Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

From: Todd Pratum <>
Date: Sun Apr 3 20:21:00 2005

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.  I guess Sudbury people are so used to dealing with the questions and objections of people who don't trust children or who "grok" the model that it is difficult to see the subtlety of my question.  I never used the word "should." That clearly implies judgment.  Encourage means something different right?, (literally to give courage, to inspire or foster).

I have thought I made it clear that I am NOT talking about safety issues.  We are well beyond the question of safety here.  And I thought I made it clear that I am aware of the "evil" messages of our arrogant judgemental anti-child society, and the profound damage it has on the self esteem on children.  What I am trying to explore is something different, the notion that adults might posses knowledge about children that can be useful in helping the child, (in different ways), and that by encouraging them toward that knowledge could be of help to the child.  I have said before I am well aware of the terrible effect that this "knowledge" has had on pedagogy in the past when it used used in the wrong way (which it usually is).  But can our knowledge of children ever be used in a healthy way in the Sudbury model?  I'm wondering if any kind of knowledge about children can be ever used in the Sudbury model to guide/encourage/steer kids? 

But what I am getting from your messages is that while there is no written rule, in reality there can be no encouragement at all, "or we would vote them out."  So if I know a kid who is fat, depressed, and friendless who never goes out to play, I cannot, in any case whatsoever, encourage him to go out and play.  Note I am not using the word "should" or anything close, but encourage, something like "Hey Joe, its really sunny and nice outside, want to play tennis with me and the guys"  I am fully aware of the fact that many kids need to stew in their own troubles before they can emerge/grow/change, and that for some kids even this seemingly innocuous encouragement will feel like a veiled judgment, but what you are saying is that it can never be done, ever, because of the possibility of injuring the child psychologically?  I would then further assume that using psychology of any kind is verboten?  Ditto for social pressure of any kind?   That nobody can use any knowledge that they may have about a child to steer, encourage, hint, subtly guide, or advise a child?  Hope this is clear, I really appreciate your time in this.  I am learning everyday.  Todd Pratum.

Scott David Gray wrote:

You asked about health as an example of what you're talking 

  I don't encourage children any more or less vis-a-vis
nutrition than I do vis-a-vis academia. I might look at
someone's having for lunch and mention that *I* wouldn't eat
it. And if asked, say why. But I wouldn't say what s/he
*should* or *shouldn't* eat.
  On the other hand, if a person *of any age* is doing
something that seriously endangers him/herself in the
*moment* (rather than if it remains a behavior throughout
his/her life), I do the human thing and intervene! If you
see a person running down the middle of road, whatever age
s/he is, you stop and complain 'what are you an idiot? get
to the side!'

  I don't have any opinions on how people should play. 
Though I happily admit my opinion that life is better when 
one plays constantly (inccluding at one's work). On the 
other hand, I sometimes mention to a person a game that I 
played that I think s/he may like or enjoy.

  One way or other, we don't have a *rule* on the books
prohibiting a staff member from 'encouraging' something.  
However, we would vote them out at the first opportunity.  
And if they were obnoxious about it, they would get brought
up for infringement of rights.

  I *do* think that vis-a-vis adult/child relations, the
distinction between 'force' and 'encourage' is a much
subtler line than your discussion of etymology suggests.  
In our culture, kids are bombarded by evil messages that
'others know what is best for *you*.' And for as long as
that is the case, an adult has to tread lightly to not have
any statement sound like a pronouncement.

On Sun, 3 Apr 2005, Todd Pratum wrote:

Scott, thank you for this.  I am talking about something more subtle than  "your life will be devoid of meaning if you don't
read this book"  And as you say in your penultimate paragraph it IS more subtle than that.  But this may answer my question,
you are saying it is NOT doctrine (i.e. not prohibited) to encourage a child, but never if the reason behind your
encouragement is "for his/her own good", is that correct?  Please clarify.  Or maybe there is no stated doctrine on this
subject at all?  And I'm wondering, do you know any place where this Sudbury position is elucidated in writing, maybe one of
Greenberg's books?  Or?  Thank you so much for your time in this.  Todd Pratum.

Scott David Gray wrote:

 Language is a funny thing.

The phrase 'no encouragement allowed' is very strong, and a 
little misleading in its tone.

I have expressed before the cultural norm for adults and 
staff in Sudbury schools this way:

  I feel it to be rude or awkward for me to say or suggest
or advise a particular pursit *for the child's good.*

However, I certainly have casual, friendly personal
relations with students (just as I do with staff) in which I
might say 'oh you'd *love* this game' or 'I thought of you
when I was reading *this* book.'

The idea being that it is rude for me to think or act on any 
ideas that *I* might know better for a person (of any age) 
what is right for that person than s/he does. But I may 
nonetheless have a reasonable desire to talk about something 
with that person for *my* sake. There is an implied 
disrespect in the former, but not the latter.

Of course, the line between these two behaviors is very
subtle. As I say, in practice this isn't something that
staff in Sudbury schools do *consciously* but rather it is
part of the *culture* and it would feel wrong to do

Let me give a case when one *wouldn't* suggest something to
another person. I don't walk up to people of *any* age and
sayor imply 'your life will be devoid of meaning if you
don't read this book.' Nor do I walk up to a person who I
don't know and say 'everyone is better off if s/he knows
algenbra.' That's not my place. And it is rude -- not just 
at SVS but in any friendly company. Don't you hate people 
who do taht to you (we've all met such people)?

On Sun, 3 Apr 2005, Todd Pratum wrote:


 After 20+ years of studying educational theory, Holt, Steiner, Neill, Montessori, Dewey et al, I am about to start a small
school in Berkeley California,  housed inside my 12,000 library.  I have read many Sudbury books and I am deeply grateful for
what I have learned about democratic education from them, and education in general.  I have bought many copies of Sudbury
books that I have given away to people and I continue to do this to this day (I particularly like giving away copies of
Education in America by Daniel Greenberg, those short little essays are so cogent and clear!).  I've always known from the
beginning that you must trust the child's and their particular learning process, no matter how different or even
counterproductive it may seem, and when I first learned of the Sudbury model (about 15 years ago) I was thrilled to find
compatriots in arms!

Recently however I have learned from a person who knows Daniel Greenberg and the other core faculty in Massachusetts, and has
observed them in action many times, something that I don't really understand.  According to this person, at Sudbury you are
not allowed to encourage a child to do anything, ever, (safety and health excepted).  For example, as I understand it, you
are not allowed to encourage a child to study one thing over another, or do one thing over another, but always let the child
decide without any influence from the staff whatsoever, even if you think you may have some inside knowledge about the child
and that that inside knowledge of yours could help the child. I realize that the idea that adults know better than children
has been at the root of so much pedagogical abuse, but I did not know, if true, that there is no encouragement allowed at
all.  Is this true?  If so, then I would like to know if this idea has been explained in writing anywhere?  I would like to
hear from seasoned Sudbury people especially.  Thank you very much. 

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Antiquarian & Scholarly Books
627 Vernon Street
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Tel.  510.655.1281  Fax.  510.653.8694
Books Bought -- Catalogues Issued

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Antiquarian & Scholarly Books
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Oakland, California 94610
Tel.  510.655.1281  Fax.  510.653.8694
Books Bought -- Catalogues Issued

Received on Sun Apr 03 2005 - 20:20:34 EDT

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