RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Paradigms

From: Don Yates <>
Date: Fri Jul 30 22:38:01 2004

Hi all -
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Still catching up from being away
and our 7th grandchild "arrived" Monday so that has taken our attention this

I appreciate all the great responses that my original message engendered. In
this message I want to respond to at least some of them, starting with
Aredeshir's. I will put comments I have into messages cutting out the rest
of the message not to take up too much space or time.:

From Ardeshir Mehta

But does this mean that we Sudburyists, too, may be susceptible to this

**We are all susceptible to the tendency. We live in relation to our beliefs
because they define our world. Unfortunately, most of the time we are either
aware of our beliefs or pay attention to them. We just know that others
disagree with us and wonder why.


Ardeshir <>

Karen Locke
>> "I once heard someone say that you should never let someone from the
>> old paradigm judge something of the new. In that case they were
>> talking about charter schools, which have contracts with traditional
>> institutions and then have to prove that they're doing a good job
>> every few years---to their competition!

** Actually they really can't judge it because they can't see it. They think
they do, but they don't. Just like someone who sees the young lady saying
that the old lady is an old hag. How do they know? They are just working
from their belief that old lady's usually are hags.
>> I think we can always offer a new framework for thinking, but I'm not
>> surprised any more when others don't see it that way. Or at least I
>> try not to be. They often have a lot invested in the alternative; a
>> career, a child they've pushed through the current system, a sense
>> that at least something needs to stay stable in this messed-up world.

**The question is how do we state that framework. If you look at all the
letters about explaining SVS you will see that most have to do with what
goes on, not why, or what beliefs underlie behaviors. You are right not to
be surprised. All the folks who like the present education hold pretty much
the same beliefs so they are all going to react the same way. And they do
have a lot invested in them, even though they may not even know they hold
them. My world is my world and don't you try to tell me it is any different
by questioning my actions.
> Karen Locke"

From David Rovner

Does this mean there is no *objective* "good" or "evil", Don ?

~ David

** Yes. Both good and evil are beliefs and your understanding of them or
beliefs about them are different from mine. Kuhn raised the question of
whether scientists are searching for the final answer - something that is
objective - or just uncovering layer after layer of the way our world works.
He concluded there is no real end to be reached. Researching good or evil
would be just exploring what they mean and what they are to different people
trying to find one right answer. I don't believe there is one right answer
so no, there is no "objective" meaning. One of my professors said that he
has to take into account that when he is lecturing 20 students he actually
giving 20 different lectures.

From Carol Hughes

After the story of the chess player these words.

What never ceases to amaze me is how infrequently parents begin to make
observations about their child's ability to embrace ideas, situations, and
opportunities. Can anyone tell me why so few parents see what was so
clearly obvious to me in my children at a very young age? I am not a
genius. I am creative and intelligent. The mystery for me is that so many
creative and intelligent people cannot step back for a couple of minutes and
watch their children "happen". It is strange that so few parents cannot see
the center of their own children. Carry on as people might, I have never
heard enough of a reason for this to be so. My own background was as rigid
and horrid as they come. So that ole saw doesn't work.
When a little toddler is hungry, we feed them. The hungry soul is just as

**They don't look because their view of the world does not allow them to
question what they see and how they interpret it. They can't see what you
see because you hold different beliefs about children and what they can and
"should" do. Kuhn describes an experiment in which people are shown a deck
of cards one card at a time in which the spades are red and the hearts
black. People could not see this until the cards were displayed very slowly
one at a time. They believed spades are black and hearts red so that is what
they saw. If I think a child does not have the ability to "embrace ideas", I
will not see her doing so. They do not believe a soul can be hungry, if they
believe in the soul at all.

From Ann Ide

Back to changing paradigms..... I guess Don must have said it more clearly;
but I was trying to say the same thing. I also think it would be helpful to
put less focus on the process of how kids learn at Sudbury Valley; and to
talk more about the underlying beliefs of the philosophy.

** I agree. What do you think would happen if you started by asking someone
what they believed about kids abilities and what school is for? At least it
would let you know what you are up against. That is the problem with talking
about change first. Changing processes can only come after changing beliefs.

  Even freedom is one of the means to fulfilling what we believe is
important for our kids.

** Because we believe in freedom and believe kids can operate, even thrive
with freedom we are able to at least test that belief or live by it. If you
believe kids will go nuts with freedom, you won't test that belief. My
beliefs are "right". That is the way the world is and don't try to change
the world - or my world.

