Re: DSM: Simple solution

Robert Swanson (
Mon, 11 Dec 2000 21:56:08 -0800

Good questions and comments. I will respond within the text.

on 12/5/00 3:04 PM, Melissa Bradford at wrote:

> Dear Robert,
> At Sudbury schools students have all kinds of models: other students, the
> staff, their parents, others they know outside of school. Some use
> "language that develops beauty" and some use rather different language!
> Students learn from all these people, not just the ones who use the
> "language of the heart".
> Your descriptions of lizard intellect and creative intellect, etc., are
> interesting, but it seems as though you are taking a belief system you have
> chosen for yourself, and trying to see everything else through that lens,
> and that lens alone, or that you are trying to force that belief system to
> match up perfectly with the Sudbury model, but it doesn't fit.

Yes, it is belief. If I had done the scientific experiments myself or had
followed the studies for something like 25 years as Pearce has, then I could
say I have experience, not just belief. I intend to develop this belief by
reading more books and on the web. I do have my experience as a child and
with children to refer to. And from this experience I acknowledge a seeming
inborn interest in freedom, adventure and beauty, and also the flagrant
damage done by aloof and intellectual models. Our minds tend to negate
awareness of this influence so to avoid depression and social conflict. I am
offering this awareness for the sake of joy and to bring adults back into
empathy with the adventure that lives in children.

Does SVS offer aloof models or empathetic adult models? Clearly, the big box
of liturature I got from SVS - what I have read of it - indicates the
aloofness of adults' relationship to students, except that visitors are
spoken to as equals. Daily student-created activities are children
interactng with children with adults rarely included. Exceptions may be
cooking and the Judicial Committee.

> I don't see your vision of a school as being an evolution from a Sudbury
> school. I don't see your vision of a school as even being compatible with
> Sudbury schools, because, if I understand you correctly, anyone at your
> envisioned school must agree with the beliefs or vision you have espoused.
> Sudbury schools don't work that way. People have a wide variety of beliefs
> about how the school should be run, what staff should do, what language
> should be used, how people should treat each other, etc. And that is
> perfectly OK. That is actually the point. Sudschools use a democratic
> model to hash out differences and come to some sort of agreement through
> discussion at school meeting. The incredible part is the journey itself.
> But there is no expectation that people think a certain way, such as that
> they must speak with "language of the heart". Sudschools are completely
> grounded in the notion that school meeting members can think and act in any
> way they wish, as long as they do not break any rules, or infringe on
> others' rights. Even if they think "speaking with the language of the
> heart" is an abomination, and that people should only use "lizard
> intellect", their beliefs are respected. In your school, would you have
> some kind of litmus test for enrollment and hiring of staff to determine
> whether potential students and staff use lizard intellect or creative
> intellect? And what happens in your evolved school when the evolved people
> there have a disagreement on what constitutes "language of the heart" or
> "lizard intellect"? (Sarcasm *not* meant here.)

My vision that I am promoting here is influenced by Joseph Pearce (see this
web page: 1). I find his comments quite
believable. Who else has done such extensive research and spoken out at such
length with reason and an open mind? Pearce mentions Sudbury as a model to
look up to. Why is because SVS is antithetical to all the routine damage
being done by intellects to the inherent intelligence of the development
process in youth. My appreciation grew for Sudbury as I read all that
sudbury is not.
So, what is missing from this system where democracy allows anything the
majority wants? Vision. The eyes do not see as open possibility, rather, the
mind sees with the utility modeled in early childhood. An example is the
experiment where kittens are raised in a space with no veritcal lines. When
then placed in an ordinary room they walk into chair legs. They cannot see
the vertical lines of the chair legs. People are the same way. If raised in
an environment not modeling certain functional visions of the world then
those functions will not be developed, things like empathy, trust, joy,
self-referenced responding, intuition, instant memorization, creative
emphasis, universal respect, comprehension of the wellness-environment-self
relationship, full emotional-intellectual-expressive congruency. These
emphasize a well self in an evolving community. In contrast, our society
emphasizes a compliant self in a static society. Items in the above list are
removed or minimized in our experience. Healthy models are exchanged for tv,
violence, worry, misplaced alegience, lack of comprehension, fear,
confusion, and a life dedicated to hard work in a milieu of competitiveness
and uncertainty. Sudbury is a sanctuary from these perpetrations. But also,
Sudbury is not an ashram modeling healthy living congruent with the nature
of sucessful human development. The most relavant tool for human development
is the congruency Pearce speaks of: moral heart directives are received in
the emotional self as relevant to the environment, mixed with possibilities
from the intellect, and then acted on as products of the higher creative
brain as a choice from the many worlds one could create. Sudbury opens the
door to this congruency but does not model these vertical lines to an extent
that students recognize that they are creators of worlds - worlds with lines
that travel in many dimentions. What quantum physics models for intellects,
Sudbury must model for passionists.

> You state, "Without guidance, the children are misguided." What is your
> evidence for this? Do you know a bunch of Sudbury graduates walking around,
> miguided about life, using only their "lizard intellects? I'm not sure what
> you mean by this. And why do you assume that the students are "without
> guidance"? Why do you assume no one uses the "language of the heart" there?
> I'd say lots of "guidance" takes place at Sudbury schools, just not guidance
> under coercion, not guidance when it's not asked for (well, except for the
> "stop running!" type of guidance). That is a big difference. I'd also
> venture to say that lots of "language of the heart" goes on there, too.

