RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] analogies, and talking "bad"

From: Alan Klein <>
Date: Sun Oct 9 09:12:00 2005



I agree with you re analogies and I think you missed Tay's point, at least
as I heard it. He was distinguishing between talking about what is wrong
with public schools and "talkin' trash" about them. He was also pointing out
the emotional baggage that comes along with certain analogies, in this case
the analogy of public education to slavery. One aspect of "bad analogies" is
that they cloud the point, rather than sharpen or clarify it. That said, in
over 35 years of involvement in alternative education, I confess that I have
used that particular analogy many, many times! The question, as I see it, is
what does using it do to our effectiveness in communicating with others.
Just because it appeals and makes sense to us does not mean that others will
respond to it in that way.


The other point that has been made clearly for me in this latest discussion
is that the actual "slavery" aspect of education is the compulsory aspect of
it - the state-mandated requirement that people attend - not what happens
inside school walls. As long as our schools are following these laws, a
strong argument can be made that we are morally no better than any other
school on the "slavery spectrum", though we usually claim moral high ground
there, particularly over "progressive" or "free" schools. I used to claim
that same high ground. I am no longer so confident.


I want to be clear, though, that this realization takes nothing away from my
commitment to democratic schooling, as I believe it DOES make a difference
what happens inside the walls of our schools.


~Alan Klein



There are good analogies and bad analogies. Part of life is distinguishing
between the two. One can ask, is it a good or bad analogy to talk about
buying a Lexus sedan as being analogous to enjoying the bliss of beautiful
admiring models? Is it a good or bad analogy to talk about the Israelis
treatment of Palestinians as being analogous to the Gestapo's treatment of
its enemies. And so forth. These are an important part of developing
judgment. There is no thought without some sort of analogy; a dictionary is
nothing more than a collection of analogies, as is every discussion of
quantum theory (does anyone think nuclear particles are made of actual


Nor is it always beneficial to avoid talking about what, in one's opinion,
is bad about something as well as talking about what is good about the
alternative being advocated by the speaker. Should we avoid talking about
the bad aspects of nazism, or the gulag, or colonialism, or slavery, or
gender discrimination, and only focus on the good things we enjoy in our
culture? Is this actually a productive way to advance human moral


I wonder whether all the people who are put off by writers on this list who
talk bad stuff in public schools are equally desirous of avoiding bad talk
about the Vietnam War, or companies that pollute the environment, or elected
political leaders who are mired in corruption?


Are we really so emotionally delicate that we cannot deal in a reasoned way
with arguments that we feel are wrong?
Received on Sun Oct 09 2005 - 09:11:29 EDT

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