RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Values?

From: Alan Klein <alan_at_klein.net>
Date: Mon Apr 12 00:39:00 2004

Sally,

I share your frustrations around e-mail "discussion", but I guess we'll
just have to make the best of it!

From your first message I did make the assumption that the kids at
church have to do the volunteer work, at least to stay in good standing
in the youth group. I understand now that I was mistaken. If the
experience was voluntary then it certainly falls within the parameters
of what one might expect to see at a democratic school. I wonder,
though, why you asked the question in the first place. If it is a
clearly voluntary activity, then why would there be a question in your
mind as to whether it would be allowable in a Democratic school?

I did deliberately pose my response fairly starkly and I admit to doing
so without really knowing you or your situation. I am reminded of one
family at The Highland School who bemoaned the transition they had had
to endure when their kids started coming to our school. It seems that
while their kids were in traditional school, they saw their parents as
paragons of freedom and flexibility. Once they started going to our
school, however, they began to see their parents as more controlling!

As to your direct question about taking little kids places even when
they don't want to go, it is actually a fairly tricky issue with many
levels:

- On one level, of course we all take our kids places they don't
necessarily want to go because to leave them alone would be
irresponsible.

- On another level, when my kids were younger I did try to make sure I
had explored all options with them if they did not want to go someplace.
If I could accommodate them, I would.

- On a slightly tangential tangent, I remember when my 25 year old
daughter was 2. My older brother was visiting me. The three of us went
somewhere and when we got in the car to go home my daughter did not want
to get in her car seat. Rather than have a battle, I told her what I
wanted and simply waited, conversing with my brother, until she was
ready to get in the seat. It went on for a fairly long time and on the
way home, my brother remarked on the extreme amount of patience he saw
me use.

- On a more directly related tangent, from the time she was one year
old, my daughter had been splitting her time between her mother and me.
When she was four, she announced to her mother that she did not want to
come to be with me. I agonized over this for a while and then had the
realization that, if she were 16, this would be a no-brainer. Though it
would still be emotionally difficult for me, I would clearly see it as
her decision at that age. I then realized that I had no idea when the
age was that the magic transformation would take place and so I decided
that it might as well begin at age 4. I told her it was up to her and
that she could make her own decision. We spent a week at Thanksgiving at
my parents' house and Becca decided that she did, indeed, want to
continue the shared living pattern we had developed.

In fact, it was through this that we came to an important realization
for her -- it was not a matter of not wanting to spend time with me.
Rather, it was a matter of not wanting to leave wherever she happened to
be. This has been an important learning for her, which continues to
resonate even today at age 25.

As to the gender issue, to quote the Rabbi, you're both right! I think
we do vastly underestimate the subtle messages we give kids as to our
gender expectations for them. The blue and pink ribbon example you gave
is an excellent reminder of that. (I am reminded of a story I read many
years ago about "Baby X", whose parents dressed the baby in green and
yellow, always kept the baby clothed, and never let on Baby X's gender.
The story explored the frustration of family and friends who did not
know how to react to this baby person of indeterminate gender!

On the other hand, there are certainly physical differences between the
genders as groups, so why not assume that there are also
mental/emotional/psychological differences between the genders as
groups. Of course, even assuming the group differences does not tell us
anything about individual boys or girls!

Thanks for continuing the discussion!
~Alan Klein

-----Original Message-----
Sally Rosloff
Having just read Michael Greenberg's essay on conversation I am
frustrated
at having to use this medium for discussion.

Having read your responses I find myself feeling defensive and wondering
if
it has to do with the fact that you don't know us and the particular
questions I pose may not give you a sense of where we are really coming
from. Not knowing us, you can't know how extreme we may or may not be
or
how we actually live our lives.

I would like to think that the way we live our lives actually is the
result
of clear thinking and not out of rebellion. As well, the fact that I
might
want to expose my children to the values I've mentioned does not mean we

force them down their throats or castigate them if they don't want to
join
in, as seems implied in your responses. I guess I need a good
conversation
around the words "impose" versus "expose."

People who know us comment on the choices we have made that provide
freedom
for our kids. We talk and talk and listen and listen to our kids and
now
that they are 14 and 18 I am delighted at the conversations we have and
enjoy knowing them as the people they are. But as parents we have
evolved,
and were not there yet when they were born. We have come a long way and

while I wish I had realized sooner what seems so obvious to me now,
about
freedom, the path is what it has been.

Thank you Alan, for pointing out about "values expressed" and "values in

action." That is a helpful way to look at it. I'm a bit taken aback
that
providing an opportunity for kids to help the homeless is characterized
as
"forcing people to do things against their will." But I wasn't very
specific. Doing this service is voluntary. Some kids might go who
aren't
really interested because the activity is organized and their friends
are
going, but they are not forced. There is no requirement, like there is
now
in many high schools to do community service to graduate.

Your responses make me wonder more about the theory...would you say that

taking little children (say ages 0 to 7) anywhere is coercive? If
you're
going to visit the grandparents and your 4 year old says they are not
interested do you get a babysitter? How does the idea of bringing
children
to any kind of Sunday service work in this model? If you take them to
Sunday School the first time are you forcing them against their will? I

would much rather be discussing this in a conversation!!

Joe, on the issue of culturally influenced gender behavior you and I
will
have to agree to disagree...there is a whole conversation there I would
love to have but writing it all out is rather daunting to me. I do know

that I hear of studies from time to time that do indicate a bias. Such
as
putting a pink or blue bow on the same infant's head and asking folks to

hold it and observing their very different reactions depending on
whether
they think it is a girl or a boy, such as cooing to girls and throwing
up
and down and bouncing boys. Etc. etc.

The attributes of the Sudbury model indeed sound as if they would
encourage
both boys and girls to follow their inclinations but the example of the
plasticine brought my concerns to mind.
Received on Mon Apr 12 2004 - 00:38:46 EDT

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