( What we believe about our kids is important, too, in terms of how it's
possible to trust them to learn what they need.) It's tricky to distinguish
them apart; because we say we believe in freedom and the kids' rights to
choose, etc. Yes, we believe in children's' rights; but even deeper than
that, why do we send our children to free schools ? What kinds of adults do
we hope they will be able to develop into by having their freedom ?

**These last two questions are really asking what we believe about these
subjects. What does our world think about them and act in relation to those

Seems when we talk about how the kids can do whatever they want,

** I agree

 it is a huge distraction from talking about what else is really important.

**Yes. We have a hard time separating process from the belief(s) that lies
behind it.
People need to understand why it makes sense first, don't you think ?

** Yes, and I think it is our beliefs that determine what "makes sense".

When we slur them together, it's too much. We humans seem to have this
need that things make sense and have some sense of order that we understand.

**Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the beliefs they hold that
determine what makes sense.

Beliefs provide that underlying, often unconscious structure; hence why they
are so hard to change ( at least, this is my belief ! ). In order to change
a belief, it needs to take care of that same need and take care of what is
important to the person.

**The problem is that we can't change a belief until we see it and see why
we hold it. Remember the story of the woman who always cut the end off the
ham before cooking. She believed that was the way you do it because that was
what her mother did [often our beliefs come from seeing or modeling what a
valued person does.] She was able to change her belief when she found out
that her mother did this because her pan was too small. She saw the belief
and saw it made no sense when she saw how she had built it.

From Jeff Collins

I believe that you have it right, although I also believe that explaining
the philosophy from the angle of freedom may be harder than necessary. I
think it is difficult, not because it is wrong, but because of the 'baggage'
associated with the word 'free'. When most parents (who are your real
audience) hear the word 'freedom' for their children, the first thing they
think about is "Lord of the Flies". By and large our culture has 'taught'
us that children should not be free until they reach adulthood.

**This is a good example of how people have learned a certain belief. The
baggage is what they believe about the word and concept of "free."
The belief behind thinking children should not be free is something like
"Children are not able to handle freedom, which is just another word for
chaos or anarchy."

When we (Hudson Valley Sudbury School) do our information meetings, we start
the conversation from the angle of 'responsibility'. We say we provide a
place where the students are responsible for their education, for their
environment, the culture they create and ultimately their lives - a
laboratory where they can practice being responsible.
Responsibility and freedom are two sides of the same coin, it is just that
the 'listening' for the word responsibility is better than it is for the
word 'freedom'.

** What would happen if you first talked about what you believe about
responsibility and what it is. Or better still what would happen if you
asked them first what they believe about responsibility. If their beliefs
are the same or similar to yours you can make a connection, letting them see
that you are both starting from the same point. Then you can go on to
beliefs about how you can live out responsibility and so on.

** If they believe differently, then you can have a discussion about that
before going on to actions. If you cannot connect at the belief level you
will never connect at the action level.

From Sally Rosloff

College means the best chance at a good job and material success and
therefore happiness, and parents want to see their kids happy. Parents hear
statistics all the time on the more education (meaning the more degrees),
the more money you make.

The parents job is to raise their children to be responsible adults, which
is accomplished by making sure they follow all the rules of the traditional

The school's job is to teach academics, leave character development
(compassion, cooperation, kindness, thoughtfulness, confidence, etc.) to me,
the parent.

To be successful (earn a good living) you need skills and training which you
get through being taught in school and college.

People do not ask what kind of human being your child is because that is
seen as outside the job of schools, that is something developed in the home
and church and community, etc. and at school only as a byproduct of
extracurricular activities if at all. Different groups have different ideas
about how human beings should be but may agree on what teaching academics

All of the above are in line with the discussion on paradigms because these
answers arise from one paradigm while our answers arise from another. That
is why Ron Miller talks about need for transformation rather than reform.

**Just look at how many beliefs are hidden in these statements. These are
what is "right" according to what they see as reality in the world - that
reality being what they believe on all these points.

From Carol Hughes

I of course know the paradigm - every word of it. I am seeking a little
balance in the way that one finds a good career and is set for their whole
life. College is not enough and not the right and only thing. It is the
implicit message that one needs teachers and a curriculum to be "set". I
heartily disagree. Just my point of view.

