RE: DSM: Re: San Tunstall <tunstall@MIT.EDU> sent this to the lis t

Joseph Moore (
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 15:46:43 -0700

Coercive Education: Que la diritta via era smaritta. (pardon my spelling -
the spell checker doesn't do Italian on this end :-{ )

Paolo - while Joe's response may seem frivolous and less than constructive
to you, the lovely Harvard PhD's objections seem so patently self-serving
and willfully ignorant to many of us involved in Sudbury model schools that
it's mounting a serious response that would seem really ridiculous. But,
hey, I'm a silly guy!

Disclaimer: My responses will be necessarily superficial (and still way too
long!), but not anymore superficial than the Dr's objections.

First off, as Joe alluded, what's with his title? "Director of Harvard's
Program on Education Policy and Governance." Right. OK, we have a huge and
prestigious (and doubtless well-funded) University program whose sole excuse
for existence is "Education Policy and Governance." If you view education,
as almost everyone has almost always and everywhere viewed it - as a
personal or family obligation - what has "policy" got to do with it? Whose
"policy"? By hiding behind a title and an institution, this guy can pass off
some unnamed party's whims and wishes as simple facts beyond challenge.

And, what exactly is it that education policy has to do with governance, and
why are governments and corporations willing to pay for someone to promote
this connection?
Now, THAT would be a fruitful area to investigate.

Now to specific objections:

Dr. Peterson calls Alpine "alarming". Now, it may be that NPR cut him off
before he could say WHY, but nothing in the actual report could legitimately
alarm anyone. His only points seem to be:

- that this education only will work for kids whose parents nurture their
learning at home. The implication is that traditional schooling can educate
kids who do not receive such parental guidance - I'd like to see him
produce some independently verifiable study to support that idea. On the
contrary, something like 97% of American kids are getting just the education
Peterson and his ilk have designed, and the level of education in this
country is appalling even according to their own measures.

- that anthropologist don't know of any societies where "the children shall
decide what they want to do". Setting aside the issue of by what means he
can offer us the conclusions of all anthropologists, we can only wonder what
he means by this statement. The implication, I suppose, is that Sudbury kids
are some sort of feral animals unfit for any society, and that any other
children who get to decide for themselves for even so brief a period as 5-6
hours a day during the school year will soon become equally wild. All we can
say to such nonsense is that it is verifiably not so, as anyone can see who
takes the time to check it out.

- that "everybody has expectations for their children that are rooted in the
cultural traditions of that society." Yes, and? It happens that the Sudbury
model is the ONLY educational model that expressly includes the fundamental
"cultural traditions" - democracy, individual rights, due process - that
THIS "society" is based on. This cannot be said of any traditional model.

- that everyone take the path of least resistance, and must be forced to
take hard classes . Really? It hard to dignify such nonsense with a
response. Any self-motivated, competent person (of any age) should be
outraged that anyone would presume to say this about them. Suffice it to say
that this fails the basic "me and my friends" test - you can't say about
everyone what you would not say about yourself and your friends. Do Dr.
Peterson and his friends lack the ability to make themselves do hard things?
If not, did they gain this ability through the solicitous ministrations of
the public schools? I don't think so.

- that being forced to study stuff you're not interested in tends to lead to
more "productive" adulthood, happier family life, more satisfactory
relationships with others, and - the big one - increases in income. (He
really did say this - unbelievable!) Big Point: There is no objective
evidence that any of this is true, and plenty of reasons to suspect it to be
false. (It's interesting to note that, once you control for the
socio-economics of the family of origin, even the income increases due to
'education' tend to disappear - a fancy way of saying that wealthier people
tend to send their kids to college, and the kids of wealthier people tend to
get better jobs. Whether college is a cause or an effect of this
relationship is not at all clear.)

Basta! (from me at least!)

> ----------
> From: Paolo Chiocchetti[]
> Reply To:
> Sent: Friday, August 27, 1999 9:34 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: DSM: Re: San Tunstall <tunstall@MIT.EDU> sent this to
> the list
> These are funny answers, but I think that it would be also interesting for
> everybody to face directly Peterson's critics, and to discuss them
> seriusly.
> It would be interesting to observe the SVS-schooled children compared to
> the
> normal-schooled children. What are the main (generalizing) differences?
> Brain
> flexibility? Socialization? Happiness? Self-management? Jobs? Etc...
> And it would be also interesting looking the consequences for a society
> (in
> history and antropology) of more traditional and cohercitive pedagogies
> vs. more
> autonomous, free and self-managed pedagogies.
> Paolo
> Joe Jackson ha scritto:
> > >Paul Peterson,
> > >Director of Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance. He
> called

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Thu Dec 23 1999 - 09:01:58 EST