Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

From: Martin Wilke <>
Date: Sun Apr 3 19:26:00 2005

Lisa Crocker wrote:

> Todd,
> I recall reading of this in Greenberg's Free at Last, but unfortunately,
> I just loaned to one of my prospective teachers for our new school, so I
> cannot pull it out and find the passage...if you have a copy, you may
> find it by perusing the chapter titles. Good luck - and I do recall
> reading that and it stuck with me - a definite mention that no
> suggestions of any kind are made to the students, although I remember it
> being in an academic arena, not any other...a specific example he used
> was the reading issue, it was never suggested that a child should read,
> would enjoy reading, might be able to find things out if he could read, etc.

Daniel Greenberg's text "Is Sudbury Valley School 'Anti-Intellectual'?"
( deals with the question of
activities offered by staff members.

"There are all sorts of activities at school where staff members
interact fairly regularly with students, even though these activities
clearly do not represent deep, serious interests on the part of the
students. Many examples come to mind: all sorts of cooking activities in
the kitchen, especially with younger children; various activities in the
art room, from fine arts to pottery to sewing to other crafts; outdoor
activities, such as rock climbing, skiing, camping trips. In situations
like these, it looks as if staff members at school react quickly even to
fairly casual inquiries from students perhaps sometimes even initiate
the activities!
       On the other hand, one rarely finds this state of affairs
occurring in areas of interest that coincide with the standard
curricular activities of more traditional schools. To some parental
observers, it seems as if the school is saying: "Cooking yes; science
no. Beadwork yes; spelling no. Skiing yes; math no." Or, to generalize:
"If a student wants to piddle around in some unessential activity that
doesn't involve deep thoughts, the school's staff will rush to get
involved; if a student wants to do something that develops his/her body
of knowledge or ability to think critically (a term regularly used by
prevailing schools to justify the subject matter that they include in
their curricula), then s/he will get a fairly cold shoulder from the
staff." The conclusion these observers draw: Sudbury Valley has an anti-
intellectual bent.
The only way the system works, however, is if adults at school carefully
avoid structured situations which are associated in the minds of
children with the standard societal demands that are imposed upon them
in other environments. In the present context of American society, it is
not possible to have a relaxed adult-child interaction that involves
chatting innocently about subjects that form the curriculum of the
prevailing school system. There is no possibility to have casual
get-togethers that putter around in science-related areas; for the
children, these situations immediately turn into "science classes", and
the adult becomes the "science teacher". The substance of the
interaction immediately gets related to what other kids in other schools
are doing; and when the children tell their parents about the
activities, the parents having themselves been trained in traditional
schools cannot help but reacting with overt or subtle signs of relief
and pleasure that "finally, our kid is doing something academic", or
"finally, our child is engaged in real learning in Sudbury Valley." The
focus of the staff-student relationship veers away from person-to-person
exchanges towards teacher-student exchanges, and Sudbury Valley is seen
as participating, after all, in the same basic game as all the other

Martin Wilke
Received on Sun Apr 03 2005 - 19:25:41 EDT

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