Re: DSM: Education/Science

Dawn F. Harkness (
Wed, 13 Dec 2000 16:02:01 -0500

-----Original Message-----
From: <>
Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2000 7:34 PM
Subject: Re: DSM: Education/Science

>Hi Kathleen,
>Your posting made me sad and I will tell you why. I wasn't born in this
>country, have an accent which immediately identifies me as a foreigner and
>have a minority religion. I love my life in the US but often feel
>"different" or misunderstood. Maybe because it was my choice to live here
>and not in by birth country I don't blame others for my feeling of
>"otherness." You seem to feel as a native American who lives in this white
>society as misunderstood and unaccepted. I think that it is futile to try
>change other people's attitudes (because they being in the majority simply
>won't listen to you) and instead I us my own energy to find places or ways
>be comfortable where I can. At a Sudbury type school, you or your child
>feel a bit lonely because of the differences of race, history or whatever,
>but the common human element of respect, equality and freedom to be
>and do what you want to do with your time and life are the best you can do
>this society. If the loneliness is too overwhelming, why then minority
>need to build communities in which the minority culture is more prevalent.
>Start a school on the reservation and see if it works. Or maybe a school
>a very mixed area would be better, I don't know.

>But I do know that however
>respectful and non discriminatory SVS is towards minorities, the kids do
>lonely at times and it seems to me that they long for more kids who are
>them. If I was a person of color I think that I would choose to live in a
>mixed area rather than in an all white or all minority area. I want to
>my own culture and pass it on to my kids but I want them to be American as
>well and not feel like strangers here. It is possible to do this if the
>are immersed in both cultures and that can only happen in a community which
>has plenty of people of both cultures.

Hanna, I rarely find myself disagreeing with you, but this time I do. There
are far more than two cultures in any pluralistic community, especially one
like SVS. Your analysis, while being very gentle and sympathetic is too
simplistic and misleading. There is no neat dichotomy of us (as if there is
an us) and them, (everyone who is not us). If things were as simple as "us
and them" then maybe you would be right. But things are far more
complicated than that.

Every single individual in a pluralistic society has her or his own history
and experiences which form the lens through which they view the world.
Every single student at SVS has their own world view based on the many
complicated factors which make them them. When I look at them, I see kids.
If we had to get more descriptive we would have to acknowledge that there
have been white and hispanic SVS students. There have been asian and black
students. There have been multi-race students. There have been straight,
bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender students who have had gay, straight,
or bisexual parents. There have been pregnant students. There have been
students who have devout religious beliefs; there have been non-believers.
There have been students whose parents are divorced along with students
whose parents have never been married. Some students don't live with their
parents. We've had super rich kids and kids whose parents sacrifice to make
the tuition and everyone in between. I think we have even had rich christian
black bisexual students of straight parents and poor straight atheist white
kids with a single lesbian parent as well as many other permutations of the
multitudinous categories.

I haven't even started to list the different life experiences some kids have
to cope with like child abuse, physical and mental illness, or the most
common harm resulting from attending traditional schools, all of which may
profoundly affect the students who have attended SVS and may make a kid feel
a bit "lonely" in that community. Furthermore, each kid usually fits into
several factions. There are many valid reasons for most people to feel
different from those around them. Even if one attempted to insulate oneself
within the ghettoized experience of a particular minority community, I don't
think it would take long before one would start to recognize other more
defining or overlapping factions which exist within the ghetto. I would
also point out that for every one child you think is "lonely" based on a
perceived minority status, I would be willing to bet that there is at least
one child of the same minority status who thrives in the culture of
pluralistic freedom offered at SVS.

I think that every family, and by extension every individual, has to know
thyself, and to thine own self be true, no matter what community one has
chosen to live in. I think the best any of us can expect is that we are
entitled to live our lives free from unwarranted intrusions into our
activities. And I don't believe in the fallacy that one can find sanctity
in isolation from those who differ in some specific way. I have found that
every person who has claimed SVS doesn't work for their child for some
perceived minority status is just copping out from accepting responsibility
for their child's failure to function in a free community which forces folks
to take responsibility for their own bad behavior.

Whenever I hear someone say they hate the J.C., I wonder, what better
system they would replace it with? Honestly, I don't believe there is a
better system than a clear set of democratically adopted rules enforced by
a jury of one's peers, but if there is I would sure like to know about it.
In fact, what I have learned is that usually when someone hates the J.C. it
is because he/she hates having to take responsibility for violating the
rules of the community or they resent having to contribute to the wellbeing
of the community by serving on the J.C.; something which is required of all
members of the community. And sadly, those folks too frequently try to hide
behind the explosive charge of institutional bias to deflect that
responsibility. For all protests to the contrary I believe this was a case
of someone inferring: "the white man is keeping them down". Hanna, I think
you were wrong to encourage that kind of thinking.

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