[Discuss-sudbury-model] Models of Justice

From: Phil Osborn <philosborn2001_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Tue May 16 23:07:00 2006

I found the discussion of "Justice" from the ONLINE
LIBRARY of interest, as this is a field to which I've
devoted quite a bit of time. One cannot be an expert
at everything, of course, and the posted discussion
was cogent and well written, but is stuck in the
common views of "justice" that prevail and have
resulted in the U.S. having both the highest total
number and the highest percentage of people
incarcerated of any country in the world, and STILL a
high crime rate.

The main objection I have is to the idea of "criminal
justice" - punishments, etc. Even animals quickly
learn that a "punishment" simply means that they did
something you don't like. It teaches nothing, but,
more importantly, it has no relation to actual
justice. In fact, it creates more INjustice.

I define "justice" as getting what you deserve. I.e.,
if you are responsible for something, good or bad,
then you should be the beneficiary or loser. If
someone else chooses to block you from the benefits or
losses of your actions, then a situation of INjustice

It is then the moral responsibility of whoever
diverted justice to undo any damage done to you, in so
far as possible. When the damage is done to more than
one person, or to an organization of persons, such as
a school - as in, disrupting a stage play, for example
- then the principle is still the same. People have
been put into a state of injustice by someone else's

There is a reasonable compensation that should result,
essentially putting things back to where they were,
and the rational purpose of a judicial system is to
assure that this happens. This is the basis of the
Common Law, which has no criminal component.

When the state or the school's judicial body makes a
decision to "punish," rather than to set things back
to right, then justice is blocked. When they do both
- assigning restitution AND punishing, then they treat
a human being as though they were a dumb animal. If
things are set back to where they should be, then what
further cause does "justice" have?

My background: Briefly, I was involved with a group of
anarchists in the early '70's who created the area's
first Montessori School - with a difference. We set
up a school monetary system, on the cookie standard,
and contracted out the various jobs at the school to
the students, who ranged from 2.5 to 7 years old.

With the earned money, the kids could buy treats from
the school store, make deals between themselves over
toys, etc., and resolve disputes. Rather than have a
centralized judicial system, we encouraged the kids to
hire a mediator from among the other kids or the staff
when there was a dispute.

This system, I'm sure, sounds very mercenary to many,
but it took "justice" out of the realm of power,
violence and authority and put it squarely into the
Montessori domain of learning by doing, via corrective
feedback from reality, not a teacher. (Unfortunately,
one of the violations of the Montessori Method is its
own use of the directors as police, judge and jury, a
role that would be seen as completely in violation of
Montessori philosophy if applied to any other field.)

I should like to entertain discussion on this issue,
if anyone is intertested, as it seems to be at the
very heart of so many of our problems as a society,
and Sudbury appears to be a good place to think
through this kind of issue and possibly try alternate

For a more detailed account of positive suggestions
please visit my blog:

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Received on Tue May 16 2006 - 23:06:03 EDT

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