
traditional education paradigm. I won't presume to know where you are, but
when I was teaching in that system, and knew it to be very flawed, I
_still_, for a long time, continued to view my ideal remedies through
traditional lenses. "We just need better classes, more student input,"
etc. But it is NOT about making the old system better; it's about making a
new, better system. Anything else is just tinkering -- it might help some,
perhaps a few if those significantly, but ultimately nothing will change
much -- or enough.

Which is not to say that some students might not choose a more traditional
form of education, at least for a while. They should have that choice
(though I doubt it would be very popular for very long: how many people
would choose to be disempowered, disrespected, etc.?) But right now, they
don't even have that much choice.

Increasing access to choice-based education is a worthy goal. Trying to
make it happen within the existing traditional schools is, imho, a
comparative and tragic waste of time.

Bruce Smith
Alpine Valley School
Received on Wed Sep 03 2003 - 16:02:30 EDT

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