Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Models of Justice

From: Tay Arrow Sherman <>
Date: Wed May 17 12:47:00 2006

I think people in the US think that "More Rules = Less Rule Breaking".
However, in any society where humans create and codify many rules that
are contrary to human nature and to logic, we will foster a criminal
culture of despair. The answer is to work constantly towards revising
our rules so that they make sense and work with the grain of human
nature. This presumes that human nature is basically good, which many
Americans do not believe, so it's also important to work on getting
people to believe that in order to promote justice.

I think that Sudbury-model schools are good examples of societies that
have worked to create a "justice system" that is actually just, and
that does not involve numerous illogical laws or laws that are contrary
to human nature and/or physiology. Examples of such laws would be
things like "you have to ask permission to go to the bathroom and if
permission is denied then you have to hold it until whenever" or "only
people with a certain colour skin may earn and keep income" or "you
must not fall in love with anyone from x group of people".

Contrary to American legal practice, Sudbury-model schools work to make
both the rules and the penalties for infractions make sense. Did you
slam a door, and disturb someone's right to read quietly? You're going
to have to stay out of that room for a few days... or maybe you won't
be allowed to touch door handles for a few days. Not humiliating
punishments, but humbling and inconvenient consequences.

I think justice fails when the laws are completely impossible to
follow, when they are impossible to follow with dignity, and when they
are contrary to what the majority of people in the culture they govern
are doing with their daily lives. This explains the failure of
Prohibition, the failure of public schools, and lots of other things. I
think that, at least in America, we need to swallow our pride and admit
that sometimes we fail at some of the things that we try.

I also think that justice fails when the consequence has nothing to do
with the crime. Since most of our legal punishments are variations of
restriction in freedoms, they would only really be practical and just
for someone who had limited the freedoms of others. We have trouble
accepting this premise because it would put the jailers in jail. I
believe it could be practically implemented on any scale, and not just
in an educational model, but that is a discussion for another mailing


On 16 May, 2006, at 23.06, Phil Osborn wrote:

> 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
> prevails.
> 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
> actions.
> 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
> solutions.
> For a more detailed account of positive suggestions
> please visit my blog:
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Received on Wed May 17 2006 - 12:46:43 EDT

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