**Every word of "your" paradigm not necessarily others. What is a "good
career" or "set for life" ? What we believe about those things. Your good
career may not - or probably not - be the same as mine. Your point of view
is your belief set. This is not to say that you are "wrong", just that you
believe differently. Even what is balance is a belief.

From Harlan Underhill

<< When we (Hudson Valley Sudbury School) do our information meetings, we

start the conversation from the angle of 'responsibility'. We say we

provide a place where the students are responsible for their education,

for their environment, the culture they create and ultimately their

lives - a laboratory where they can practice being responsible.

Responsibility and freedom are two sides of the same coin, it is just

that the 'listening' for the word responsibility is better than it is

for the word 'freedom'. >>

** Again you are explaining what you do about responsibility and freedom,
not your beliefs about them or those of your listener. You are also saying
that one belief generates more response than another. Maybe, but the
responses are both coming from the same place, their beliefs about those
constructs. People can hold one belief more strongly - or be more certain
about it - which probably leads to stronger reactions.

From Ann Ide

That's the conventional paradigm, all right. So, how can we address those
concerns without challenging them in such a way that it only brings out
defenses ? What examples and information do we know to counterpoint ? Do
we have "successful" graduates ? It would be really helpful to be able to
share those stories. Do we have different statistics ? The more informed
we are the better we'll be able to educate others effectively.; don't you

** I still think you have to get to the underlying beliefs. They won't hear
your information the same way you say it because they believe that
"successful" means something different than you do. The more informed you
are about your beliefs and your world view the better you will be able to
hear and see theirs. Then you can have a useful discussion if you can bring
them out without engendering resistance and defensiveness. Ah - if you can
only do that. And that is a matter of trial and error - i.e. learning.

Who do people think are responsible for development of social skills,
critical thinking skills, communication skills, creativity, self motivation
and responsibility, ability to work independently and with teams......?
It takes more than academics and good character to succeed in the world.
How about we get people thinking about the importance of these traits and
how it is lacking in public schools and nurtured in Sudbury models ?

**All statements of your beliefs without stating that they are beliefs.

Actually, I recall our old public school even having curriculum for
character development and some of the skills I mentioned. But they would
"teach" them so artificially ! They had kids sitting around in a circle
being asked questions or put through exercises totally bored. You can't
schedule training for these things into a 1/2 hour slot once a week !

**What you believe is artificial they believe is the only way to get it
across. So ask them why they believe it is the right way. Then you can work
with them to at least see your belief about what constitutes the "right

It's so interesting to watch the difference between my sons' play with SVS
vs. public school friends. With their public school friends, I see they
have one or two things they have in common that they like to do together.
When they tire of that, they start with the "What do you want to do? " " I
don't know. What do you want to do?" And it falls apart. I never see
that with their SVS friends. There is always a beautiful flow of
conversation and/or activity. They could just go on forever; as they often
do with ongoing "sleepovers". Have others seen this ? Oh, and another thing
that really bugs me ! In our area, public school kids schedule "playmates"
and they only have one friend over at a time so it will "work" ! AH
!!!!!!!!! If Jesse calls his friend and s/he already has a friend over,
s/he actually says he can't come over. How pathetic. With SVS friends, the
more the merrier. I can just see these kids as adults in the workplace,
waiting to be told what to do ( and hoping it's not much ); or in a meeting,
going "What should we do? " " I don't know. What do you think?" And will
they be allowed to only work with one person at time ??? Someone should
make a movie showing the crossover from public school behaviors and
activities into the typical, ineffective workplace.

**They have been taught what to believe by hearing what their parents or
their bosses believe about what a child or a worker is supposed or is able
to do. We don't make up these beliefs on our own. And until we see what we
believe we cannot change them. I spent time in a 10 week program that was
all about changing our life through understanding our beliefs and what they
were doing or not doing for us. It was sometimes amazing when we saw where
we got our belief and that it was not serving any useful purpose and was
just leading us to feel bad about ourselves or do things that were not
really useful for us. When we saw them we now had a choice whether to hang
on to them or drop them, leading to behavioral change.

Well, I will get off my soap box now. Again, I really appreciate all the
responses. I thought they were all thoughtful and make it possible for all
of us, definitely including me, to learn more about what we believe and how
to work with others who do not believe as we do.

Thank you, and
Be Well


Discuss-sudbury-model mailing list
Received on Fri Jul 30 2004 - 20:57:24 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Jun 04 2007 - 00:03:09 EDT