Re: DSM: about Sudbury model


Alan Klein (Alan@klein.net)
Fri, 23 Mar 2001 17:16:37 -0500


Melissa,

With all due respect, I do not hear Marko saying either of the two points
you hear him making.

1. He has stated repeatedly that he has seen cultural norms be challenged in
SVS-type schools.

2. He has never said that he has some sort of unique "ability to determine
which cultural norms are irrational". Nor has he said that staff members
should exhibit undue influence. In fact, I hear him saying something much
like you did when you said, "I think staff should freely express their
opinions if the subject comes up and their opinions are welcome. Staff can
wield a great deal of influence...".

I think you are onto an important distinction when you say, "It should be a
personal choice, not an institutional choice, and if staff are fighting what
they believe are 'irrational cultural norms' I believe they are acting
inappropriately on behalf of the institution and infringing on students'
rights to self-determination." I believe that all members of the SM have the
same right to self-determination, so I do not differentiate students from
staff in this regard. Of course, if staff members ticks off the SM enough,
for fighting irrational cultural norms or for whatever, the SM will vote
them out. I do not see staff members as having any institutional power. The
SM and the Assembly are the holders of the institutional power.

~Alan

----- Original Message -----
From: "Melissa Bradford" <mbradford@mediaone.net>
> Dear Marko,
>
> It seems you are saying two things with which I disagree: 1) Sudbury
> schools do not provide an atmosphere where cultural norms are adequately
> challenged, and 2) that you have the ability to determine which cultural
> norms are irrational, and should therefore exert influence as a staff
member
> to challenge them.
>
> One person's rational norm can be another person's irrational norm. Who
> gets to be the judge? It's a slippery slope, if you ask me.
>
> For example, there are people out there that believe that the cultural
> sexual norm that "adults should not have sex with children" is irrational.
> There are people who think the predominant religions are irrational.
There
> are people who believe that disabled children should be killed, so they
are
> not a burden on their family. Should they therefore, if they are staff,
> actively fight those norms, since there might be some students who can't
> express their burning desire to have sex with adults, condemn
Christianity,
> or kill their disabled sibling, because of the peer pressure of cultural
> norms?
>
> Nonsense! It's not their place to do so. Students should be able to
freely
> embrace (or reject) whatever cultural norms they choose, without feeling
> they are being judged by staff. If someone wants to conduct a Bible study
> at school, I think they should feel free to do so, whether staff find that
> to be an "irrational cultural norm" or not. The idea that a staff member
> would tell a student, for example, "Christian beliefs are irrational and
you
> conducting a Bible study makes non-Christians feel peer pressure that they
> cannot express their feelings" would be totally out of line. If a
> homophobic student who thinks being close to members of the same sex is a
> terrible thing, he or she has every right to have those beliefs without a
> staff member breathing down his or her neck telling him or her that he/she
> has an irrational belief that makes gay students feel peer pressure. A
> student should not be made to feel uncomfortable because of his/her
beliefs,
> as long as he/she is not imposing on anyone else's right to exist
peaceably
> at the school. That's not to say the people who entertain the opposite
> beliefs should be made to feel uncomfortable either. If the homophobe
won't
> shut up about his/her beliefs around a gay student, they could, and
should,
> be written up for harassment. I'm not saying it is a bad thing to fight
> against cultural norms, if you believe them to be irrational. I just
don't
> think Sudbury schools are the place for staff to fight cultural norms. It
> should be a personal choice, not an institutional choice, and if staff are
> fighting what they believe are "irrational cultural norms" I believe they
> are acting inappropriately on behalf of the institution and infringing on
> students' rights to self-determination.
>
> Maybe this is not what you are suggesting, but it sounds to me that you
are
> trying to enforce a certain political correctness. I would never send my
> child to a Sudbury school if such subtle coercion were taking place. I
> think staff should not "fight" any cultural norms, at least not on school
> time. It sounds like you are suggesting that staff should be activists
who
> advocate certain positions as staff members. I have a BIG problem with
> that.
>
> Now, do I think staff can't say, "Wow, I really disagree with your opinion
> on religion, homosexuals, boys crying, fat people, etc and here's why"?
No,
> of course not. I think staff should freely express their opinions if the
> subject comes up and their opinions are welcome. Staff can wield a great
> deal of influence, but not by being agendized, not by specifically seeking
> out to challenge cultural norms they believe are irrational. They do so
by
> earning the respect of those around them, which leads them to being are
> sought out for their opinions. It is up to each individual student, just
> like it is up to each individual human being, to determine for themselves
> which cultural norms they accept, and which ones they reject. Sudbury
> schools create an environment where both support of cultural norms and
> opposition to cultural norms are tolerated. If that is what you mean,
then
> I don't disagree with you. But I don't want anyone telling my child
certain
> norms are irrational. I have faith that my child can figure that out for
> herself. Isn't that the point of sending her to a Sudbury school?



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