DSM: why democracy

highland (highland@ruralnet.org)
Mon, 26 Mar 2001 10:25:50 -0500

    I've been following Marko's, and now Ben's, threads on coercion, consensus, Taking Children Seriously, and Sudbury Model Schools. Several points occur to me all relating to why we need to practice - and understand WHY we practice - democratic process in these schools. Democracy is more than a convenient form of government - it is ALL of our daily living together. It is what allows and supports individual choice and a non-coercive environment.
    The assumptions underlying democratic living are critical and cannot be violated without harming both the community and the individuals who make it up. Each individual is unique and intrinsically valuable -hence we safeguard individual rights. The process of doing democracy means protecting diversity of ideas (even undemocratic ones), respecting each person's right to contribute to the conversation and take from it what he or she chooses, creating an environment that supports each individual's rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Decision making by one person one vote and majority rules is just a part of what doing democracy is about. The ability to change and grow based on experience is another vital part of democratic life. If through experiencing the consequences of our choices we discover something better, we can decide to change. By protecting the rights of the minority on any issue we have dissenting voices helping us reflect on what we've done. The bottom line is that democratic living is the only way to ensure individual freedom and benefit as a community from each of our member's experiences.
      If all we are about is protecting children's rights to pursue their interests, then it may not matter whether we have a benevolent dictatorship, a consensus model, or the anarchy inherent in the TCS approach. If what we are about is creating a free community and supporting the choices of unique individuals, then it does matter. As a parent, I know that some of the most pervasive, coercive influences I exerted on my children were completely unintentional on my part. What has helped both me and them has been the presence of other free, reflective people who were willing to point out my "blind spots" and support us in dealing with them. Perhaps, if we were all the products of perfect parenting in utopian societies, we wouldn't need democratic interactions to grow. I still think we would choose democratic living as the best way to enhance (and enjoy) our growth. Candy Landvoigt

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