Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] variations on the model in practice

From: Richard Berlin <>
Date: Fri Apr 8 02:38:00 2005

> Can children decide what food is best for them?  (Doritos vs apples?) 
> What about nudity and touching?  Can children pick out good quality
> furniture as opposed to cheap poorly made furniture?  Can they tell
> what adults will respect them and what adults will abuse them? 

It seems to me there's a zero-sum fallacy here, an assumption that
either the parent must hold all of the decision making power OR the
child must hold all of it.

My preschooler plans all of his weekday breakfasts and lunches. We
love it because we always know what to shop for and prepare. And he
seems to actually *eat* the healthy foods he chooses, unlike when we
were doing the planning. Everybody wins! Is he able to pick anything
in the world? Of course not (for a variety of reasons). But that
doesn't mean that *we* are making the decision for him, either--it's a
collaborative effort. And I am confident that if you asked him what
goes into a good lunch he would say "a protein, a starch, a fruit and a

This is not philosophy, it's practicality--I don't want my child to
suddenly find himself expected to make decisions that he has
insufficient experience with. He could no sooner learn good nutrition
by having the decisions made for him than he could learn to ride a
bicycle by watching me do it.

Nudity and touching is agonizing, but *decision-making* is not open to
me. Obviously I can try to avoid leaving him with an adult who will
molest him, and can set a good example in a variety of ways. But I
can't be with him every minute of every day; how can I possibly claim
to have decision making ability over this? The best I can do for him
is to give him information, and empower him (hopefully) to respect
bodies and personal boundaries, both his and other people's.


> TV looks simple but it is very complicated, way too complicated for a
> child to understand.

There are things that are too complicated for a child to understand,
and the full range of issues surrounding TV almost certainly qualifies.
  But it does not follow that adults should take all control away from
the child.

> How does TV effect our imagination? 

I have found some studies but haven't been able to obtain them yet.
But here's some anecdotal evidence (warning! that's not science!). I
have certainly observed the effect of TV on my child's imagination. He
watches too much TV, in my opinion, but that hasn't stopped him from
being far more imaginative than many of his peers. (After a year at a
participatory preschool I can say this with some conviction.) TV is
grist for his mill, just the same way that everything else is; it
informs his fantasy but does not appear to confine it. You might want
to look at

I need to wrap this up, so I will leave you with one final thought.
The number of times I have overestimated my child's abilities is
dwarfed by the number of times I have underestimated those abilities.
What's your experience with your child?

-- Rich
Received on Fri Apr 08 2005 - 02:37:32 EDT

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