Re: DSM: Subtle Coercion?


Bruce Smith (bsmith@coin.org)
Sat, 6 Jan 2001 11:59:34 -0700


>I find it hard to imagine myself not ever influencing another person with my
>interests. How can I not have items of possible study around? Just filling
>the school with resources will do that...How can I
>have a school with white walls and bare bookshelves? I think I understand
>your purist point but in reality I think that it's inevitable that they are
>going to be influenced by the people around them.

It's a point that is hard to make concisely; and obviously, it's not as
black-and-white as I probably made it seem.

Joe responded to these concerns eloquently, yet I think I can explain where
I was coming from in making the point initially.

I was responding to the Living School website's assertion that

<<A large part of the Living School is to place the learning environment in
the context of a farm. We intend to have organic gardening, orchards and
farm animals as an integral part of the school.

Ecological and social contexts are also an important part of the Living
School -- the recognition that each of us is in relationship to each other
and to the natural world.>>

Let me point out that I have no problem at all with the presence of a farm
on a school's campus. I myself live on a farm and eat a lot of organic
food, so I think the idea is quite interesting. What attracted my attention
was simply the contention that this will be a "large" and "integral" part
of your school. If that's the kind of school you want, that's fine; more
power to you. But to adopt such a position prior to the opening of the
school seems to me outside the SVM. You're making choices for students,
putting a program into place, before the school doors ever open. And how
much choice will students have to participate, or not, in the farmwork?
Somebody has to do all those chores. What if the students want to spend the
school's money on thing other than supplies for the farm?

Do you see my point? There's nothing wrong with starting a farm-based
school, especially if you're up front about your intentions -- heck, I
could even see a Sudbury school choosing to implement such a program. But
by doing so in advance of your first day, you are to some degree making
choices _for_ your students, preempting their right to be involved in a
major decision affecting the school.

That, in my view, is quite different from making sure there are books and
art supplies on hand for Day One.

>Just as, if I see a friend doing something interesting I will ask her about
>it. If I'm not interested, I won't ask. But I certainly wouldn't expect
>people around me to never show me anything. I don't think that they are
>being coercive by showing me either unless they try to push it but that's
>another story.

Here is, perhaps, the distinction: I agree with your statements here. But
I, as a staff member, would never suggest someone do something simply
because I think it would be good for them. If I know them, and know they're
interested in something, or if I'm excited about it and want to share my
excitement, that's one thing. But if my primary reason for putting an idea
in front of a student is that it would be helpful in their development as a
well-rounded human being, then I hope I would refrain from imposing _my_
agenda of what they should learn/do on them.

Bruce



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