DSM: RE: Is democracy for everyone?

Joseph Moore (joseph@ivorycc.com)
Wed, 4 Aug 1999 11:52:12 -0700

Rhonda Goebel wrote:

> Many aspects of the Sudbury model appeal to me, especially compared to
> the school establishment model. One thing that bothers me though is how
> some people who have special needs (physical, emotional, mental, etc.)
> seem to be excluded. If Sudbury serves as a model of democracy in
> action, does that mean that there is no place for some people with
> special needs in a democratic state? Is Sudbury about people adapting
> to a rigid framework, or a responsive framework adapting to people? My
> point is not about forced compassion, rather the concept of equal
> opportunity for all, a democratic ideal that includes everyone
> regardless of need. Sudbury has significantly demonstrated that young
> people naturally develop competency and compassion within a
> self-directed context. My best guess is that young people would
> naturally and actively include all people, if given the opportunity (as
> is now being demonstrated in the school establishment). I believe that
> true democracy is democracy for all.
> I don't think the 'model' excludes anybody on the basis of physical
> disability, although - and this is true anywhere - there are always
> pratical limitations, chiefest of which is money. Few if any Sudbury
> schools are flush enough with cash to do much retrofitting or hiring of
> specialists. But, again, there's no policy of exclusion inherent in the
> model.
> Mental and emotional disabilities cover a pretty broad range of issues. On
> a practical level, what it comes down to is: can the person successfully
> manage the responsibility and freedom essential to the Sudbury model? If
> the answer is 'no', then what? Do they not have to follow the rules? Are
> they watched and managed by some overseer or other? Either of these steps
> would seriously harm if not destroy what we are trying to achieve. What
> would we mean by 'democracy' in that context?
> I think all Sudbury model schools require some sort of visiting week
> (that's what we call it at Diablo Valley) in order to give the kid a
> chance to show that he or she can get along in the environment. All kinds
> of kids who might be classified as 'special needs' can get through this
> process, since we're not "assessing" them for anything other than the
> ability to more or less follow the school's rules without supervision.
> This may not appear an adequate solution - real kids who've had some tough
> breaks are going to be excluded, and this does not seem fair - but keep 2
> things in mind: we as a culture and society are far from having worked
> these issues through, so it may be asking too much for the model to have
> come up with some wonderful solution that we, as members of society in
> general, cannot come up with; and that the model, like the doctors under
> the Hyppocratic Oath, first tries to do none harm - we have to stop
> screwing kids up, for only in that context can we start to address the
> issue of special needs kids, many of whom are victims of conventional
> schooling in the first place.
> Anyway, a tough issue with no comfortable answers.

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