RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Values?

From: Joe Jackson <shoeless_at_jazztbone.com>
Date: Sun Apr 11 18:33:00 2004

Sally, welcome.

It is quite true that as a community, students and staff grow quite familiar
with the views and values and causes that each member holds dear.

But it is my experience that for a person to be truly passionate about
something and to be truly effective in causing change in the world, they
need to have been fortunate enough to live in a space where they are allowed
to decide for themselves what is important and what is not.

For example, many of the people I grew up with were quite strident in
various causes, and most of that came as a response to living with parents
who were decidedly apolitical and not at all activist. So these views,
expressed as lifestyles, were not a result of clear thinking and measured
living, but were a direct response, even a sort of rebellion, from their
parents and their world (of the late seventies/early eighties). Needless to
say, as much of the political activist (which took root in rebellion as
opposed to principle) spirit of the sixties dies, the activist spirit of
these friends dies as well.

Other people I have known who have had activist parents have gone the other
direction, sick to death of "the world as a cause".

So perhaps there is no better way to ensure that you children end up
apolitical then by trying too hard to instill a sense of activism. :)

In any case, my feeling about this, as well as the idea that the Sudbury
School being essentially apolitical on the institutional level, is that
people eternally underestimate the ability of kids to know what's going on
in the world, so they continue to feel the need to construct institutions to
force things down people's throats. But regardless of how important some
social injustice or prejudice is, attempting to impose values upon a child
is attempting to build a building of high architectural value on a shallow,
crumbling foundation of externally-imposed value systems.

In other words, the pathological result of education is that nobody knows
what's good anymore. That's the result of 200 years of education as a
science, both in the state institution and at home.

So my continuing feeling is that: I talk to and listen to my kids, and they
know good and well what is important to me, but I want them to be in an
environment wherein *they* determine what is important, regardless of how it
looks to me. The experience of being and growing in such an environment is
training in the real fundamentals of life of growing a value system based on
what *they* think and not on what a bunch of parents and advertisers and
news analysists think.

I think this approach to the environment is why you see the incredible
outcomes of energized, effective, active and examined lives in Sudbury
grads. In the middle of the process it may look like all goofing off and
video games and basketball, but the real work is happening out of sight and
it is all happening on a 40,000-ton reinforced concrete foundation of
self-knowledge and self-determination.

> Is the idea of doing something as a
> school, say for
> Martin Luther King Day, ruled out because someone might not
> be interested
> in it? I need some help understanding this.

As a staff member, you could certainly say to School Meeting, "I am going to
do this. Would anybody like to join me?" Of course, you would not be able
to mandate any student taking part if they did not choose to.

And re the theories about behavioral patterns that form along sexual lines -
I think the idea that they are formed in response to popular culture are
largely false. I have seen many, many children in very neutral
environments, and the girls still (generally) like dolls and beanies and
the boys (generally) like play fighting and video games. There is crossover
but I think there are differences between males and females, right when they
come out of the birth canal. My children *never* watched television before
they were 5, and yet the preferences were there.

In fact, this theory is a hot button of mine, as they are almost always used
to justify taking popular culture out of the hands of children. And popular
culture is one of the most important things a child can learn about, IMO.
My advice is do not underestimate the strength of children who have been
allowed the space to find their inner voice.

Best wishes to you,

Joe Jackson
Received on Sun Apr 11 2004 - 18:32:40 EDT

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