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

From: Hughes <>
Date: Wed Jun 14 10:10:01 2006

Hi Mike,
I had a moment with a seven year old piano student of mine that illustrates
a way of teaching that is non-coercive. I had showed him a particular
arrangement of notes to practice that is hand over hand and he began to
immediately change the pattern to play some other notes which were also hand
over hand and repeated and he said, "I'm just rapidly guessing". Loved it!
I am repeatedly asked in lessons by young children... Do I have to do that?
I always say no absolutely not. What would you like to do? Often they just
want a couple of minutes to arrive at the same conclusion that they are in
fact ready for what I'm showing them. It's an issue of respect really. My
favorite lessons are the ones where the student surprises me in some way.
Delicious! As a policy I will not take a student unless it is their choice
to learn piano. Some of my students work without music in front of them for
a year at a time while I show them pieces by wrote. It is pure bliss to
teach this way.


-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Mike Braden
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 9:47 AM
Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Introduction, reopening the
encouragement/enticement debate

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 important.


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

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Received on Wed Jun 14 2006 - 10:09:56 EDT

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