[Discuss-sudbury-model] Introduction, reopening the encouragement/enticement debate

From: Mike Braden <mbraden_at_pharmacy.purdue.edu>
Date: Tue Jun 13 13:27:00 2006

Hello,

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to get some of this off my chest.
I am new to the list and very interested in the SVS model after being
introduced to the concept by the "Voices from the New American
Schoolhouse" video. I am a PhD student in molecular pharmacology and am
considering abandoning a life of research for teaching, which I have
always been interested in. I have read _Free at Last_, several of the
essays posted on sudval.org's site, and perused much of the archives of
this list. One thread in particular caught my attention, that of
"encouragement" and all the various takes on its
definition/implementation, and I wanted to comment and ask some questions.

I think I understand the philosophy of the SVS model in its elimination
of the teacher-student power structure and freeing the students to
pursue their own interests at their own pace. However, I do not see the
harm in providing enticement or encouragement to a particular student or
even the whole school as long as it is presented in a way that is
non-judgemental. As was brought up in the previous discussion of this
topic, I think the litmus test of "would I do the same
encouragement/enticement to one of my adult friends?" and the personal
understanding that if someone ignores, refuses, or loses interest in
your idea that it is their choice to do so. I can understand where such
behavior could be construed as demanding or judgmental, especially in
the case of much younger students, students new to the system or even
staff new to the system. However I believe a student that is well
experienced with the SVS model could differentiate between honest
suggestions of interesting topics/activities to pursue and a coercive
judgment on what they should be doing. The true question is whether a
staff member can consciously recognize the difference. Furthermore, I
think that non-judgemental enticement can make it easier for students to
discover what they might be interested in pursuing. If they try it and
don't like it, then that is just fine and the staff member should be
accepting of that student's choice.

Some concrete examples:

1. I practice Aikido, a mostly defensive, mostly non-violent martial
art. While there is a definite teacher-student relationship in the
beginning, in order to teach safe falling and the basic techniques, the
training itself is non-combative, cooperative and done at a pace
commensurate with the experience and skills of the practicing
partnerships. I enjoy doing Aikido with all manner of ages and sizes of
people and my desire to teach Aikido stems not from my desire to be a
teacher and have control, but to train people to a degree that we can
play safely. What is the harm in posting a flier at a SVS school saying
I am open to teach people Aikido and to contact me if interested? Or
what if I wanted to swing my staff around at lunchtime, practicing some
twirls and simple movements, and a student becomes interested in what I
am doing and asks to learn? Is it wrong of me to do that in order to
entice someone to be interested? If someone becomes interested and
decides they don't want to pursue it, I don't judge them, as I know
different people look for different things in martial arts.

2. I am an information junkie and love passing on stuff I know about.
It is a pathological condition, I know, and am slowly learning not to
babble more information than a person is really seeking. Again, what is
the issue in me posting an announcement saying I would be holding a
seminar on a topic, say "How Drugs Work in the Brain"? If anyone shows
up, great. If they wan't more information or want to to talk more, I
could set up further seminars or reccomend books. If noone shows up, I
try another topic. Again, I would not judge anyone for not showing up,
or not being interested in the topic. But if I found someone that was
really interested, what is the harm in providing them direction into
related or other areas that I think they might also be interested in?
If I find out they do not like some things I suggest but do like others,
I can hone my further suggestions. Again, I would not be judging them
on their lack of interest, but would be happy to be a resource for them
and would like to let them know what I can do for them.

Ok, I should stop there for now and let people process that. I know
there is still a lot I need to learn about the SVS model and am quite
open to any and all discourse. Please let me know your thoughts.

aloha
Mike Braden

[Note -- this message did not get sent to the list when I first sent it
due to an issue with my sending and subscribing addresses. Since
then I have actually thought up some reasonable replies to these
questions which I will address in a subsequent reply]
Received on Tue Jun 13 2006 - 13:26:43 EDT

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