Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragment.

From: Marc Kivel <>
Date: Tue Apr 5 13:51:01 2005


Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'd note that
trying to wrestle with a school model is different
than actually building relationships in a functioning

Thinking through optimal levels and types of
encouragement are certainly a different matter than
practice. And while it's nice to say that learners
should be free to end their learning without penalty
or sanction, I have to ask, should the staffer's
feelings and desire to share based on an inquiry
initiated by the learner be of so little concern to
the learner per se? I support learning, but I also
support civility and respect for other's time and

> I don't agree with this. Directive responsibility is
> a relationship obligation, not an obligation of
> adulthood.

I think you'd find the justice system disagrees with
you. That is why, to the best of my knowledge,
contracts signed by democratic schools in the US need
a signature of a responsible adult otherwise the
contract may not be enforceable under the UCC. (If a
lawyer reads this and disagrees, please cite the
relevant case law or Federal regulations that allow
minors to mnake legally binding contracts that conform
to the UCC.)

And I feel safe in saying that if a democratic school
should be found liable for failing in its fiduciary
duties toward a student or staffer, the burden of any
action would fall on the adults. Fair or not, that is
the legal system under which American democratic
schools operate.

> 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
> because they are school meeting members and
> because they are paid to do the school's work, not
> because they are adults.

While I agree with your logic, I think you might find
that is considered more a legal fiction in a court of
law, but I certainly am open to being proven wrong.

> Staff members have no right or responsibility to
> encourage students to eat healthy foods, exercise,
or > share their attitude toward risk.

I disagree. Folks regularly share opinions with me
that I disagree with - I may not like their opinions
but I don't deny them their "air time."

> Upholding the school laws does not entail taking
> personal responsibility for directing the lives of
> students, even in matters of health and safety.

You may want to check that last bit with a lawyer or a
n insurance agent, Hoty.

> 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.

Perhaps. But when a democratic school is sued by a
parent because of damage to their child, I assure you,
Hoty, the lawyers will be after the adults, not the
children. I also say that to discount the knowledge
and experience of someone simply because they are
adult is as insulting and backward as discounting the
wisdom of folks younger than us.

> The use o 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.

While you may disagree, I think you'd find that the
Staff is also there to create the safe environment
that Sudbury Valley enjoys. And at least in America, I
think you'd find that this is what makes them
acceptable to parents and the legal community as well.
It needn't be oppresive or directive except when
someone, and it could be an adult or a younger school
member, is a danger to themselves or others. There is
a reason Sudbury Valley and Summerhill were initially
developed by adults FOR children....

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

What constitutes consent? Verbal declarations?
Written contracts? Laughing at a joke you hear?
Turning and facing a person doing something mundane
with a quizzical look on your face?

> > 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.

It's funny how much I teach by not teaching and how
much control I have by not controlling in spite of
protests that I am manipulating someone when I'm just
being my mundane self...

> People do things and other people find the
> things interesting, and sometimes they try to
> participate. What of it?

That, Woty, is learning.

With regards,

Received on Tue Apr 05 2005 - 13:50:20 EDT

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