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

From: Mike Braden <>
Date: Wed Jun 14 09:46:01 2006

I think I may have answered some of my own questions. After reading a
few more excerpts at the online library of the SVS webpage, particularly
Daniel Greenburg's "Is Sudbury Valley School 'Anti-Intellectual'?"
(, I think I have a better
appreciation as to why a staffer at a Sudbury school would default to
not encouraging a student. I think my questions come from a purely
philosophical understanding of the model, and I believe some of the
points I address would be reasonable if the model was more established
or accepted. I think Daniel Greenburg's points on having to be *very*
careful not to encourage interests in areas that would be considered
traditional academic curricula and the lingering pressure to pursue a
more traditional curricula that can be placed on students from parents
or even new staff members are especially relevent. In a practical
sense, I can see that it can be very hard to distinguish between honest,
non-judgemental encouragement to pursue something the student might
enjoy and a subtle pressure to pursue an area that the adult thinks is


Mike Braden wrote:

> 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'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]
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss-sudbury-model mailing list
Received on Wed Jun 14 2006 - 09:45:14 EDT

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