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

From: Woty <woty_at_bellsouth.net>
Date: Fri Apr 8 16:25:00 2005

On Apr 8, 2005, at 14:37, Todd Pratum wrote:

> You say that "that you feel that you are a better arbiter of their
> activities than they are"  That "you will never come to agree with a
> Sudbury education"  But this is way off from what I am about!

That was said in response to your statement that children should not be
allowed to choose to watch TV because they lack the critical thinking
skills necessary to understand its evils. You also said in that email
that TV brainwashes everyone into alienation from nature. Those
statements are fundamentally disdainful of the notion that kids and
people in general are able to think and direct their own lives. Given
that this is a list about a model of education dedicated to the notion
that kids can and should be free to direct their own education, it
should come as no surprise that such a statement is unpopular here.

>   The point I have been trying to make here is that I trust kids in
> almost all situations.  I will say that again, I trust kids in almost
> all situations.  I am the parent of a nine year old and he is almost
> totally in control of his life, almost! There are a few areas where I
> feel that he needs guidance.  But I realize that even that is to much
> for Sudbury.  It is just a matter of degrees.

No, it's a matter of kind.

>   I am starting a school where there will be no homework, no grades,
> no tests, where children will be in total control of their day, (with
> some exceptions, no pornography, no violence, etc).

Absence of tests, grades, and homework is not a fundamental attribute
of SVS. I'd assume that all of those things have existed consensually
at SVS at some point, although I'd also assume they are rare.
Unstructured days aren't fundamental either. Some students take on
commitments which require them to do certain things at certain times
(clerks, ongoing projects, etc). What is fundamental is that the school
is directed by the School Meeting, not the staff, and that staff
members do not have automatic teaching relationships with the students.
Any equivocation on these points creates an entirely different kind of
school.

With regard to prohibited activities - pornography is banned as is
non-consensual, disruptive, or unduly dangerous violence (but violent
shows and literature are allowed). There are good reasons for these
rules, so the school meeting has enacted them. The necessity of
prohibiting some things does not entail putting the staff in charge or
compelling teaching relationships between staff and students.

If you are founding a school where you get to decide what is
prohibited, then you are doing something entirely different from what
SVS does. This is a matter of kind, not degree.

>   Kids know better than I what they need, I firmly believe this.

What if they want to watch TV and play violent video games?

>   My whole argument was about encouragement.  I feel very frustrated
> with email these days.  I've invested a lot of time in this exchange
> yet I get email where people tell me that "I don't trust kids"  etc
> etc.  So frustrating.  I am a radical, my school will be more
> democratic than any of the nearly 100 schools on the East Bay (with
> the exception of Diablo), yet I have been attacked here for not
> adhering to EVERY doctrine of Sudbury, and badly misunderstood. 

SVS is not radical. As an institution, it's not trying to get at the
root of all social problems, or trying to make a revolution, or to
support a revolution by making a new kind of person. It's just a good
place where kids are free to direct their activities. This is important
and legitimate in its own right, and SVS does this very well.

Radical institutions sometimes do things which bear superficial
resemblance to what SVS does, but there is no real similarity. The
superficial resemblances do not render the fundamental differences
irrelevant.

> The 13 points that Scott posted really put me off, but I'm still
> trying.  I am founding a democratic school and I would like a little
> support from SVS people but I have had zero.  The SVS postings remind
> me more of my old school teachers, always sure its the KIDS problem,
> not the teachers.  SVS is so sure of its self, its really quite
> troubling, more like an exclusive club.  But I am still trying for a
> dialogue here.  

SVS has been doing what it does for decades, and there have been many
other democratic schools founded since then. There have also been many
experiments in radical education. SVS is an amazingly good place. This
is grounds for confidence in the model. Radical education creates
environments which are neither free nor diverse, even when the students
are not compelled to take tests or attend classes.

The principles you are advocating do not sound especially novel. They
sound like the same old idea of making kids free (including 'free' from
mainstream influence) so that they adopt one's values. SVS has long
since rejected this. Your astonishment that SVS kids are allowed to
watch TV is especially hard to explain otherwise. After all, virtually
all American children are at least somewhat free to watch TV, so
banning in would mean introducing a new restriction -- hardly something
one would expect SVS to do!

Am I misreading you?

~Woty
Received on Fri Apr 08 2005 - 16:24:55 EDT

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