Re: DSM: RE: Subtle Coercion?

John Axtell (
Sat, 06 Jan 2001 18:24:01 -0800


thanks for the explanation. Now I am beginning to see the difference between
control and exposing without value systems.

John Axtell

Joe Jackson wrote:

> This is a key subject that has come up before...
> When we were faced with the issue of the intrinsic nature of persuasiveness
> in the fundamental physical environment prior to opening Fairhaven, we
> realized that the "agenda of the environment" issue just continues ad
> absuditum and we would probably never open. In other words, in order to
> create an environment free of passive agenda, we would have had to start a
> school free of books, furniture, trees, buildings, air, and sunlight because
> all of these things seemingly suggest an associated action.
> What we did was fill it with the most neutral, non-suggestive things we
> could think of. Books, but such a large amount and wide variety of books
> that no overriding agenda would likely be gleaned. Art supplies, computer
> and office equipment, blocks, furniture, dishes and flatware. The best we
> could do at the time was add a neutral set of elements that we felt omitting
> would be ridiculous - we had to draw a line. However we did go into
> operation without a judicial system or lawbook. Our inital School Meeting
> on September 23, 1998 (which was attended by virtually _all_ students and
> staff) voted to adopt a Judicial Committee modeled closely to SVS's, and
> voted in laws one by one.
> (By the way, someone mentioned that a founder at Blue Mountain says JC is
> harsh. I think that's one way of looking at it. However, realize that
> students at any of our schools could change judicial systems any time they
> want, and yet at many of our schools they prefer JC over any other method
> out there. Much as it is difficult for us as conventionally-schooled adults
> to understand how Sudbury students see school, I think it is equally
> difficult for those of us who were conventional-school-disciplined to
> understand how they can see so much value in JC that they would prefer it
> over other, supposedly "gentler" methods.)
> As it turns out our fears were misplaced. I think if there is any one
> operational aspect of the SM schools that doesn't get enough press, it's the
> fierceness with which the students demand reforming the environment. Within
> weeks things were either heavily used or totally ignored, and I'd say by the
> middle of the second year the school it's safe to say the school's physical
> environment was owned and created by SM.
> So I think the "purists" on this matter are never at the absurd end of the
> spectrum, it's just that it's a scale, and founding groups tend to figure
> out where they're going to fall on that scale quite late in the startup
> process, when practical and concrete issues rule many of the decisions made
> about the hundreds and hundreds of teensy-weensie details that have to be
> decided.
> -Joe Jackson
> *****************************
> "In America in the last 20 years, for every seven people executed, one
> person sentenced to death was later proved to be innocent."
> -- U. S. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT
> > Bruce Smith wrote:
> >
> > > Sudbury purists maintain is that even to suggest, or to make available,
> > > items of possible study without first waiting for students to express an
> > > interest -- in other words, to entice or preemptively direct students --
> > > is, in a way, even worse than naked coercion, since at least with that
> > > there's no chance of mistaking the adults' role.
> >
> > This is a point that has come up in the past and I'm not quite sure I
> > understand it. I haven't read all the material on SVS yet so please bear
> > with me.
> >
> > 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. There will be books in all the
> > rooms - books on a number of interesting subjects, perhaps a photo lab, a
> > sewing room or a woodworking area, even blocks in a corner. Will, not the
> > presence of these resource materials influence some students? Am
> > I sneakily
> > coercing them to pick up a book by just having it in the room? 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. We are all
> > influenced by
> > those around us.
> >
> > I think we can have the material available but the students need
> > to initiate
> > the interest. Some will pick up one book, others will pick up another.
> > 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.
> >
> > Do you really think that the purist view could work? Maybe I'm missing
> > something?
> >
> > ~CindyK
> >
> >
> >

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