Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

From: Woty <>
Date: Tue Apr 5 13:04:00 2005

On Apr 5, 2005, at 10:47, Marc Kivel wrote:

> One of the challenges I've had to deal with in
> designing my democratic school model is trying to
> figure out how much encouragement is appropriate.

I think it's a mistake to try to define this on a school wide level.
Encouragement is appropriate in an ongoing consensual teaching
relationship, but relationships within democratic schools are highly
variable. If one of the students has an ongoing teaching relationship
with a staff member or another student, then encouragement can be
appropriate in that context so long as consent continues and the
student is free to end the teaching without repercussions.

Schools in which staff are presumed to have an automatic teaching
relationship with the children are not democratic regardless of what
voting practices they adopt. If the adults have an automatic teaching
relationship with all children who attend and are free to direct
without regard to consent, then they are in charge and it's not a
democratic school with rule of law.

After all, it's fairly common to have children in conventional schools
vote on class rules. That does not make the children free.

> I sense general agreement that in matters of health
> and safety, as well as conformance with local, state
> and national laws, adults have a fiduciary
> responsibility toward minors.

I don't agree with this. Directive responsibility is a relationship
obligation, not an obligation of adulthood. Not all relationships
between adults are or should be such that adults have such a
responsibility. This is not to say that there are no such
relationships, but I don't think the role of staff at a democratic
school is or should be one of them.

  School meeting members have a responsibility to uphold the law, and
the school meeting has a responsibility to pass laws which protect
individual rights, safety, the school's property, and conformance with
local laws. Staff members have a responsibility to take part in
upholding school law because they are school meeting members and
because they are paid to do the school's work, not because they are

Staff members have no right or responsibility to encourage students to
eat healthy foods, exercise, or share their attitude toward risk.
Upholding the school laws does not entail taking personal
responsibility for directing the lives of students, even in matters of
health and safety.

> This may require us to
> go beyond encouraging/discouraging behavior to being
> directive.

Democratic schools do and should have rules which are enforced. That is
fundamentally different from placing enforcement in the hands of the
adults, and it's fundamentally different from giving all adults open
ended power to direct students for their own good.

> And this, btw, is also learning that our
> learners need exposure to and need to grasp for their
> own wellbeing as well as ours.

The use of the possessive article is much more important than whether
the label is 'student' or learners. Students in democratic schools are
not the staff members' anything. They are members of the same
community, and the staff members are there to do some of the school's
work and to be available and interesting.

> Now for all other matters...I believe in the
> proposition that living is learning. So I accept that
> people will learn in spite of educators best efforts
> to rationalize and structure what is natural. I have
> also found folks acquire necessary knowledge and
> skills when they need it or after they have received a
> set back due to lack of knowledge and skills.

> Having said that, I find learners are influenced by
> those around them.

Yes, of course, but what does this have to do with directing the
activities of people who have not consented to such direction?

> Give me a hand loom and some
> colorful yarn and let me mess with it awhile because I
> want to know how to make it "work"...I'll bet within
> half an hour I'll have at least a couple of learners
> kibbitzing about my progress, asking questions or
> giving suggestions on how to untangle my ungodly
> mess..laughing

Why is that funny? I don't see your point. This is a completely mundane
activity which doesn't seem to have any relation to the question at
hand. People do things and other people find the things interesting,
and sometimes they try to participate. What of it?

Received on Tue Apr 05 2005 - 13:03:12 EDT

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