Anne and Theo Julienne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sun, 21 Jan 2001 08:26:52 +1100
Thank you for your interest and good wishes.
It is most useful for us to hear of others' early experiences.
What you seem to be saying is that offering courses is not philosophically
repugnant but is very difficult in practice. I definitely can't argue with
I note that you painted the kids as passive receptors of their parents'
ideas. Maybe this was so and I daresay those possibly-partially-coerced kids
found a way to express their discontent somewhere down the track. There may
have been clear indicators that coercion was going on there. However, in my
experience, it is very very difficult to tell this when standing outside the
If I understand correctly what happened, some kids attended the formal
classes on offer and tried to engage in quiet study. Other children did not
attend the classes but made it impossible for those choosing classes to
exercise their choice freely. In other words the out-of-class kids were
coercing the in-class kids to conform with their set of choices. This is
certainly not freedom-with-responsibility and is something that neither I
nor my son would allow.
It's possible that your school was very small then and there were
insufficient spaces allocated for more noisy learning pursuits. Space
constraints can be alleviated by imposing time constraints. This was tried
but failed. It sounds like you didn't have the room (time- or space-wise) to
accommodate both types of learning. Access to a library is no substitute for
access to good formal teaching.
As I understand it, classes (when they happen) are very disciplined at
Sudbury and this arises from the fact that they are student-initiated and
the study conditions are then negotiated with the teacher. I've not heard
of instances when those classes were then interfered with by other students
but this seems to me to be an unlikely scenario.
There are various kinds of discipline: keeping quiet is only one of them. A
drama teacher might demand shouts and screams for a particular scene in a
play. A student-organised theatre production might be a little noisier, it
might not. A rehearsal class for a brass band will not be quiet.
To sum up, it sounds like your school in the early days was either too small
or too undisciplined or overly supportive of one (noisy) learning style. We
will try to avoid any of those unfortunate situations.
Thanks for your wisdom-from-experience assistance.
> Hi Anne,
> Good luck with starting a democratic, non-coercive school. One early
> experience we had at Highland might help in clarifying the coercive,
> non-coercive issue. We had parents who felt that offering courses was a
> good idea and convinced their kids (the ones with the votes) to go along
> with and propose this idea. It passed and we did it. However, since the
> classes were voluntary, many kids chose not to attend them. Some
> parents then felt that their kids' right to attend classes was being
> interfered with by the "distraction" of other noisy kids running
> around. Again the kids of those parents proposed that there be a "quiet
> time" from 9 until 11 when classes couldn't be interrupted by noise.
> This issue resulted in major battles and though I believe it passed for
> a short time was rapidly recinded. What we ended up with was a rule
> (which has stood the test of time) that the library is a quiet area. If
> people want to study quietly they can go there, but the whole school
> does not have to be quiet to support classes. Again, hope all goes well
> for your school endeavors! Candy Landvoigt
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