Re: DSM: DEMOCRACY, EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, AND STANDARDIZATION IN EDUCATION


Connweb\ (walter@connweb.com)
Mon, 5 Mar 2001 17:17:48 -0500


John Axtell writes:

"To contend that a bunch of kids have any concept of individual freedom and
that they can somehow organize themselves into a functioning entity simply
is unfounded."

John, I'm a rabid Libertarian who happens to believe in the Sudbury model.
Like you, I completely distrust democracy on a large scale. It virtually
always undermines individual rights.

Having said that, it's obvious to me that you've never been to a Sudbury
meeting run by a six-year-old girl. I have. It was one of the most
astonishing things I've ever seen. The agenda was handled flawlessly. The
presiding six-year-old absolutely refused to allow anything to obstruct the
group from addressing each issue, in turn, concisely and completely, then
moving on. Any attempts to distract from the topic or fly off on a tangent
were shot down within seconds. The entire meeting, which consisted of 5 or 6
agenda items, was completed in 10 minutes flat. I challenge the most
skilled, experienced meeting-leader to match that record.

Most of the people at the meeting were under age 12. There were 3 adults, a
couple of teenagers, and about a half-dozen younger ones, including the
presiding officer. Each young person who spoke did so with an air of
authority and self-assurance, like he/she had a right to be there and like
he/she was exercising his/her rights. If it looks like a rose and smells
like a rose, does the fact that it's juvenile mean that it's not a rose?

The fact is that democracy is wonderfully adapted to small groups. The New
England Town Meeting was testimony to that fact, until towns started growing
to more than a few hundred people in size. There are some small villages in
New England that still regularly practice the New England Town Meeting on a
regular basis to conduct town business. These towns are normally lower taxed
and more respectful of individual rights than their nearby sister cities and
larger towns. New Hampshire in particular values its local Town Meetings for
just this reason.

Only when Democracy is practiced on a medium-to-large scale does it become a
serious detriment to individual rights. At the smallest levels, its one of
the most effective ways to protect those rights.

Walt Thiessen
Simsbury, CT



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