Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] What happened to Curiosity

From: Todd Pratum <>
Date: Thu Apr 7 02:12:01 2005
Dear Doug,

Glad to hear this about curiosity.  But any cat lover will tell you how dangerous that is!  Seriously though, my life is dominated by curiosity, that is why I got in the book business, so I could be around all these great thoughts and ideas, so I could not agree with you more on that point.  But my take on what Sudbury people have said about encouragement here is that you are not allowed to foster anything, not even curiosity, because that would make the kids who are not curious feel judged. And that encouraging kids to read, according to Sudbury people here (some) makes illiterate kids feel inadequate.  But it seems to me that Sudbury people have put too much emphasis on this fear of psychological damage.  Yes, we want to protect them but we can also throw the baby out with the bath water.  I believe there are universal values that need at least some kind of benign social pressure to keep alive in our culture.  It is clear to me now that this is not possible at school according to Sudbury doctrine.  

I should say that like Sudbury people, I too am deeply devoted to protecting kids from invasive adults, especially those adults who are so adept at sounding "helpful" and "supportive" (and who often think they are helpful and supportive) but in reality are making an unfair judgment and often times are driven by a deep seated psychological need to put down the child.  I see this all the time at the homeless shelters where I teach, usually it comes from Christian people who work there (or operate them).  But we must as a civilization find some way of collectively identifying universal cultural values to be encouraged, fostered,  and ennobled, while leaving a healthy degree of freedom for the child (and adult) to choose, right?  Or is Sudbury a kind of educational libertarianism?  (I note that Gatto is a libertarian).

I'd also like to say on a more personal note that when I was a kid I got some encouragement that I am grateful for now.  Of course I got all kinds of crap from insincere people, but that doesn't negate the good stuff I got.  It seems that at Sudbury, in the interest of protecting the child from the invasive judgmental society that we live in, they are not willing to take a risk, (or maybe they never got any encouragement when they were young?).  I also recognize that at Sudbury there is an egalitarian structure where nobody has the right to "decide" what should be encouraged.  So I ask SVS staff this:  What if it was proposed to the kids to vote on things they would like to be encouraged at the school?  What would happen?  Inquiring minds want to know. 

Gratefully, Todd Pratum.

Doug wrote:
What happened to Curiosity
Hi All;

I have been reading this list for several years and promised myself that I would keep my big mouth shut.  However, the recent discussions have compelled me to jump in.  Maybe I will find time later to provide a brief intro.

SVS attracted my attention because of the focus on recognizing children's natural curiosity.  It happens to fit well with my understand of the functions of the brain and also with my great concern that traditional schooling is destroying curiosity.  Hunger drives us to eat to develop and nourish our internal bodies.  Curiosity drives us to acquire knowledge to understand the external world in which we live.

What disturbs me is that in all of the discussions triggered by Todd's post about encouragement, not one person has used the word curiosity.  I would have liked to seen a response to Todd such as; Parents/Staff/Adults should do anything that stimulates, assists, or support curiosity.  Parents/Staff/Adults should do nothing that inhibits, discourages, or interferes with curiosity.

The whole objective or goal should be to foster curiosity and the joy of learning.

Democracy is the means not the goal.  What is democracy in a non philosophical real world sense?  Political candidates are laundered through the financial and special interest groups to make sure they are politically correct and socially acceptable.  And then we get to chose between two or three pre selected puppets.

Does democracy not require that we accept the decision of the majority?  Are there provisions in democracy for us to opt out when things don't go our way?  It seems to me that people that chose SVS or other private forms of schooling are opting out of the democratic system.  (Don't misinterpret my view point.  If my children were young, I would probably be doing the same thing.  But I would not be out preaching about democracy.)

At 10:50 AM +0200 6/4/05, David Rovner wrote:
I think it was Winston Churchill who said, ~ "Democracy is an awfull system of goverment -- but all the others are worse"

Maybe democracy is the best or only way to achieve the goal, but accept that it is seriously flawed and in need of constant revision.

There is little discussion on this list about how to foster curiosity and far too much discussion about democracy.  It seems to me that many on this list are too preoccupied with and focused on democracy and have lost sight of the goal.  It is about the children, not about how people manipulate or master their experiment in democracy.

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

Received on Thu Apr 07 2005 - 02:11:53 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Jun 04 2007 - 00:03:11 EDT