Re: DSM: Simple solution

Robert Swanson (
Wed, 13 Dec 2000 01:09:42 -0800

A so very emotional response.

School reform is about an honest looking at evidence and playing your best
hand toward the next step. This should not be a game of egos as if someone
personally could be hurt by considering advancing a well intended idea. An
idea supported by the last thirty years of research and in line with the
current Sudbury model is not intended as an attack on anyone or any
institution's wellbeing. What is beautiful about this process is to take
what is working and go with it. The opposite of school reform is to name
what we have as the institiution that should be, regardless.

Emotional argument is such a waste of energy. If someone has such animate
energy for an idea, why not research it and deliver an intregueing supported
essay? We are all lowered by making this a personal vendetta.

I continue here to ask for responses from Sudbury students and staff, people
who are willing to give first hand accounts supporting or denying some
assumptions I make about the Sudbury milieu. And I wish to know if you are
willing to try my few suggestions. Please note, these suggestions are indeed
within the framework of SVS, unless there is some law passed against adults
offering their wisdom (the cook certainly offered of herself). Surely adults
are permitted to speak with students and in a manner that is not


on 12/12/00 6:03 AM, Joe Jackson at wrote:

>> 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,
> Pearce's beliefs are just beliefs, too, Robert.
>> then I could
>> say I have experience, not just belief.
> They would still just be beliefs. They would be beliefs supported by
> experience, but still just beliefs. When you get so tied to beliefs that
> you go on a listserve and suggest extravagant adjustments to the Sudbury
> Model and then rail about the unwillingness of schools to try them while
> they're trying to explain to you why it would violate the model, that's when
> it's time to realize my and your and Pearce's beliefs are just beliefs.
>> 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,
> Once again, as I have pointed out in a previous post, essentially your
> entire attitude about the model is a catastrophized reaction to what you
> imagine the school to be like. Very difficult to answer someone who insists
> on believing that their suppositions are reality and then extrapolating
> paragraphs based on the supposition.
> Could it possibly be enough for you that I assure you, through actual
> first-hand experience, that the relationships between staff and students are
> not aloof.
> By the way, I have read the same books as you, yet I have not developed this
> picture of SVS staff as aloof. Could it simply be the lens through which
> you look?
>> 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.
> The believability is not the issue. The issue is that you believe that it
> is so important that people discover the joys of seeing things the way you
> and/or Joseph Pearce do that you are willing to usurp the empowerment and
> volition of students at Sudbury Model schools.
> I'm honestly, from the heart, telling you I don't share in that willingness.
>> 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.
> Once again, this assertion is not the reality of the school.
>> 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.
> But you do not see the damage you do by assuming everyone wants to have the
> qualities you mention!! This is the way ROBERT SWANSON wants to be. I do
> not want to have a school where my children have to try to be what ROBERT
> SWANSON wants to be. Why is that so difficult to understand?
>>> 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.
> Bingo.
>> I am open to being
>> wrong, but replies to my email are limited and often not supported well if
>> at all.
> My frank response to you is that your assertions, so devoid of any
> understanding of the primary importance of student self-determination, and
> so full of extravagant analysis of what everyone who has been at a school
> knows are erroneous imaginings of what actually takes place, are on the
> verge of not meriting a response.
> However, I will point out that when Person A states something Person B does
> not agree with, to Person B the statement is, by definition, not well
> supported. SO, for you to say that replies are not well supported
> translates to: "people are not in agreement with what I am saying".
>> To me this is more evidence that students are not reaching an
>> expression of the congruency mentioned above.
> A misinterpretation. My view is that people in this movement simply don't
> know how to respond to someone who comes along demanding (at the risk of
> being labeled "guarded" and "dishonest") that they stop empowering their
> children and start educating them your way.
>> Everyone is confused and shy
>> regarding this issue.
> No.
>> No one, not even students are available to model
>> appropriate guidence.
> Wrong.
> Catastrophized reaction in which I am once again labeled (this habit of
> yours is a real turn off, dude):
>> 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 since you baldly stare at "heart-creative modelings" and proclaim them
> as "dumbing down modelings" then in reality it must be much more than that,
> right?
>> 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
>> Sudbury.
>>> 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.
> But that is not the truth of the role! That sentence, right there, is NOT
> what happens at the school.
>> Then initiate small steps that most people will be
>> able to acknowledge results for.
> I have heard you say that several times, and I have yet to hear specifically
> what those steps would be.
>> 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.
> You propose a process for changing the intent of the school, and yet you
> don't really understand what the intent is. You have read the books, you
> have read our emails, and yet clearly you don't have the slightest idea WHAT
> placing democracy and self-initiated learning do for students.
>> 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.
> You have just said that if anyone honestly thinks about your views, they
> will agree with you. You are saying that since I disagree with you, I am
> not being honest. First I was not "well-supported", now I'm simply
> "dishonest".
> If this is how you feel about people, that a student either thinks like you
> or is being dishonest, then I would say you truly belong in the coercive
> educational environment that you are proposing.
>> 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.
> I would hope staff members and students at our schools guard VIGILANTLY
> against the theories of individuals seeking to usurp the primacy of
> democratic governance and self-initiated learning in our schools, and I'm
> positive they will. They have guarded against much larger agencies and
> governments seeking to mitigate the power students have in our schools for
> years and years.
>> Many of you, by your
>> silence and
>> otherwise, have indicated as much. But, please accept this challenge.
> You profoundly misinterpret the silence.
>>> 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.
> I disagree!
>> 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?
> As easily as the water flows in the creek, and as often as I breathe.
> -JJ

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