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

From: Kenneth Winchenbach Walden <>
Date: Fri Apr 8 10:56:01 2005

Todd Pratum wrote:
> Dear Karen,
> I agree that we should let kids decide, _for the most part_, what THEY
> think is good for them. But TV is--according to many experts and many
> with common sense--a unique and complicated situation.

All of the situations you mention below are unique and complicated. Have
you ever chosen to eat something that wasn't the best for you
nutritionally? Have you ever debated over which was a better quality
item, whether to buy from overseas or made in the USA, whether to
sacrifice some quality in an item for an item that you found more
aesthetically pleasing? Have you ever made a poor choice in a
relationship? Have you ever spent your time in a way that in retrospect
you regretted?

These are hard complicated situations for anybody, kids or adults. It is
foolish of us to think that adults have answers to all these questions
and kids don't. You hint at the subject of child abuse - aren't there
millions of parents out there who made poor choices which resulted in
their child being abused? Yet you are suggesting that only adults are
appropriate to make those sort of decisions. Maybe in many of those
cases it would have been better for the child to decide. I know many
parents who make what I think are horrible nutritional choices for their
children. My own child may grow up and decide that I made horrible
choices for him. I certainly think my own parents did not provide as
appropriate a selection of food for me as I do for myself. My son
chooses to eat meat and I do not. Should I then arbritrate that he must
be a vegetarian, because I am older, wiser and more experienced? My wife
is as old, wise and experienced as I am and she chooses to eat meat.

It's quite obvious that adults differ in their opinions on every topic
of importance in human life. So what makes you think adults are better
suited to making decisions? And in particular, which adults do you think
are better suited to making these decisions? Certainly you don't mean
all of them. Should the children at our schools submit to the guidance
of those particular adults who have happened to arrive at their schools?
Should they be limited by the foibles and mistakes of a handful of
adults, or allowed to explore the wider world and make their own mistakes?

As Thoreau puts it, "Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an
instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost.
Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young,
their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such
miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe."

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? TV looks simple but it is
> very complicated, way too complicated for a child to understand. Yes, we
> all grew up with it, but what kind of people would we be if instead of
> watching TV when we were kids, instead we did something else like play
> in the woods or daydreamed? How does TV effect our imagination? These
> are the questions many forward thinking people are asking. Todd Pratum.

What kind of people would my parents have been if instead of reading
comic books they had been reading real literature? What kind of people
would my ancestors have been if instead of sitting in a room reading
books they had been participating in oral story telling? What kind of
people would their ancestors have been if instead of telling stories of
imaginary figures, they had been out really particpating in life?

It is obvious to me that humanity is always mired in delusions about the
grandeur of the past. If life without TV is so grand, why World War I,
World War II, the atomic bomb, concentration camps, racism, imperial
oppression? Why do we always think the new thing our children are
enjoying (and that perhaps even we enjoy) is ruining everything? In
situations like these, I think perhaps our children have a better sense
of good and bad than we do, ourselves being seemingly rooted in a static
past while they embrace a dynamic future. I am all for serious
consideration of the impact of changes in our technology and world on
ourselves, but I am against the sort of automatic backlash that makes us
sure that TV must be bad (or video games, or the Internet, or Yu-Gi-Oh,
or comic books, or pulp fiction, or novels, or printing presses, or
motion pictures, etc, etc). Your suggestion that those who don't see TV
as a problem have no common sense is not just insulting to me, it's not
very intellectual. I would think the first thing we need when
approaching the care of our children is an open mind.

Ken Walden

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Received on Fri Apr 08 2005 - 10:55:27 EDT

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