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

From: Kenneth Winchenbach Walden <kenhww_at_meadowdance.org>
Date: Wed May 17 14:52:00 2006

Tay Arrow Sherman wrote:
>
> 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 actually the difference here has less to do with definitions of
justice and more to do with who is being represented in devising the
rules, and what are their purpose? The rule about going to the bathroom
is only illogical when viewed in the context of it being about a child
having to go the bathroom. Actually it is a rule about managing the
classroom and student body, and its purpose is a type of crowd control
for the teacher. Seen in that context it is not illogical. It is
however a solution that doesn't well represent the needs of the students
and was obviously not devised with their input. A democratic school
would have "better" rules not necessarily because of a better
understanding of justice, but merely because allowing more voices in the
decision process makes for better decisions.

I think the reason for this divide between punishments and consequences
has to do with the purpose being met by the rules. The purpose of the
rules in the democratic school are to deal with problems that have
arisen for the school body. The purposes of rules in a hierarchical or
autocratic school may be for crowd control, for character shaping, to
appease societal concerns or many other reasons. Thus sending a kid to
detention for slamming a door is attempting to deal with a lot of other
issues, the nuisance of a door slam the least of those.

Ken Walden
Received on Wed May 17 2006 - 14:51:29 EDT

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