Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

From: Todd Pratum <>
Date: Sun Apr 3 20:30:01 2005
Martin, thank you.  I read this carefully just now (excerpt from Greenberg text below).  Yes, I agree with it entirely, that there can never be a judgment call on a child's own academic interests.  If a child wants to hang out making mud pies all day then that is what he needs.  But there are exceptions aren't there?  What if that child seems to be stuck in a rut, lets say he has a fear of achievement (a common trouble with kids who come from low achieving families, for example families where the parents are in prison, are drug addicts, or who have jobs they hate), and lets say you've known the child for a long time and you know this about him.  Can you never say to him, in some kind respectful and polite way, "Hey Joe, why don't we see if we can rebuild this broken go cart"  Gratefully, Todd Pratum.

Martin Wilke wrote:
Lisa Crocker wrote:

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 schools."

Martin Wilke
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Received on Sun Apr 03 2005 - 20:29:29 EDT

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