Evidence? I regard the Open A Sudbury School package a limited resource for
my understanding of SVS. It is just a good beginning. I am open to being
wrong, but replies to my email are limited and often not supported well if
at all. To me this is more evidence that students are not reaching an
expression of the congruency mentioned above. Everyone is confused and shy
regarding this issue. No one, not even students are available to model
appropriate guidence. When we come from fear and uncertainty we are modeling
lower brain function as emotionalism and survivalism. These functions are
directed by the lowest evolutionary brain, the lizard structure. This way of
responding to the world is not much different from the instincts of the
lizard which has this type of brain. There is a serious lack of creativity
and higher brain function and love. Barely surviving, we are severely
misguided away from the worlds we could be creating as humans creating via
the full brain & heart structure we are designed with. We are truely "dumbed
down" right back to our lizard ancestry in terms of basic function. How much
heart language to correct this? My behaviorist training suggests a ten to
one ratio -- for each dumbing down deliver ten heart-creative modelings. And
most kids get what -- something like 6,000 hours tv training by five years
old. Not to mention what parents do to kids whenever thay return home from

> I guess I would argue that what you say is lacking at Sudschools in fact
> does take place, but that other things take place too, and that there is no
> way to guarantee or control that process. It seems like you want a model
> where A + B = C and that these perfectly evolved human beings will result.
> But the only way to do that would be to use coercion, which would then
> actually crush the very thing you are trying to create. At Sudbury schools,
> it is the process, the evolution, the wrestling with problems, that takes
> place in the institution that gives the students an opportunity to learn and
> grow. However, the students always have a choice about what they might take
> away from that experience, and there is no guarantee that it will be what
> you, Robert, think it should be. But that is a risk that must be taken if
> one wants the opportunity to have the freedom a Sudschool provides. I would
> argue that life is that way anyway. There are no guaranteed outcomes, only
> opportunities. It makes sense to me that a school should be structured that
> way too, instead of pretending that it can guarantee certain outcomes.

Actually, we can guarantee a process and control that process either simply
or in depth. First, acknowledge that doing little as an adult at Sudbury is
a profound influence. Then initiate small steps that most people will be
able to acknowledge results for. Then expand on those results. This process
will develop just as the JC has developed from basic principles into a
culture. Gradually the intent of the culture will move from
emotionalism-survival to heart based creativity. A process for implementing
this change is provided for in the book "Living Joyfully With Children"
(Amazon has it). Willing students can post one of the lists in the book and
give staff (and students) feedback. Accurate feedback would be most helpful.
Request discussion groups. Let the JC implement any enforcement.
Given a truely open wrestling with ideas is it a certainty that students
would accept "my" idea that we naturally want higher brain function,
congruency, joy and love? Yes, I think it is a certainty. By no means is it
a certainty that adults would let down their guard long enough to support a
modeling of these as an unfolding process. Many of you, by your silence and
otherwise, have indicated as much. But, please accept this challenge.

> Finally, I would like to say that reading about Sudbury schools and actually
> experiencing a Sudbury school on a day-to-day basis is quite a different
> thing. I don't think one can analyze the model and "make improvements on
> it" without having experienced it for oh, at least several years. LVS has
> been open for 3 and a half years, and when it first opened, I thought I had
> a great understanding of the model. Well, I did, on paper, but putting it
> into practice is quite a different thing. I have learned an unbelievable
> amount, and gained a much different understanding of the model, now that I
> have experienced it for several years. And I still don't have a thorough
> understanding. My fondest dream would be to go to Sudbury Valley and just
> observe for about 2 years. I'm not suggesting that there is no room for
> improvement, or that there is no better model, I don't know if there is or
> isn't. But SVS has been evolving for 32 years - it's not exactly a stagnant
> organization, and it doesn't seem to have come to the point of needing to do
> something about its lizard intellect problem. How do you explain that?

I value what you can input from your experience. If I have helped create
more clarity perhaps you can give further input. Change cannot occur in the
paradigms of our minds unless a model has been modeled. This is how hearts
help eachother. Intellects are competitive. Any element of competitiveness
at SVS will stymie its evolution since this precludes higher brain function.
If truly equal, people will connect and easily spend time together
developing mutual interests. Tonight the neighbor girl came over, maybe ten
years old. She asked how to take care of the cat while I'm gone. I showed
her the food and then modeled affectionate play with the cat. She tried but
it was an obvious struggle to play empathetically with the cat. If she
cannot connect with the cat to develop mutual interests she probably has
such difficulity with others. At Sudbury if there is any standard separation
between the younger and the older that a variety of mutual interests are not
developed then probably competitive lower brain function is the order of the
day. How freely do adults and teens make heart to heart connection with
eachother and pre-teens?

> I don't mean to be offensive, here, but it seems that you have a bunch of
> idealized beliefs that I can't imagine being able to put into practice
> institutionally. Not that they don't contain some very wonderful ideas in
> them, but they seem rather rigid and limiting. But that could be because
> I'm just thinking with my lizard brain....I've been known to do that on more
> than one occasion!
> Melissa Bradford
> Liberty Valley School
> PS - On your JC question: At Liberty Valley School, 100% of the students
> and staff take part in the JC process at some point every year. (Actually,
> they would probably say I am putting it mildly.)
Great, what do they use this influence to create?


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