RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

From: Sam Senteney <>
Date: Sun Apr 3 21:29:01 2005

If it were me, I wouldn't say "...why don't we see if we can rebuild this
broken go cart"? .because I would likely get an answer explaining what I
asked - why don't we...

Rather, I would say/ask " I have some time to go and work on that go cart -
you want to come with me?" I can expect a yes or no answer to that
question, and can live with either. I also expect that Joe is under no
obligation to want to come with me, or to assist in any way if he does. If
however, Joe is like most kids who would say yes, it it because there is
some level of interest or curiosity in the activity and may want to assist
in some capacity. In that activity that Joe comes along for, I may under
the rules of engagement ask him if he would hold this piece while I tighten
the other end. Knowing Joe, he may ask in return "how about you hold it
while I tighten it?" in which case I either agree or have a valid reason why

From my experience, knowing what to ask is often the difference between
engagement and coercion. Sometimes an activity is just something that
interested people do, rather than an opportunity for imparting knowledge.
The knowledge is just what happens in the course of events. In the
situations where a student wants to know how to do something, or why
something works the way it does, I attempt to satisfy their need or
curiosity. Likewise, if I ask a student how to do something, or why
something works the way it does, I have found even the youngest of students
generally seem to want to pass on their information and experience. It
really is about the relationship, and each one is different.

  -----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of Todd Pratum
  Sent: Sunday, April 03, 2005 5:30 PM
  Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

  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
          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 - 21:28:57 EDT

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